INDIANAPOLIS – On this day 44 years ago, the worst blizzard in the Hoosier state history, dropped over a foot of snow in some areas and almost 3 feet of snow in others. On Jan. 25, 1978, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued its first-ever statewide blizzard warning along with a heavy snow warning. Over the last 44 years, it hasn’t happened again.
The blizzard of 1978 shut down central Indiana and every corner of the Hoosier State. The storm brought an estimated 15.5 inches of snow to the city, according to NWS. Overall, the storm brought the most snow Indianapolis had seen over a three-day span since 1910. This would be the third-highest three-day total and that record still holds. That year, between February 16 and 18, a total of 16.1 inches of snow dropped on central Indiana. With the snow that was already on the ground, the total snow depth was just under 20 inches.
According to the National Weather Service, other records were set that winter.
The blizzard was part of a 61-day stretch with at least one inch of snow cover. Then, February had the coldest temperature for a month on record.
During the worst part of the storm, some areas in the state saw snowfall at a rate of one to two inches an hour. Wind speeds consistently were at 35 miles an hour, with gusts approaching 55 miles an hour.
Northern Indiana typically gets more snow than the rest of the state, and the area had issues in 1978. Along certain roads, supplies had to be brought in and dropped by helicopter. The governor declared a snow emergency for the entire state the morning of the 26th and by that afternoon the Indiana State Police considered all Indiana roads closed. 70 people died during the storm.
Indiana was the first to declare a blizzard warning for the state. Illinois and Ohio soon followed.
The storm hit Wednesday and conditions didn’t improve until the weekend. By Monday, roads had opened and people were able to start returning to work.
That January, 30 inches of snow fell on the city, setting another record for the area. This storm was a merger of two weather systems, resulting in a strong area of low pressure that reached its lowest pressure over Cleveland, Ohio.