This wintry photograph shows the snow drifts near the Van Wert Hospital. The county was reported to have received a foot of snow in this latest storm. (Times Bulletin/Kirk Dougal)
VAN WERT - “We have not seen conditions like these since the Blizzard of 1978,” said Van Wert County Emergency Management Director Rick McCoy. “In 1978, Van Wert County was recorded to have received 13 inches of snow compared to the 12.5 inches that fell in the January 2014 storm. Our saving grace was that this was a much wetter snow than the dry, powdery snow of ’78 that drifted much easier. Also, the winds during the current event were only 25-40 mph compared to the 60-70 mph winds of 1978.”
The Great Blizzard of 1978, also known as the Cleveland Superbomb, was a historic winter super storm that struck the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes for three days in late January. Van Wert County was particularly lucky this year in receiving only 13 inches of snow and 60-70 mph winds as other areas across Ohio received up to 40 inches of snow and winds up to 100 mph. Windchill values of 60 degrees below zero across Ohio also significantly downplay the -40 degrees seen during the first winter storm of 2014.
The most importance difference between these two storms that occurred almost 35 years apart is the death toll. In 1978, 51 Ohioans lost their lives as a direct result of the extremely rare and severe blizzard. In 2014, few deaths were reported in the state of Ohio, although five nearby states reported deaths due to storm-related conditions.
A state plow was reported flipped on St. Rt. 118 and Hoghe Rd. on Tuesday due to icy road conditions. Van Wert County plows continued working to keep Lincoln Hwy. open Monday night. Drivers reported trucks becoming so cold that the vehicles lost all heat, and ice began forming on the inside of windshields creating a very dangerous situation.
“As of Tuesday morning, all county and township roads remained closed,” noted McCoy. “Where snow was removed, roads became a solid blanket of ice. A main problem on Tuesday was that people began venturing out onto the roads and were getting stuck which was hampering the plows ability to get through.”
Beginning Tuesday evening, many of the rural roads in Van Wert County began to open up to travel in one lane. Van Wert County Sheriff Tom Riggenbach finally removed the snow emergency Tuesday at 10 p.m.
Isolated areas in the county, particularly south of Ohio City, remained without power from 6:30 p.m. on Monday until noon on Tuesday.
Temperatures Tuesday night jumped to one degree below zero and winds continued to die to 10 mph. Wednesday temperatures are expected to recover to 20 degrees above zero with slight snow falling but no accumulations.
“I want to personally thank all the state, county, township, city, and village plow drivers for working diligently in such dangerous conditions to open roadways,” applauded McCoy. “I also want to thank our law enforcement, fire and EMS who were out on the roads and handling emergency calls. Thanks also goes out to the electrical crews who were restoring power during this historic cold wave. A special thanks should also be given to postal workers who continued to deliver mail and to businesses that closed for the safety of their employees.”