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Will This Storm Be Like the Great Blizzard of 1978?

Potential Storm2
Wind Chill Graph

Many people have expressed concern about the holiday storm of 2022. Rightfully so, as it is expected to a big one.

We are used to seeing lots of snow in Northern Michigan, but up to 2 feet of snow during one event, and with other hazards like strong winds and cold temperatures, it creates concern for safety. Some are even wondering if this will be as bad as the fabled 1978 storm.

Here, we break down a few details about one of the most memorable snow events in the Great Lakes Region in recent history, and the one we are expected to get.

The Great Blizzard of 1978

1978 Snow Clearing (Photo Courtesy Kenton Public Library and NWS)

In January 1978, there was a similar event that moved through the Midwest. Snow and rain fell over Southern Lower Michigan in the morning hours of Jan. 26, with temperatures in the mid-30s to even mid-40s in Cleveland, Ohio, around 4 a.m. But by 10 a.m. the temperatures dropped to single digits.

Near hurricane-force winds were reported in Michigan and other portions of the Midwest and Northeast. Strong winds were even reported in Florida!

Land and air travel was at a standstill across the region. Major roads were closed for many days while road crews cleaned up.

Record snow amounts fell within 24 hours, including 16.1 inches in Grand Rapids and 15.4 inches in Houghton Lake. Snow totals for the entire storm (Jan. 25-27) include 30.0 inches in Muskegon, 19.3 inches in Lansing and 19.2 inches in Grand Rapids.

This storm produced wind chills in places as low as 50 below zero, power outages and large drifts of 20-25 feet. Because of the strong winds and blowing snow, visibility was under a quarter mile for many hours.

The intensity of the storm was also measured by its central pressure. It dropped by 40 millibars within 24 hours, making it a great example of a . The rapid intensification made it very strong and resulted in the fast winds and heavy precipitation. The low-pressure system was recorded at Mount Clemens, Michigan, at 956 millibars.

During the storm some people were stranded in their vehicles, and one person died in their vehicle because of cold exposure. About 20 other people died from direct or indirect reasons related to the storm. They were mainly from heart attacks and traffic accidents.

This 1978 storm is one of the most well-remembered weather events. Other memorable snow storms include “The Great White Hurricane of 1913,” the snowstorm in 1974, the snowstorm during the 1976-77 winter, and the Groundhog’s Day snowstorm in 2011.

Tracking Holiday Storm (2022)

The snow totals in this storm between Thursday night to Saturday evening are expected to be up to 2 feet in many areas, with many seeing much less. Areas closer to the Lake Superior and Lake Michigan shoreline will likely see more than 2 feet because of “lake enhanced” snow.

As for wind chills, they will fall below zero but won’t be as cold as 1978. With temperatures falling into the teens and 20s on Friday, and winds over 45 mph at times, there will single-digit wind chills, and some may be just a little below zero.

The winds are also expected to cause power outages and travel hazards. Travel may be impossible at times due to whiteout conditions and drifted roadways.

However, the drifts are not expected to be close to 20 feet like in 1978, but drifts over 3 feet are possible.

The central pressure of this storm is also not expected to get as low as 956 millibars. The lowest forecasted pressure is likely to drop to around 968 millibars.

Expected blizzard conditions are keeping Blizzard and Winter Storm Warnings in effect until overnight Saturday into Sunday.

After all is said and done, it will be a similar experience, but it won’t be exactly like 1978.

Stay up to date with the latest details on the Doppler 9&10 Weather Team app and the