42 years since Indiana’s most notorious snowstorm

42 years ago, the Blizzard of 1978 hit central Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The blizzard of 1978 is often spoken as the most significant weather event of a generation in central Indiana.

The snowstorm, often referred to as the Great Blizzard of ’78 set many records that still stand today.

The storm started on Jan. 25. The three-day storm dumped 15.5 inches of snow. With snow that was already on the ground prior to the blizzard, Indianapolis was buried under 20 inches of snow when the storm system finally left the Midwest.

The first ever “blizzard warning” for Indiana was issued for this storm just prior to it moving into the state. A heavy snow warning had been issued the night before the blizzard started.

In addition to the snow, winds would gust up to 50 mph through the three days and create snowdrifts up to 25 feet, extremely low visibility for days, and wind chills hovering around -50 F.

The storm assisted in setting a record for the most snow in the month of January, with 30.6 inches for the entire month. It also set a record for most snow on the ground, with 20 inches.

Indiana State Police closed roads across the state. Seventy people died in the storm.

It’s a stark contrast to the January we’ve experienced in 2020. Currently, it’s the 12th warmest January on record. To date, it is also the ninth-least amount of snow we’ve received in an Indianapolis winter on record, and the least amount of snow for the month (3 tenths of an inch) since 2006.

An average January leads to around 8.6 inches of snow, which is the snowiest month of the entire year for central Indiana. Since 2010, the month of January has only produced three years with above-average snowfall for the month: 2019 (11.7 inches), 2011 (11.8 inches) and the miserable 2014 (26.9 inches, second snowiest January on record).

With a relatively quiet forecast for the rest of the week, it looks quite likely that central Indiana will finish on the other end of the record book for January compared to where the region was 42 years ago today.