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NEWARK Forty years ago,Licking County residents were buried in snow, trying to survive the historic blizzard of 1978. The storm created life threatening conditions for local residents, but also brought out the best in people and made memories tolast a lifetime.The storm developed when anArcticair mass pushed into Ohio in the early morning hours of Jan. 26, 1978, dropping temperatures 37 degrees in six hours, bringing 70 mile per hour winds, reducing visibility to zero and creating snowdrifts of 15 to 25 feet. The barometric pressure fell toan Ohio record of 28.28 inches in Cleveland.Deborah Osborn, who lived in an apartment complex on 30th Street in Heath, remembers a terrifying rideto her husband’s parents’ house in east Newark.They had a 17 day old baby,no heat in their apartmentand likely no heat for the next couple days, and a car that wouldn’t start. So, they risked traveling through the blizzard to reach a heated home. Her father in law came and picked them up, but it was a treacherous drive back.”You could not see the road, the skyline, ahead of youor beside you, except for glimpses from time to time,” Osborn said. “I clutched my child tightly, praying as he drove in silence. Oh, how I prayed.”Seeing it from the vantage point of the inside of a vehicle, surrounded by windows with blizzard winds driving snow all around us, with all I hold dear in this world inside that vehicle, is an image I will never forget.”Osborn, her husband and baby, and her two teen agebrothers and sisters, who lived with them, all survived the memorable trip to Newark. There were 17 family members, with one bathroom, staying at her husband’s parents’ house, where they stayed for two or three nights.”We had the best time,” Osborn said. “At night, we were allcamped out on the floors and couches, with the pillows and blankets we had brought, andtalked about favorite memories of days gone by, and dreams we all had for our futures.”Residents all over Licking County have similar stories of one of the most frightening, but memorable, times of their lives. Some stories, however,
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had a tragic end.The storm killed 51 in Ohio, including a Newark man overcome by carbon monoxide gas. Interstate 75 closed for three days and Interstate 475, near Toledo, closed for six days.Newark Mayor Richard Baker declared a state of emergency and National Guard units were called in to help clearroads.The actual snowfall was difficult to measure because of the winds, but official snowfall on Jan. 25 27 was recorded as 4.7 inches in Columbus,6.9 inches in Cincinnati and 12.9 inches in Dayton, according to the National Weather Service.Sherry Young Kreider, of Marne, also remembered a harrowing trip that day.”My boyfriendand I were out and got caught in it, driving through floorboard deep floodwaters which eventually froze,” Kreider said. “We got to within a few yards of my house in MountPerry, and we couldn’t see to drive any further. We somehow walked the rest of the way on foot and got inside. 40 was blocked by snowdrifts, and a house on the route burned to the ground because firefighters could not reach it. Farmers brought in their equipment to plow the streets of Hebron, he said.Duane Flowers, also a county commissioner, said, “People lost heat and homes were destroyed by busted water lines. They didn’t know how to turn off the water.”Commissioner RIck Black said he helped his dad, a Union Township trustee, plow roads. Wallace admits she would have been furious with her children if they had attempted such a dangerous trek.Neil Snelling, a former Advocate sportswrtiter, lived in a Zanesville apartment near Zanesville High School, at the time of the storm.”Blue Avenue, which runs past the school, soon became lined with parked semi trucks which could no longer travel I 70, as it was closed,” Snelling said. “When the road was opened, I remember driving between walls of snow on both sides of the highway. It reminded me of driving through a canyon.”Snelling,editor of the paper at Ohio University Zanesville, helped get the paper out, despite the blizzard.”Even though school was closed, the head of the English Department insisted the paper not miss a deadline. He showed up in his Volkswagon bug to pick me up and take me to school to get the paper put together.”Kristen Matt Brewer, born, Jan. 11, 1978, said, “My mom tells me the story of the blizzard and how she was in the hospital with pneumonia after delivering me, and my dad and brothers were home with anewborn and tying clothes lines together with the neighbors and using them to get to each others houses.”Burgandy McKee Darst doesn’t remember the blizzard at all, but is glad it happened.”Ihave no memory of this winter wonderland but I do have to be thankful it happened when it did,
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” Darst said. “Thanks to the storm my parents were both stuck at home at the time and I am a product of the ’78 blizzard.”