Lake Maxinkuckee Its Intrigue History & Genealogy Culver, Marshall, Indiana

Blizzard of 1978  

Indiana was paralyzed by a snow storm that came to be known as the Blizzard of '78, the worst blizzard on record for the Hoosier state.

Great Blizzard January 26, 1978 from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The Great Blizzard of 1978, also known as the White Hurricane, was a historic winter storm that struck the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes regions from Wednesday, January 25 through Friday, January 27, 1978.

In Indiana on day two, just a half-hour after the arctic front blasted through, the Indianapolis International Airport was closed due to whiteout conditions. At 3 am, the blizzard produced peak winds of 55 mph. Temperatures dropped to zero that morning. Wind chills remained a bone-chilling 40 to 50 below zero nearly all day.

The governor Otis R. (Doc) Bowen declared a snow emergency for the entire state the morning of the 26th. Snow drifts of 10 to 20 feet made travel virtually impossible, stranding an Amtrak train and thousands of vehicles and weary travelers. During the afternoon of the 26th, the Indiana State Police considered all Indiana roads closed

Michiana was hit with over three feet of snow. According to the National Weather Service, the blizzard of 1978 registered as one of the most powerful storms on record, paralyzing not only the Midwest but much of the East Coast as well.

The blizzard has also become a part of local history, one that many people who lived through it will never forget.

The storm began on Wednesday, Jan. 25 and ended two days later on Jan. 27 with an average of three feet of snow throughout the region.

Many people lost power as the snow piled up outside their homes. When the snow finally stopped, there were reports of snow drifts upwards of 8 feet tall in people’s backyards while patches of grass remained exposed in their front yards due to the gusty winds sweeping the area.

Much of Michiana was stuck digging out of their homes and neighborhoods for several days.

At the High School:

Around town and outskirts of Culver

Looking out the Windows of 419 S. Main St. Culver

On Feb 7, 2008, 30 years after the "Blizzard of '78; in the Cilver Citizen Tim Warrickrecounts his memories of those days.:
    The blizzard, a candy bar, and a prayer

    Culver’s Warrick recalls brush with death in the blizzard of `78

    as serving as Summer Schools Admissions Officer for Culver. On Weds. (Jan. 26), we loaded the Academy car, an older Ford Country Squire station wagon for West Lafayette. It was starting to snow when we held the Culver meeting at the Purdue University Campus. Pete was anxious to be back home because Pat, his wife, was alone with (their) newborn, Cas, and his older brother Andy.

    The road was slick and full of snow by the time we reached an s-curve south of Brookston, Indiana. We came upon a Lincoln off the west side of the road and stopped to pick up the driver, Clarance Jackman from Chalmers, Indiana. We were about one and a half miles north of Brookston when the road became impassable. We were traveling slow, trying to stay on the road when we ran into a large snow drift. The wind was up to one hundred miles an hour, and the temperature was dropping to 16 degrees. The snow was heavy and blowing from the west, parallel to the ground

    We tried for a brief time to back and push the car out and back down the road. That didn't work, and we were stuck well into the snow. We knew that we couldn't run the engine very long because of the carbon monoxide risk once the exhaust pipe was covered by snow, so we turned off the engine, planning to start it again every hour for about five minutes to warm the car and listen on the radio for the news.

    Once we turned off the engine we were never able to start it again. We listened to the news for a few minutes every hour, and heard that the Indiana National Guard had been called out to help people stranded on Interstate 65 North of Lafayette. The radio announcer described convoys of guardsmen following tracked vehicles, picking up truck drivers and travelers along the Interstate highway.

    With that news we thought it would be just a matter of a few hours until we too would be rescued.

    Pete and I had not dressed for a blizzard but for our duties as admissions officers: sport coats, ties, loafers and light coats. With the temp dropping and the wind increasing, we needed to stay warm. We (used) the Culver Banners in our Admissions case to drape our heads, and gave the Culver flag to Clarance Jackman to use as his cover. As the night wore on and we realized the engine would not restart. Pete and I placed out feet in each others arm pits…it worked, and our feet stayed warm.

    Every half hour we asked Clarance Jackman in the back seat: "How you doing, Clearance?" Each time he replied: "Hanging in there!" But softer and quieter each time. Around sunrise on Thursday morning the battery died and we no longer heard the encouraging reports of…rescue parties.

    We…waited throughout the day for rescue. We were hungry, but all we had was Pete's "Chunky" candy bar. We decided to save it until the bitter end. By now the frost on the inside of the wind shield was over a half inch thick. The snow had blown into the car and was up to the bottom of the dashboard and the front seat. On exhale our breath would rise to the top of the car and then crinkle back down as snow flakes.

    It was bitter cold and hypothermia started to set in as the darkness of Thursday night arrived. Hypothermia sets in and you shiver uncontrollably. Even though your mind tells your body to stop and stay still, the body tries to create warmth to maintain core temperature by movement.

    As we sat for the night, our second, it did not appear we would be rescued. We shivered, and rubbed our hands and feet to try and stay warm. At the darkest time, the greatest fear was to be the last man alive in the car. Sitting there with two dead, frozen bodies would be tough.

    The prayers started, all learned at Riverview School from Miss Rogers, my second grade teacher.

    At home in Culver, Pat Salvadore awoke to find here husband had not returned. She and friends on the faculty started to make calls. Fred Adams, of the State Exchange Bank, offered to hire a helicopter to search for us. Bill Taber, at the Culver News Agency, was busy on his ham radio talking to people all over the state to encourage them to look for us.

    When Friday morning arrived, we knew we had survived the worst part of the storm. We also knew we would not be able to survive another night. About 10:00 am, the sky started to lighten. By 2:30 PM, we knew we had to get out, while there was still light. (Then) we heard a faint sound, like the buzzing of a chain saw. The sound grew louder and both Pete and I pushed on the driver’s side front door to try and get out.

    Just as the door opened, a snowmobile passed, just two feet from the door. The driver, a young man about 15 or 16 years old stopped the machine abruptly. He had been taking medicine to a child in need north toward Chalmers. He could not believe there was a car under the snow drifts and was more surprised when he saw the three of us stranded inside.

    He called for help…and about an hour later, three older snowmobilers showed up and helped us onto the backs of their machines. They took us out to the south over snow drifts over twelve and fourteen feet tall. We arrived by snow mobile at the home of Lillian Breisler, whose daughter and son-in-law were coordinating the community response to the blizzard. They had a nurse there. She checked each of us out and proclaimed us fairly fit for the conditions we had faced. They filled us with warm tomato soup

    About an hour later, a reporter from the Lafayette Journal Courier called for the story. We made the front page of the Sunday edition of the Lafayette paper with a headline stating: "Men survive 42 hours trapped in Blizzard"

    Lillian Breisler…prepared a tremendous meal complete with red eye gravy. After dinner, Pete pulled out the "Chunky" candy bar and placed it on the table. I guess we had never really reached the bitter end.

    What really mattered was that we were home, safe and warm. The people of Brookston, including Lillian Breisler, her entire family and all of the snowmobilers deserve the real recognition, along with Bill Taber, Fred Adams and all of the people who looked for us

    The lesson we learned is that we should never travel without a CB Radio (now of course a cell phone) plus extra blankets, sleeping bags, coats, hats and gloves. A number ten can, with a few survival candles and some matches can provide a good warming stove while stranded. For years, I always traveled with a survival kit in the trunk of the car. But now, I recommend that when the blizzard arrives, take shelter at home or with your friends, and wait it out until the worst passes. Help your friends and strangers, as we were helped, in grateful recognition of our prayers. Be safe, and stay out of the snow!

On Feb 7, 2008, 30 years after the "Blizzard of '78; in the Cilver Citizen Paul Winn recounts his memories of those days.:
    Culver Farmer Wynn Recalls Experiences 30 Years Ago

    The weatherman had been telling us a few days before, that things were setting up for a major winter storm that could be serious. This time he was right! The wind began to howl out of the west, the sky darkened and it wasn't long before the snow started coming down. By noon that day, it was a white-out. You couldn't see a quarter mile away. It continued all afternoon and I am sure through the night.

    When we got up early the next morning we could hardly get the door open to get out of the house. Things looked very dreary outside.

    When we got up early the next morning we could hardly get the door open to get out of the house. Things looked very dreary outside.

    There was no one moving on the roads anywhere. The wind had stopped blowing and it was very still. Huge drifts were everywhere

    Joyce was up and getting breakfast and we wondered what, if anything, we could do. I happened to think we had a bulldozer and if I could get it started on this zero degree morning, I might be able to push some snow off the roads. About that time, our one employee, Truman Neher, walked from his house, through the fields, and showed up for work. We decided to try and start up that dozer. We put heaters on the engine and it started. We also started a 4-wheel drive pick-up truck and began to move snow.

    Our farm is the first farm north of State Rd. 110, on State Rd. 117. We left the farmstead heading east, to Queen Road. We couldn't go west out our driveway at all. We went south on Queen Road to State Rd. 110. We could see that the east-west roads weren't drifted very bad at all. The north-south roads were impassable.

    While riding that old dozer, I thought about four of my neighbors who were dairy farmers and how were they going to get their milk picked up.

    I stopped before going on 110 and got in the pickup truck and let Truman drive the dozer for a while so I could warm up a little and drink some of that hot coffee that Joyce had fixed for us.

    We traded off warming up in the truck so we could keep the dozer going. We headed East on 110. Our first stop was the Larry Zechiel farm and pushed snow there, then we continued east to Eldon Davis farm, about 1/8 mile north of 110, on Peach Road and opened up so the milk truck could get to the farm. Then we went back west again to Queen Road, north 1 1/2 miles to the Don and Betty Davis dairy farm. We went back to 110 to 117 and started north. We got up about 1/8 of a mile and could go no farther.

    The Kenny McCune farm was west of us, what is now owned by Jim Irsay, and Kenny had lots of milk in his bulk tank and if the milk truck couldn't get to it, it would have to go down the drain. We had to help Kenny, too, if we could, because every one of my neighbors would help me if I ever needed help. But in this case, I just happened to have the dozer. We started that old dozer in a north-westerly direction right across the fields, which is now the Mystic Hills Golf Course. I owned it at that time, so I didn't have to ask anyone for permission to cross the land. We cut a path through the snow that was about 3 feet deep in places.We finally m

    ade it to 20B Rd. Now, after all that work, would the milk truck get through in time to save the milk? As I said earlier, State Rd. 110, an east and west road, was not bad. State Rd. 31 north and south, probably was taken care of because of so much traffic, and those farmers were sending their milk to Deans Milk Co at Rochester. Those trucks probably would make it.

    One of the dairy farmers called Dean's and said to send a truck, that the milk was ready to ship and they could get to the farms.

    It wasn't quite as simple to get to McCune's farm. We had to put Kenny's big tractor and my dozer on the front of the truck to keep it in the path we made through the fields. but we finally made it about 10 PM that first night and had to continue this process until the plows could get through and get the roads opened up, which was several days.

    I do not want to sound like the hero in this story. Farm people have always been known to help each other when there was a need and I know I have been helped many times by these same neighbors anytime I needed help!

!--- End Data entry Area -->