Reflections: Historic cold waves hit county

By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist

Reading the history of Morrow County, I shiver when I read about the year of 1816, when there was no summer. According to the history I read, there was ice every month and on June 17 a terrible snow storm struck from New England to New York where many travelers froze to death.

According to the Morrow County History book, crops could never be planted that year because of the extreme cold and snow.

Since then we have had “cold waves” but nothing like the winter of 1816. I touched on winter storms a few weeks ago but while going through my pages of information, my memory was jogged when I read about the winters of both 1976-77 and 1977-78 — the two coldest winters recorded in Ohio.

The first, was the colder and January, 1977 was the coldest month known in Ohio. On a personal note, I wonder if that includes 1816.

According to the information from the Ohio Historical Society, average temperatures during December, 1976 were about seven degrees below average. During January 1977 temperatures remained below freezing

throughout the month in northern Ohio with the impacts of the cold intensified by snowfall that was twice the average and a blizzard at the end of January.

According to the January 13, 1977, edition of the Morrow County Sentinel, “the U S Weather Bureau is forecasting that 1976-77 may be recorded as the most severe winter in more than a century in many parts of the Midwest.

Twelve inches of snow were recorded at the Mount Gilead State Park.There were three continuous days of sub zero temperatures and all county schools were closed for three days past the weekend.

A photo in the Sentinel is of Beth Johnson looking at the top of her car, the only part visible, which she parked on the county road the night before because she was unable to get up her home’s driveway.

The same thing was repeated one year later when snowfall exceeding 20 inches and ice covered roads closed Morrow County Schools.

According to Cardington School Superintendent George Nash, the local school had closed 17 days in the winter of 1976-77, but in the 1977-78 winter up to January, 1978, the Cardington school had been closed seven days in January and three in December.

The 1978 blizzard caused many travelers to be stalled on I-71 and other highways. Shelters were provided by residents of private homes, by three Mt Gilead churches and others were given shelter by Freeway Motel and the Derrick Motel, Mount Gilead. Local firemen, squad personnel and volunteers totaling 110 provided assistance.

The county newspaper is full of stories related to those two blizzards.

Very interesting to read and in my case, to remember. But I can only pray we don’t have a repeat.

70 years ago, February, 1951: Two Cardington young women, Pat Barton and Sally Wilhelm, were among eight candidates for Bliss College Homecoming Queen.

By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist