Blizzard of 1978 vs Snow of 2014

February 6th, 2014 at 2:58 am by under Bill's Blog, News, Weather

Blizzard of 1978 2014  nohrsc snow Click on the picture to enlarge or click here.  These pictures are from the Berrien County Road Commission.  Yesterday (Weds.), Grand Rapids had a snow cover of 22″.  That’s the highest snowcover in Grand Rapids since 1979.  The most snow ever on the ground in G.R. was 27″ after the Blizzard of Jan. 26, 1978 (when we had 15″ of snow in 15 hours).   Grand Rapids has now had 59 consecutive days with 4″ or more of snow on the ground!  I don’t know how close that is to a record for a 4″ snow cover.  This is from Dr. Bob Ruhf, who measures snow at WMU:

1. The 42.8 inches of snow in January set a record for the snowiest January; the old January record was 39.6 inches set in 1999. It was also the third snowiest month on record. #1: 46.6 inches (December 2000); #2: 43.1 inches (December 2008).
2. The 24-inch snow depth on February 1-2, 5 set a February snow depth record. The old February record was 15 inches set on February 2, 2011. This was also one inch short of the the greatest snow depth measured for any month. The greatest snow depth measured was 25 inches set on January 6, 10-11, 1999.
3. There have been 32 consecutive days so far (January 5 – February 5) with a snow depth of 12 or more inches; the previous record for a streak of 12 or more inches was 28 days from January 10 – February 6, 2009.
4. A 25-inch snow depth was measured at 8:30 a.m. on February 5. This tied the greatest snow depth of 25 inches measured on January 6, 10-11, 1999. However, the snow depth settled to 24 inches by 11:59 p.m., the time snow depth is reported for. Officially, there was no record. Unofficially, the record was tied.
These records are based on only 16 years of data. Certainly most of these records (and other records that will be established during the remainder of the winter) would not be records if data from previous decades, such as the 1960s nnd 1970s, could be included.

The image on the right was snow depth Weds. AM.  63% of the Contiguous U.S. had a snow cover with an average depth of 6.1″.  You can see the strip of 9-12″ of snowfall from Kansas to NW Ohio.  Chicago is up to 59.6″ for the season.  That’s the 8th snowiest winter since 1884 (with a lot of winter left to go) and the 3rd highest thru Feb. 5th).

We have also had 5 consecutive days with high temperatuers in the mid 20s.  The latest European model has .08″ precip. for Sat. PM thru Sunday (an inch and a half, maybe), and about 1/2″ for Monday.  The coldest temperature out 10 days on the European model is -3 next Tues. AM and the warmest is 30 on Feb. 13th.   The GFS  has flurries thru Fri. AM – another 0.12″ or about 2″ Sat. PM thru Sun. The first day up to freezing is 2/14 and then the model takes G.R. to 40 on 2/19 and 48 on 2/21.   For today it has pretty much steady temps. around 14-17 with a 15 mph west wind…highs of 17 Fri., 19 Sat. and 24 on Sunday, then 16, 17, 20, 26, 33 for the work week next week.   Also:  Check out the cool pics. Bruce Doll took at Holland St. Park.

66 Responses to “Blizzard of 1978 vs Snow of 2014”

  1. Travis Ulberg (West of Martin, Allegan County) says:

    Is it just me or has the Euro been wrong a lot with specific details(temps/snowfall)? The Euro has been getting the patterns correct better than any other model. It just seems the Euro way over does temps and snowfall about 5-10 days out.

    Now going back to the records. I had 31″ on my deck, and 22″ on the ground in December 2008, but it was a very fluffy snow pack. My current snow depth is 24″, but it is a very hard packed snow pack. So although the numbers from different years could be similar to this year, we have a lot more water content in this snow pack than compared to previous years. I measured a 23″ snow depth, and that was about 20″ of snowfall ago with no warm-up in between now and than.

  2. Imthemom (just n holland) says:

    Well I wish we still had car antennas so we could put on flags or tennis balls on them so we could see cars at intersections. We can sled off the barn roof. This winter is a lot like the older ones

  3. Dan says:

    It wouldn’t take much for us to set the record for all time in snowfall! Does the snowy pattern continue? The sun’s angle is getting higher and we are adding daylight.

  4. TomKap (Michigan St. & Fuller) Grand Rapids says:

    Thank you Bill for the “The first day up to freezing is 2/14 and then the model takes G.R. to 40 on 2/19 and 48 on 2/21.”

    Lets bring on the MELTING!! :)

    1. TomKap (Michigan St. & Fuller) Grand Rapids says:

      ..and it’s great to see California getting some decent rain at this hour.

      1. Wswplz says:

        Tomkap your comments go much farther when your not trying to insult someone….it’s almost as if when you call people clowns it completely negates any attempt you might have made in saying something intelligent….your words not mine….and I agree it’s good they are finally getting some precip…

    2. Michael g (se gr) says:

      You do really that it’s a forecast and not a law, right Thomas?

    3. T Bone says:

      Melting equals flooding. How about a slow rise in daily temps until the snow slowly fades away?

  5. DJ2450 says:

    It will be interesting to see if we do warm up around the middle of the month. Currently the CPC is not buying into the warm up.

  6. Russ says:

    SNOW–I guess it depends on what part of West Michigan you live in an what your memories of blizzards of years past. How many of you remember the Blizzard of 1967 here in southern part of West Michigan. Yes I remember 77 an 78. I live in the Battle Creek area an as far as blizzards go 67 was the worst, but as I said it depends on where you lived at the time. Yes we have gotten a lot of snow this year an some parts of West Michigan are worse than others, But this is Michigan an we have to expect weather like this at times. Yes it dose get better

    1. DJ2450 says:

      I agree it does depend on where you were during the 78 blizzard. I lived in Muskegon County where 36″ of snow was officially recorded. My friend had a Bronco with a lift kit and huge tires. The Muskegon Co. Civil Defense ask for volunteers with 4 wheel drive vehicles and CB radio we had both. They told us to pack plenty of food, water and blankets in the vehicle. We checked into the CD headquarters at the Muskegon County building received Civil Defense arm bands, official papers and our first assignment. For 2 days 14 hours each day we drove medical personal to and from the hospitals, took food and water to those without and rescued people in stranded vehicles. Got stuck about 20 times and had to shovel our way out. We got to see it all. I was 23 years old at the time and I have never seen anything like it since. A great memory that I’ll never forget.

      1. Marty says:

        Great story.

      2. Wswplz says:

        Yes, really cool story….sounds like a dream come true for an adventurous 23 year old…you actually get to off-road so to speak and do something to really help people in need….and the arm band is icing on the cake!! That’s something I would love to sign up for….great stuff DJ

        1. DJ2450 says:

          BTW. I still have the arm band.

  7. Mark (East Lansing) says:

    The 1978 v 2014 pics are really cool. Man, there’s a lot of snow out there right now!

  8. Rebecca says:

    I am wondering what those springs were like in 67, 77, and 78. When did the thaws come on those years and did the area have major flooding?

    1. kevin. w says:

      I remember seeing snow piles around in ’78 on Memorial weekend and my in-laws in the U.P. had piles into June. We were just talking about how long the snow is going to be around this spring and what this summer is going to be like…I’ll betcha were going to have alot of mosquitoes this year.

  9. kevin. w says:

    I was just reading an article about Japan being very warm with flooding rains. What’s your thoughts Bill on this. I always watched what happens in Japan the connection comes about 2 weeks + for us and by looking at the models I see a big warm push with a strong storm…quick melt/quick flooding.

    1. INDY says:

      U have been saying that for over a month now no floods yet!! INDYY!!

    2. DF (SE Mich) says:

      Lets hope there are no more Godzilla attacks then, I don’t want that coming over in two weeks ;)

      Seriously though I’m not seeing any huge thaw. It does look like we’re finally headed towards the normal side by the end of the month.

  10. DF (SE Mich) says:

    Let’s add more stats from the Detroit NWS.

    #7 snowiest season already in Detroit.
    #15 snowiest season already in Flint.
    Top 10 coldest winters ever, so far, in Flint, i.e seasonal.
    Lots of other great stats, the January snowfall graph is amazing.

    1. yooper4021 says:

      Just down the road…Toledo also had their snowiest January ever.

  11. INDY says:


  12. Barry in Zeeland says:

    Living next to Chicago Drive just about my whole life (except a few years in the 1990′s when I lived right in Zeeland), I can say the 1978 blizzard was far and away worse than anything we’ve had this year. It was the only time I can remember Chicago Drive being completely shut down for almost 3 days, as in NO cars whatsoever. Our only way into town was by snowmobile. This year we’ve had a lot of snow, but not once has my Monte Carlo not plowed it’s way through. We keep getting snow this year, but it’s never more than 3 or 4, sometimes 5 or 6 inches at a time. No big events, just a lot of smaller events with no thawings.

    1. Barry in Zeeland says:

      Also I might add that stretch of extreme cold we had in 1994 had to be the most lake effect I’ve ever seen. We had almost non-stop heavy lake effect snow for about a week straight. At one point I dug a hole through the snow in the middle of the yard and it was just shy of 4 foot deep. That was just an insane week. Barely got above 0 all week.

  13. mikelikespike says:


    1. INDY says:

      Get a dirty 30 they rock!!! INDYY

  14. SlimJim NW GR (1) says:

    As Bill stated we are now at 59 consecutive days with 4+ inches of snow on the ground and while I don’t even know if anyone keeps records of that per say here is a list that I have on the longest consecutive days here in GR for 1+ inches on the ground.

    As you can see we have a good shot of reaching the top ten this year as it should take a long time for this snow to melt (we hope)

  15. SlimJim NW GR (1) says:

    The question was asked above what was the rest of the year like (temp wise) after the big storms of 1967 and 1978? Well in 1967 and 1978 both the following springs and summers were cold in fact the winters of 1967/68 and 1978/79 were also cold!
    Now as for the snow on the ground I would say what we now have on the ground rivals and or beats the snow on the ground after both the 1967 and 1978 storms. I not sure of the water content of the snow we now have vs. the snow that was there after the 67 and or 78 storms but I know it’s the most since I have lived here in GR (1984) while there have been other times with a good amount of snow on the ground the other times it was light fluffy lake effect snow with less water content. So the next issue will be how much flooding will there be in the spring? Not the question of if there will be floods just as to how much there will be. Remember this snow pack is state wide this year!

    1. Brian(Grandville) says:

      This deep snow pack should really contribute greatly to Lake Michigan, and the rest of the great lakes this year.

      1. DJ2450 says:

        A large percentage of the snow currently on the ground is lake effect and it came from moisture from Lake Michigan. When it melts it will only be putting some of it back into the lake where it came from.

        1. DF (SE Mich) says:

          True, but Lake Michigan/Huron never really went down (when it typically does) this winter so the melt will definitely help.

        2. DJ2450 says:

          Agreed. However, the best way to raise water levels in the Great Lakes is synoptic snow storms with plenty of gulf moisture. I hope we do see a significant raise in long term water levels in the Great Lakes. Great lakes water levels is a good reason for those wishing for a big southern stream storm.

        3. SlimJim NW GR (1) says:

          While there is a good amount of lake effect/enhancements to this years snow pack its by no means the usual light and fluffy lake effect snow pack. So by no means try to down play the potential flood impacts plus the added threat of ice jams.

        4. DJ2450 says:

          SlimJim, not trying to down play the chances of flooding. Just pointing out that melting LE snow cover is simply putting the water back to where it came from with some loss to evaporation. No doubt there’s a significant threat for flooding.

        5. DF (SE Mich) says:

          Also, only Lake Michigan/Huron remain a significant amount below the 100 year average. All the other big lakes are pretty much right at average or above. Lake St. Clair is really a river and goes up and down dramatically at this time of year due to ice jams.

        6. Ben (Charlotte MI) says:

          I think you are underestimating how much synoptic snow is on the ground across the state. Remember that the Grand River begins down by Jackson, the Thornapple starts south of Lansing. Those areas have over a foot of mostly synoptic snow on the ground. The world is bigger than just West Michigan. Also, the snow cover in West Michigan is probably a higher % synoptic than you realize. A lot of the water that will end up in Lake Michigan did not come from the lake.

      2. DJ2450 says:

        All good points Ben. Please don’t insult me by implying I don’t realize the World is bigger than just west Michigan. In fact I’m not in West michigan. I’m in the center of the State in Gratiot County. I’m simply pointing out the fact that LE snow can not be counted. The heavy rain that most areas received plus all synoptic snow received is still setting on the ground waiting to melt and flow back into the lakes.

        1. Ben (Charlotte MI) says:

          DJ2450, my apologies. I should have left that comment out. There is a lot of that type of thinking on this blog, but I should not have assumed that you were thinking like that. It was rude, anyway.

      3. DJ2450 says:

        Thanks Ben.

    2. Imthemom (just n holland) says:

      Easter Sunday of 67 we sat on the front steps of our house and still had snow piles either side of us. Took a picture of it– then after waiting a week while it got developed ( ask your grandparents what that means boys and girls )–sent it my grandma who was in Florida.

      1. Steve (N Moline) says:

        LOL. I used to send film out in the mail to get it developed. It wasn’t all that cheap either. Not like the instant pics we are all used to today.

  16. SlimJim NW GR (1) says:

    Getting light fluffy lake effect snow here now!
    One more item if we were to get a big snow storm now before a thaw say a 8 to 12 inch one with a lot of wind it would shut everything down for quite a while. So it’s a good thing it looks like any snow we get the next week or so looks to be light.

    1. Steve (N Moline) says:

      I was thinking that very same thing on my drive to work this morning, Slim. All the banks are so high that we are sunk if the big one hits.

  17. Kens Muskegon says:

    Any one remember the winter of ’47? I have a picture of me 2 years old sitting on a very huge snow pile that looks about 8′. Also, if I remember correctly, when we’ve had winters that we have lots is snow, the following growing season has been spectacular. Bill, what is the long range forecast for this Spring and Summer? Cannot wait!

    1. Bill Steffen says:

      Right now I’d guess average temps. for the summer. I’m very wary of spring flooding and a couple of significant rainstorms. There is plenty of potential for significant storm systems this spring. I think the tornado season is back to average this year, after a pretty quiet year in 2013.

      1. Cali103 says:

        Will March, April, and May be cooler or warmer than Average?

  18. Chip (Holland) says:

    Some beautiful, moderate LE snow in Waukazoo Wood.

  19. INDY says:


    1. Wswplz says:

      Dirty 30 it…stay up late and hit the 48…wake tomorrow with a ……. …….!

      1. INDY says:

        Blast from the past!! INDYY

  20. Brad says:

    I hope it’s not 48F for the winter beer festival. I also hope it’s not 18F.

    1. Tom in Alger Heights says:

      Here’s hoping that we are in the mid to upper 20′s for the beer fest. For the past several fests, we’ve been in that range. Nothing better than standing in a parking lot, with 6000 of your friends, enjoying craft beer. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. This will be my 6th year in a row attending this great appreciation of water, malt, hops and yeast. Cheers!!!

  21. Swatz_Zoo(Cedar Springs) says:

    I really, truly hope for a good thaw, my duck/goose pens need a major renovation of clean up instead of doing the deep bedding method, NOT a chore I’m looking forward to but can’t scoop out frozen crap under the fresh stuff. Saw some morning doves at the feeder and was thinking how much I’m looking forward to hearing their morning love song in the spring.

  22. Diesel says:

    1978. Wayland. Jumping off the overpass onto 131 and taking about 30 minutes to swim out of the drifts. Driving through drifts that the National Guard rammed (one lane, pushing snow about 20 feet at a time with big V plows on the front of earth movers). We’d take our motorhome through and stand on the roof to measure the height of drifts. It’s going to take a “big-daddy” to top that year.

    1. Wswplz says:

      That’s a cool image…It would take a huge storm to bring out the national guard and there heavy equipment….I think our current plows are a bit more effective then those of 78….not taking anything away from that winter btw.

  23. yooper4021 says:

    Courtesy of Tom Skilling/WGN:

    Chicago’s snowfall season (fall through spring) now ranks as the 3rd snowiest on record to date.

    Top 3 Snowfall Seasons on Record (through 2/5):

    1.) 79″ 1978-1979
    2.) 62.8″ 1977-78
    3.) 59.6″ 2013-2014

    This winter (December-February) now ranks as the 4th snowiest on record:

    1.) 80.6″ 1978-1979
    2.) 71.2″ 1977-1978
    3.) 59.9″ 1917-1918
    4.) 58.7″ 2013-2014

    Nasty winters like this one seem to be occurring with more frequency. 5 of the snowiest 12 winters on record in Chicago have occurred in the past 7 years:

    4.) 58.7″ 2013-2014
    6.) 56.3″ 2010-2011
    8.) 52.4″ 2009-2010
    9.) 52.1″ 2007-2008
    12.) 47.9″ 2008-2009

  24. steven (Derby Lake) says:

    I went to Cadillac yesterday and it looked as though they had about the same amount of snow cover as we have here.

  25. Darlene Yasick says:

    Does anyone remember a huge snowstorm late in the season which closed both 131 and road to Lansing? I am thinking that it might have been as late as April and we had our kids with us. Four hours from Detroit to Lansing. Got so bad we pulled over and got last room motel had. As we were registering MSP came in and said the road was closed.

    1. Eileen (Hesperia) says:

      Darlene – thinking it was the 1st Saturday in April of 1981. We headed down to my parents home in Coopersville. We had just adopted our daughter and went down to mom and dad’s so they could meet their new grand daughter. We ended up getting snowed in there.

  26. Paul (Yankee Springs-Barry State Game Area) says:

    Been under a pretty good LE band in Byron Twp for the past 45 minutes…..M-6 is messy ! Crashes are rolling in…

  27. Jen says:

    More snow removal will have to be done today. I must not be checking the Blog enough, I had no idea we would be getting this much of these BIG snow flakes. Very pretty though!

  28. Bernie at the lakeshore says:

    Hey Bill, last year I tapped the trees on Feb. 12 and finished my first batch of syrup on the 14th. I don’t see that happening this year. If you check around you might be able to find an old farmer who keeps a detailed record of their past sap runs. It might help you fine tune your spring and summer forcasts. :)

  29. Steve says:

    Is there a difference between snowcover and snow depth. Otherwise there seems to be a contradiction in deepest amounts in the first few paragraphs of the article.

  30. Steve says:

    p.s. not that it really matters. Deep is deep!

  31. Bruce Brooker says:

    Ahhh, that would be the Blizzard of 1977.

    The blizzard 2014 cannot be compared to The Great Blizzard of ’77. Then again, how much blizzard is enough blizzard?

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