Ohio National Guard News

40 Years Ago: Ohio National Guard ready,
there for Buckeye State during Blizzard of '78

Story and photos courtesy of Ohio Army National Guard Historical Collections
Video by Sgt. 1st Class Josh Mann, Ohio Army National Guard Historian

In the early morning hours of Jan. 26, 1978, a severe blizzard struck Ohio, bringing 12-14 inches of snow with 50-70 mph winds and a wind chill of minus 70 degrees. In response, more than 5,000 Ohio National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were called to state active duty over an 11-day period in response to Gov. James A. Rhodes’ call for assistance to all 88 counties. The Ohio National Guard pressed into service 800 of its vehicles and 45 helicopters to evacuate stranded motorists, deliver supplies and remove snow. In addition, armories were opened to house and shelter those citizens who were stranded or had no heat. The “Blizzard of ‘78” would be recorded as the most severe snowstorm in Ohio history, amounting to almost $210 million in damage across the state.

Retired Brig. Gen. John S. Martin, Ohio assistant adjutant general for Army from 1991 to 1999, was the commander of the 1416th Transportation Company (Aviation Maintenance) and a full time flight instructor at the Army Aviation Support Facility #2 in Columbus during the “Blizzard of ’78.” In this episode of “In Their Own Words,” Martin discusses the critical role of the Ohio National Guard aviation program in response to the blizzard.

Soldiers looking at map.

Capt. Lawrence Hays (from left), Troop N, 107th Armored Cavalry, and Capt. Roy Stringham, 54th Support Center, plan flight operations from the Toledo Air National Guard base during the “Blizzard of ’78.” Ohio National Guard helicopter crews worked around the clock on medevac, rescue and resupply missions, averaging more than 200 flights a day during the peak period. Hays and his crew supported rescue and resupply efforts around the hard-hit Northwest Ohio portion of the state.

Sgt. James Monroe of Troop N, 107th Armored Cavalry stands outside of a UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter after it landed at Perrysburg High School, in Perrysburg, Ohio.

Capt. Lawrence Hays pilots a UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter.

Ohio National Guard Soldiers unload supplies from a UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter.

An Ohio National Guard Soldier uses heavy engineer equipment to clear snow from a road along North Dixie Highway north of Bowling Green, Ohio.

Animated photo of tractor removing snow in rural Ohio during Blizzard of 1978.

The “Blizzard of ‘78” was one of the most devastating natural disasters in Ohio history, causing massive damage, knocking out power grids and leaving people stranded in their cars and others without heat. The Ohio National Guard was ready to play an integral role in the recovery. The April 1978 edition of the Buckeye Guard magazine, with the cover story entitled “Blizzard Busters,” featured extensive coverage of the ONG’s support to the citizens of Ohio in one of their greatest times of need.

Read about the “Blizzard of ‘78” and more in the full library of more than 35 years of back issues of the Buckeye Guard.

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