The Blizzard of '78 was a catastrophic storm that killed about 100 people and injured 4,500 more — and caused more than $500 million in damage — when it slammed into Northeastern states.
However, that same storm also did untold damage to Illinois and Indiana and other Midwestern states when it passed through a week earlier on Jan. 25, 1978.
Here are some stories — and some things you may not know — about the Blizzard of '78 and its effect upon the Upper Midwest.
How much snow fell on Indiana and Illinois?
Indiana's worst blizzard on record began 45 years ago on this date. For three days from Jan. 25 to Jan. 27, snow fell and temperatures plummeted. While air temperatures hovered at zero, wind-chill temperatures dipped to minus 51.
Indianapolis received 15.5 inches by storm's end. According to the National Weather Service, the Blizzard of '78 set other records, including the most snow in one month in Indianapolis (30.6 inches) and the most snow on the ground in Indianapolis (20 inches, which included 5 inches already on the ground from a snowstorm the previous weekend).
Stories from the storm: How the blizzard of 1978 buried Indianapolis under snow, worry and wonder
Many regions in the Midwest saw more than a foot of snow from the blizzard, which closed major highways, stranding motorists and causing food shortages in many areas, the NWS said. Winds gusting up to 100 miles per hour caused high snow drifts that nearly buried some homes.
Illinois also saw the most snowfall on record in the state during the winter of 1978 to 1979: 105.1 inches.
How may people died in the Midwest in the blizzard?
In Indiana, 11 deaths were attributed to the storm.
One of those victims was 1-year-old Timothy Michael Kimble, who froze to death in New Castle, after a stove used to heat his family's mobile home failed. His mother, Teresa Kimble, bundled him in blankets, before setting off for a neighbor's home through blinding snow, but she got lost. When she returned to the mobile home, she realized she had locked them both out. Little Timmy died of exposure before an emergency crew could arrive.
In Illinois, storms in January and February, including the Great Blizzard, are credited with causing at least 10 deaths. Another 5 deaths were caused by the blizzard in Kentucky.
The impact was even worse in Ohio, where 51 people are believed to have died as a result of the storm. About half of the deaths there were from people trapped in their vehicles or stranded in homes with no heat.
How did local leaders respond?
Then-Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut stayed awake for 36 straight hours, while directing the city's response. On Jan. 26, Hudnut declared a snow emergency following a statewide emergency declared by Gov. Otis Bowen.
Hudnut, who was the mayor of Indianapolis from 1976-1992, spent a lot of time riding on city snow plows and even hovering in a helicopter over the peaceful and blindingly white city. He was spotted on TV often, updating the public on the storm response while wearing his Indianapolis Racers winter hat.
In an interview years later, Hudnut recalled that he paid a lot of attention to the blizzard, because his political future depended on it. "Snow is very political, because it can hurt you if people don't think you're doing a good job of dealing with it," Hudnut said.
To prove his point, Hudnut mentioned the fate of a neighboring mayor, then-Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic, who was drummed out of office in 1979 because of voter dissatisfaction over how he responded to the blizzard in the Windy City.
The National Guard was called out
Strong winds built snow drifts as high as 10 feet in Illinois and Indiana.
Area governors activated the National Guard in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, according to the National Weather Service, to respond to the emergency.
In Indiana, guardsmen were called out to rescue many stranded motorists and even used tanks to break through snowdrifts and rescue vehicles on major highways, such as I-65 and I-465. The Guard also used armored personnel carriers and bulldozers to rescue vehicles, but few roads were open to traffic in the wake of the blizzard in 1978.
A spike in pregnancies
One unlikely effect of the blizzard: a possible spike in pregnancies and baby names related to the storm.
Victoria Gale Redstone was born at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis nine months and a day after the historic storm landed, her father, Marion, a local attorney, said in an interview with The Indianapolis Star in 1993. He says his daughter was named after the "winter gale."
Pregnant women also were filling the hallways at Methodist nine months after the storm because of the increase in pregnancies, Redstone recalled.
Apparently, the phenomenon of "blizzard babies" also affected the Northeast.
What makes a blizzard?
To be called a blizzard, a winter storm must have sustained winds or frequent gusts of greater than 35 mph along with falling or blowing snow that restricts visibility to less than one-quarter of a mile for at least three hours. According to the NWS, temperatures in a blizzard will generally be 20 degrees or lower as well.
A severe blizzard is categorized as a storm with wind speeds of 45 mph or higher and an amount of falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to near zero.
By this definition, the Blizzard of '78 was considered a severe blizzard.
Dwight Adams is a digital producer on Gannett's Midwest Digital Optimization team. He can be reached on Twitter @hdwightadams.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Blizzard of '78: The winter storm that cut a swath through Indiana