From January 25-27, 1978, the Indianapolis area got over 15” of snow, which came on top of 5” of snow from a few days previous. The winds howled at over 50 mph. Snow drifted to between 10 and 20 feet. The wind chills were below -50. People were trapped in cars on the highways. Amtrak trains were stranded on their tracks. The entire city shut down for three days. The pictures of that time, extra grainy as they came in the low-res, black and white newspaper photo era, are incredibly eerie. It looks more like Indy got bombed as the streets were completely deserted.
People who were alive for that storm still talk about it.
What happened here this week wasn’t quite that bad. We got a foot of snow, after getting 6” three days earlier. It got windy, but not 50 mph windy, and the snow was mostly wet and heavy so the drifting was mostly in rural areas. The wind chills did drop to dangerous levels. It was in the mid -40’s Monday through Tuesday. And the metro area did shut down for a couple days.
Schools and businesses have struggled to reopen. S.’s office was closed for two days. M. and C. are going to school today, delayed two hours, for the first time all week. Like a lot of schools, theirs lost heat and took and extra day to get open. L. was supposed to go back today, too, but the school district her preschool is tied to cancelled early this morning.
People have asked, “Is it really that bad there?” Actually most of the roads were plowed by Tuesday morning. Even our neighborhood was plowed late Monday afternoon, giving the girls a 6-foot mound of snow to play on in the front yard. The problem, though, was all that heavy, wet snow compacted and froze, leaving a thick layer of rough, slushy ice beneath that plows could not push away. Even Wednesday morning the interstates had only vague lanes. Neighborhood streets were like driving across the moon in a dune buggy.
And the big problem for schools is that buses are having a hard time navigating the side streets while the sidewalks are often completely covered up. Kids would have to wait extra long either standing on sheet of ice or in the street itself. Twenty years ago I bet most schools would have opened by yesterday. But between the need for basic safety and the imperative to not get sued, districts keep delaying/canceling classes, waiting for warmer temperatures to finally melt off this mess.
I guess it’s a good thing this happened immediately after Christmas break. But I know a lot of families are struggling to find out what to do with their kids. An extra, unplanned week of childcare isn’t exactly what family budgets need after the holidays.
I remember a couple huge snowstorms when I was a kid. But I don’t recall ever having more than two consecutive snow days. It’s been a crazy and incredible week. Somehow the girls and I haven’t killed each other.
It ended up being the second-biggest snowstorm in Indianapolis history. We had the second-longest stretch of continuous time below zero (56 hours). We had some of the lowest wind chills ever recorded in Indy. It may not quite stack up to the Blizzard of ’78, but I think our girls are always going to talk about the great storm of ’14, when the city shut down and Christmas break lasted an extra week.