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Winter 1977: Statewide Cold Wave

The winters 1976-77 and 1977-78 were the two coldest winters recorded in Ohio. The winter 1976-77 was the colder of the two winters and January 1977 was the coldest month known in Ohio. Average temperatures during December 1976 were about 7 degrees below average. January 1977 was the coldest month with a statewide average temperature of 11.9 degrees, 17 degrees below normal. Temperatures remained below freezing through the entire month in northern Ohio. The impacts of the cold were intensified by snowfall that was twice the average and a blizzard at the end of January. The cold peaked on January 17 th with lows of 25 below zero at Danville and Milford and at Cincinnati where a new cold record was set. Cars would not start, some water pipes were frozen, and furnaces malfunctioned. Shortages of natural gas caused some businesses, industries, and government offices to close or curtail their hours of operation. Extreme cold continued into the first half of February with temperatures falling to 20 below at some locations. Temperatures of 60 by the end of February brought an end to this extraordinary winter.

Prolonged cold weather and snow covers of the winters of the late 1970s became the norm for Ohioans and the standard against which subsequent winters were compared. When “normal” winters returned in the 1980s, the perception among some was “winters aren’t what they used to be,” the phrase repeated by every generation that remembers the “real” winters of years past.


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