40 years later, Blizzard of 78 still reigns supreme

On January 26, 1978, the state of Michigan and parts east saw one of the biggest blizzards of all time.

This past Friday was the 40 year anniversary of the biggest blizzard Michigan has ever seen in recorded history.

THe day was January 26, 1978, and two storms converged over Michigan, creating the monster that stretched Lake Michigan to Toronto and all the way to Boston. Despite the record-setting storm, it's not one of the biggest snow-makers ever.

Detroit received 8.5 inches of snow - well short of the top five of all time:
April 6, 1886 - 24.5 inches
Dec. 1-2, 1975 19.3 inches
Feb. 1-2, 2015 - 16.7 inches
March 4-5, 1900 - 16.1 inches
Feb. 28, 1900 - 14 inches

For a storm to be a blizzard, there are three main factors that to be in place for three hours: heavy snow, winds over 35 MPH, and visibility of less than a quarter of mile.  

The '78 storm had all of that - here's why. There were two large systems, one north and one south of Michigan, that were combined in the jet stream, creating one monster storm that brought heavy snow, those strong winds, and low visibility.

The storm reached from Lake Michigan, Detroit, Toronto, Cleveland, and Boston - which saw winds of 75 MPH. 

Michigan saw the 3rd lowest pressure recorded for any non-tropical system from this monster storm.

As we said, it wasn't a big snow maker - only 8.2 inches - that's because it started as rain in Detroit. Out in Grand Rapids and Muskegon, 30 inches of snow fell.

The storm killed 20 people, 100,000 cars were stranded on the highways, and the National Weather Service still calls it one of the strongest blizzards Michigan has ever seen.

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