Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

January 26, 2008

Public servants recall battle with blizzard of ’78

photo gallery Click here to see file photos from the blizzard of 1978.





When Joe Slabaugh went to work at the city street department on Jan. 25, 1978, he had no idea what he was in for.

“We were called in during the night [of Jan. 25] to start salting the streets,” Slabaugh recalled. “[Forecasters] were expecting some snow. But they weren’t expecting what we got.”

What the city ended up with was more than a foot of snow, wind gusts of 55 mph and wind chills near 50 below zero — the worst blizzard in Indiana’s history.

“It was a real light snow at first,” he said. “It wasn’t amounting to too much. Then it started getting heavy close to the morning. Once it broke loose, there was nothing we could do to keep up with it.”

He was on the job 33 hours before getting any relief.

“I never expected that at all,” he said.

Photo Gallery: Click here or photo below to see Kokomo Tribune file photos



slideshow

Abandoned and stranded vehicles littered the streets, making it nearly impossible for the crews to clear the snow away.

“We had a heck of a time keeping the main roads clear to the two hospitals. That was our main priority. There were a lot of cars getting stuck and abandoned. Washington and LaFountain streets looked like a snake as we winded around trying to keep one lane open. I never saw anything like that.”

Slabaugh recalled it was three days before he could get home.

“The civil defense brought cots in, and we had to sleep right there, get up, wash off and get back at it.”

Slabaugh said the salt crews earned the nickname snow birds because, “whenever it started snowing, we were there.”

The 34-year street department veteran remembers being stationed near the downtown fire station on North Washington Street to help plow the fire department’s snorkel truck and ambulance out when needed.

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