A poem written by an anonymous British author goes: “Whether the weather be fair, or whether the weather be not, whether the weather be cold, or whether the weather be hot, we’ll whether the weather whatever the weather whether we like it or not.”
Ohio is known for changeable weather. John King who came from Scotland before Ohio became a state wrote the following to his relatives in Scotland: “First, the extremes of heat and cold and the sudden changes subject us to all the inconveniences of both a cold and a warm climate. The winter is often very severe then disagreeably warm by far and is most unhealthy.”
It is often said that if you don’t like today’s weather, tomorrow will be different because this is Ohio.
As I am writing this, temperatures have been in the 90s. When it is this warm I begin to think of cooler things such as the summer of 1816 which was known as the “year without a summer.” January had been very warm, requiring minimal heating, but the weather turned around in May when the ponds were adorned with a half-inch of ice. On June 17, in another Ohio county, a farmer was lost for three days because of a blizzard. Of course these extreme weather patterns become history because they are rare.
Now and then record-breaking amounts of snow are notable and there is one which some folks still living in Greene County might remember. It was the winter of 1950.
The snow came thick and fast, blocking sidewalks and streets faster than it could be removed.
It was reported that around 1,100 individuals were stranded in Xenia. Some of those folks were accommodated at the National Guard Armory while others found shelter at Central High School.
Several years later, Bill Eichman, owner of Eichman’s Appliance Store, recalled that at that time television was still rather new. He recalled that “We took sets to the Armory and Xenia Central and rigged antennae for travelers to watch television while waiting for roads to clear.”
Kenneth Sparr, president of Citizens First National Bank, lived on Henville Road and along with his neighbors, was unable to get out of his driveway and onto the road. He solved the problem by riding his horse the six miles into town returning with groceries which he shared with his neighbors.
Acts of kindness appeared everywhere. Neighbors were helping neighbors throughout the storm and subsequent piled high snow.
A Port William couple traveled nine miles in nine hours to get to the Haines Hospital in Jamestown for the birth of a baby. During a portion of the journey, the car in which they were riding was pulled by a snow plow.
No official report of the amount of snow fall was recorded due to the fact that Ernest L. Harner, the official weatherman for Xenia, was unable to get to his equipment at the Fish Hatchery to report an official amount of snow. But it was estimated that the snowfall had been somewhere between 16 and 24 inches.
Of course, record amounts of snow fall from time to time, but only those which are “record-breaking” are usually remembered.
More recently was the Blizzard of ’78.
The weatherman predicted “Thursday will see flurries, windy and cold, high in the low 30s” The “flurries” continued until an average of 14 inches of snow had accumulated. The wind was the major factor with many power lines down leaving residents with limited or no heating. Schools and businesses were closed and snowmobiles were a welcome sight.
Icicles which normally hang straight down were blow by the wind into 45 degree angles.
In Bowersville, 400 homes were without power for 33 hours. Two front-end loaders along with a highway department snowplow provided access for four DP&L trucks and volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles to inch their way into the village. The normal 20 minute trip took nearly four hours because the high winds continued to blow the snow across the road after it was cleared. The Bowersville Fire Station had auxiliary power so some of the residents took shelter at that location. Soon the power was restored and grateful residents were warm again.
The Xenia Gazette boasted that the company had never missed publishing a paper in the previous 111 years. This year was no exception. The paper was printed but not distributed until the next day.
After the storm had passed, and the community was somewhat back to normal, a local weather reporter provided printed certificates to anyone at no charge. Each certificate had a place where an individual could write his or her own name. A large number of residents requested this certificate which read “I survived the Blizzard of 1978.” Perhaps you still have yours.
Hopefully this made you feel a little cooler. Weather in Ohio is always a good topic of conversation: snow, rain, drought, etc. In spite of the extremes, there are many, many days of wonderful weather in Ohio.
I’m glad I live here.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.