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Frank Gray

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File | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne neighborhood in 1978.

Storm of '78 was amazing; so is this

Courtesy | Sarah Jaworski
Fort Wayne neighborhood in 2014.

Sooner or later someone will say it, so I may as well be the one.

It's really bad out there, but you should have seen the Blizzard of '78.

There. I've done it. You people younger than 40 years old don't know what bad weather is.

If it's any consolation, it is true that the current winter storm is what I'd call a once-in-a-generation event. Your unborn children will probably be grown before we see the likes of this again.

Just as people who lived through the Blizzard of '78 still talk about it and use it as the yardstick to measure really bad weather 36 years later, when today's 25-year-olds are approaching retirement, they will probably still be talking about the Winter of 2014.

This storm has all the ingredients of the Blizzard of '78 – heavy snow, high winds, temperatures well below zero, people stranded at work. Even Purdue University has closed down, something that hasn't happened since – the Blizzard of '78.

The only things missing are the 20-foot drifts and food deliveries made by snowmobile to stranded rural residents.

One more thing the two storms have in common: It's the kind of weather that can kill you if you get caught out in it.

The 1978 storm killed people who got stuck in their cars in the middle of nowhere. The killer conditions of the current storm have yet another day to go before the weather breaks, and if you're not careful, there's still time to become part of a legend.

Toni Mayo, communications director for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said there are still a lot of drifts on north-south roads.

Mayo said she heard on the radio of one plow driver who hit a four-foot drift. Meanwhile, county roads, which haven't been cleared, have tremendous drifts, she said.

The travel warning, banning anything but emergency vehicles on the road, was supposed to end at 6 p.m. Monday, but people must remember that blowing snow can create near whiteout conditions and drivers could hit a drift on the highway that they don't even see and end up stranded in a ditch in 20-below weather.

While the Indiana State Police said they were swamped with cases like that – slide-offs – on Sunday, things had improved by Monday morning.

"So far, there have been none," Sgt. Ron Galaviz, public information officer for the state police Fort Wayne district, said of slide-offs. "People are heeding the warning" to stay off the road. "We've been bombarding people with this (news of the coming storm) for a week."

But there is some concern, Galaviz said, that once the travel warning expires people might believe the roads are just fine and hit the road, not knowing what they're getting into.

Another major concern is people who venture out dressed inappropriately for the weather, "sweat pants and a long-sleeve T-shirt," Galaviz said.

So use some common sense, be careful if you head out, and dress appropriately for the minus 20 temperatures.

You don't want people telling stories about you 36 years from now.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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