The month-long winter storm that made Dayton miserable in 1977

The Miami Valley was a miserable place to be in the winter of 1977.

A month-long combination of snow, bone-chilling temperatures, a statewide blizzard and a national energy crisis disrupted everyday life across the region in 1977.

Dramatic weather stories dominated the pages of the Dayton Daily News throughout the month of January.

An expectant mother in St. Henry on her way to the hospital in Coldwater was stranded when the rescue squad van she was riding in became stuck in a snowdrift on Ohio 118 despite being escorted by two four-wheel drive Jeeps and an Ohio Department of Transportation snow plow.

After they broke loose and arrived safely at the hospital, a nurse traveling with the mother told the newspaper, “We hit a lot of headlight-high drifts, but I didn’t pay much attention because I was too concerned about the patient.”

Area roadways became drift-covered parking lots. Darke County reported all county roads were closed by ice and drifting snow. A dispatcher in Mercer County told the newspaper the roads were impassable and estimated more than 75 cars had been abandoned.

In Shelby County, the number of deserted cars reached 100, while in Butler County the sheriff reported roadways covered with drifts four feet high.

Only one lane of I-75 was open in Troy and “abandoned cars were partially blocking the interstate and making travel perilous.”

The month was brutally cold. The front page of the Jan. 17 Dayton Daily News made a statement using large type to simply state “-21, The Coldest Ever.”

A 12-inch water main ruptured on Salem Avenue, creating a “thick glacier” down the street. It took crews five hours to turn the water off as they used sledge hammers to free the frozen valves.

Pipes burst in homes and office buildings, covering cars in one basement lot in a coat of icicles.

Tow trucks wouldn’t start in the freezing temperatures, and truck drivers were stranded at motels and truck stops. One driver reported the cold trapped him for a short time inside his vehicle.

“It’s so cold out here that it took me an hour to get out of my cab this morning. I’ve got a heater in there, so when I was sleeping in there, and moisture froze on the inside of my cab and the door froze shut,” said Ron Larkin of Albuquerque, N.M.

In the Jan. 27 edition of the newspaper, the National Weather Service said the temperature had finally risen above freezing for the first time that month. But it only lasted about an hour before dipping back down.

The country was in the midst of an energy crunch during the frigid weather pattern and local businesses and citizens did their best to conserve natural gas.

The Rike’s and Elder-Beerman department stores downtown closed at noon. Stores in the Dayton Mall also shut early when the temperature reached 21 degrees below zero. The mall concourse was empty except for a few brave enough to make it to the Cinema 2 theatre to see “A Star Is Born.”

General Motors closed down some of their production lines, and NCR switched some of its operations over to fuel oil instead of electricity.

Residents turned down their thermostats, layered up in long-johns, cut down on baths and turned their televisions off to save energy. Teresa Miller of Wayne Twp. told the newspaper that she and her husband, Fred, were trying to make the best of the situation and had been dining by candlelight.

“I just thought it would be romantic as well as conserving energy,” said Miller.