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Weather nasty but can’t compare to Blizzard of ’78

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If you were to walk into any local restaurant or church, it would be a pretty good bet that the discussion eventually would involve the weather.

The old saying is that if you don’t like the weather in Jennings County, then just wait as it will be different tomorrow.

This winter weather has been really hard on schools. Wednesday was the eighth missed day of instruction for Jennings County School Corp., but we’ve had worse winters before.

The 2008-09 school year was really hard on schools. That year, Jennings County schools were closed 12 times. Four days were lost in September, which is extremely rare for school closures that early. That fall, Hurricane Ike came ashore in Texas, took a right turn and then blew through and caused severe power outages for Jennings County.

“The worst year was the blizzard of 1978. They missed at least 20 school days in a row. I was at Purdue, and it was the first time they ever canceled classes,” said John Howard, the school district’s assistant director of buildings and grounds.

Pat York, a retired Cummins Inc. employee, agreed that the 1978 blizzard was the worst.

“I worked for Cummins for 44 years, and the ’78 blizzard was the first time Cummins ever closed. My wife came in and said, ‘Don’t get ready for work as the plant was closed,’” York said.

“Snowdrifts that year were 12 to 15 (feet high) in places. (State Road) 7 from North Vernon to Columbus only had one lane, and it took bulldozers to open a spot to pull your car over if you met a car coming from the other direction,” York said. “That was by far the worst winter I had seen.

“You got to remember that, back in the 1970s, most people didn’t have four-wheel drive or front-wheel drive cars.”

Jennings County Schools have had only two years since 1998 without a snow day and only one year without a snow day or a two-hour delay, Howard said.

“We did have a heavy snow during spring break one year when everyone was out of town,” he said.

We are still many days from catching the modern blizzard record of 20 missed school days, but the bad news is that we still have seven more weeks of winter.

Rebeca Smith is a senior at Jennings County High School.

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