Weather and History

Cheryl Brown Abernathy

As I was thinking about what to write for this, a perfect topic came to mind, especially since we just went through a weather “event” this Christmas season. I know there are one or two significant storms that I will remember. One, is the flood that hit our area in July 1969. There was a loss of life and lots of property damage. If you lived in Wayne County at that time, you would remember it. It wasn’t just local though, other areas from Toledo though Wooster were affected.

Another time in the blizzards of 1977 and 1978. That was even more widespread than the 1969 storm. I was living in Spencer at that time. I don’t remember which year, 1977 or 1978, I went to work in Elyria that morning and almost didn’t make it home that afternoon, even though I left work early to go home. I got stuck about five miles from home and had to wait for a snowplow to come through AFTER the stuck cars were unstuck, mine being one of them. There were a number of us taking refuge in a little corner store. I think I was the first in line following the snowplow on into Spencer. Not a trip I’d care to repeat!

We know from our history lessons what that first winter was like for the Pilgrims. The same for George Washington and his troops at Valley Forge. History gives us a snapshot of various weather events throughout, but have you ever wondered what kind of storms your ancestors lived through? Whether it was a tornado, flooding or a blizzard, how did they survive it? Did they know it was coming? They didn’t have the sophisticated equipment that lets people know a storm may be coming and how bad it may be. It may have been their achy joints that gave them a hint.

One site I found was on the Ohio History Connection – “Severe Weather in Ohio” (

Learn about more than 25 of the most extreme or most unusual weather events from Ohio’s history, from mysterious tidal waves and tornadoes causing local devastation and snowstorms to floods with statewide impact. This timeline is based on the Severe Weather in Ohio online exhibit created in 2006 in collaboration with numerous institutions across the state.

It takes you on a timeline from 1882 up through 2008. It covers tidal waves (didn’t know Ohio had tidal waves, did you?), floods, snowstorms, etc. There are photos to go along with a lot of the events. And that’s just in Ohio!

Maybe your ancestor wrote about the weather in his or her diary / journal. A lot of farmers made notes about the weather. I know my dad did in his diary. How about the newspapers of the day? They reported on the major storms that happened.

A “go to” place for various kinds of information is Cyndi’s List ( That’s where I found out about the Ohio History Connection’s timeline. Another place to look is the National Weather Service ( However, their records only go back to about 1890, give or take. If you can find copies of old almanacs, that may be another place.

What kind of weather events did your ancestors survive? What kind have you survived? Have you written about them for your descendants?

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