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THE LAST WORD

This is a winter that could pile up some lasting memories

Saturday, January 25, 2014 - 12:01 am

This winter may stick in our memories because of the extent of the cold and snow — certainly in the minds of those who have had the most unforgettable experiences, good or bad.

Frozen water pipes, a furnace on the fritz, sliding your car into a snowdrift or worse — those would be among the bad ones.

The good might include cozying up by a fire while being snowed in for a few days, not able to go to work or school. Or getting your money’s worth out of your snowmobiles.

I’ve not been all that harshly affected by the snow and ice and extreme cold — at least not yet. But it certainly brings back memories of other severe winters.

The blizzard of 1978 was my most unforgettable with up to 17 inches of snow by the end of the day Jan. 26. The real problem was the wind — gusts up to 55 mph had created drifts up to 20 feet in places.

Sidewalks and driveways, including mine, were buried. Front doors, including mine, were barricaded by mounds of snow. And the winds were blinding and bitterly cold for anyone going outside.

I remember trekking to the grocery in Waynedale from our south-side home pulling a sled to carry the groceries.

The roads were so bad the few staff members who made it to work those first couple of days produced newspapers that didn’t get delivered for several days.

I made it to The News-Sentinel the second day — Friday. And although I was a sports writer, I was assigned to write a follow-up story on the blizzard.

Another crazy winter when I was still a sports writer had me scheduled Sunday, Jan. 10, 1982, to cover the Cincinnati Bengals’ AFC championship game against San Diego. Now remembered as the “Freezer Bowl,” it was the coldest game ever played in the NFL. Winds gusting up to 40 mph made the 9-below temperatures feel like 59 below.

Being young and foolish I felt like I should go, and nobody told me not to — except my wife. I drove down Interstate 75 in that incredible wind chill and drifting snow in my little 1977 Pontiac Astre. The heater couldn’t overcome the cold that blew in from the outside.

But I made it to the game and shivered in the enclosed press box the entire afternoon. Many players in the game, won by the Bengals, 27-7, had short sleeves, and some had bare hands. Some fans cheered with their shirts off — some ended up in the hospital with frostbite.

The drive home wasn’t so hot either, and I couldn’t make it all the way because of whiteout conditions, and I stayed overnight in Van Wert with my in-laws. But I made it safely.

Those are some of my memories, and I’m glad they came when I was younger. I wouldn’t want to try some of that at this stage in my life.

And I hope I’d be smart enough not to.

But it’s only January, and who knows how long and how bad this winter may yet be?

Kerry Hubartt is editor of The News-Sentinel.