This is no lie and no exaggeration.
Homer was working at WERE Radio in Cleveland in January 1978. We were an all-news station and our weather guy, Stan Bostjancic, worked out of the old Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, PA. We had a line patched in there, so it made it sound like he was in the studio with us. It was a Wednesday, the last week of the month, and Homer had a job interview scheduled Friday for a possible opening at ABC News. Homer was doing business and financial news in the afternoon-drive slot when he heard Stan say something about "storm of the century." He wasn't really paying attention to the weather until he heard that phrase. It was just after five o'clock.
Homer had planned to take United Flight 666 (yep) on late Thursday afternoon from CLE-DCA. So just before Stan's next live shot, Homer asked him what the chances were of catching that flight.
"You obviously weren't paying attention," said Stan. "You'd have a better chance of hell freezing over. The storm of the century is heading your way, and nothing will get out of Hopkins Airport tomorrow or for days."
"But I have a two o'clock job interview Friday in Washington with Ken Scott at ABC News," I told him. "I can't miss that interview. What should I do?"
I will never forget his answer.
"If you leave by 8 o'clock tonight, or 8:30 at the latest, and you average at least 50 miles an hour on the Turnpikes and Interstate 70 until you cross the mountains, you'll make it. You have to beat the storm across the mountains. But don't stop, because you don't want to get caught on the roads, especially in the mountains."
Homer told his news director he wouldn't be in the next day. He finished his afternoon drive-time shift at 6 o'clock, headed home (one block away) to quickly pack and then hauled ass outta town. He left just after 7:00 and ended up in DC between midnight and one o'clock.
He showed up at ABC Thursday afternoon just after two - instead of Friday.
"You're either five minutes late or twenty-three hours and change early," joked his future boss. "What are you doing here?"
I told him I had to leave Cleveland early because of the lead story and he nodded.
Meanwhile, back in Cleveland, the barometer had hit the lowest non-tropical pressure ever recorded in the mainland U.S. It began as a torrential rainstorm, but the temperature dropped by nearly 50 degrees before dawn, leaving a deep sheet of ice. Wind gusts were from 70 to 100 miles per hour in the region and several feet of snow delivered the coup de grace. Wind chill factors hit 60 below throughout much of Ohio. Nothing moved for days.
More than 50 people died in Ohio from the Great Blizzard of ‘78, but the most amazing story was about a truck driver who pulled his 18-wheeler over along the side of the road between Cleveland and Akron. It was either on Route 43 or Route 21 where he was declared missing and, after a couple of days, searchers went looking for him. No one found any trace of him, his truck, or the trailer he was hauling. One week later, his brother spotted a mound in a snowbank and dug through it to find him. He kept alive by eating candy bars and other snacks, and by drinking melted snow to keep hydrated. That's the God's honest truth. It really was that bad.
Homer's job interview lasted several hours and, when the boss pulled out the Chivas, he knew this was the start of a beautiful friendship. The job lasted 31 years.
Homer's lady at the time, who also worked in radio news, stayed back in Cleveland for the storm and ragged on him endlessly for being a wuss and missing the storm and story of the century. She was a native Clevelander, poor girl, but she eventually saw the light and also left that awful place,
Heath Miller is right about the northeast Ohio winters. Cleveland is bad enough 32 weeks per year, including something they call summer. But during the other 20 weeks, Mother Nature makes a very serious attempt to kill you. Only polar bears and the clinically deranged enjoy Cleveland from Halloween to Easter.
It should be avoided at all costs.