A bowling, two-Day blizzard, unequaled in memory, that put much of the nation's heartland awash with drifting snow and swollen waterways, moved sluggishly into eastern Canada yesterday, leaving behind a swath of human suffering and property destruction.
The 1,000-miles-wide storm left a toll of at least 70 persons dead, and brought the Midwest to a standstill. Some of the hardest-hit areas were counting on several days of digging out before authorities could begin to assess the damage.
As the storm mercifully moved northeastward and sunny skies broke out over parts of the devastated region, law enforcement agencies began expressing fears at what may be found when rescue units reach thousands of isolated homes and cars.
Compounding the emergency was the threat of still move snow in parts of the upper Midwest.
Ohio took the brunt of the storm, which Gov. James A. Rhodes called "the greatest disaster in Ohio history."
Although 2,000 National Guardsmen were working to evacuate stranded motorists and answer frantic calls for help from snowbound residents, Rhodes said it may be three days before the emergency is over.
Conditions were so bad in Ohio that President Carter ordered units of the 5th Army into the state to assist exhausted guardsmen. More than 5,700 motorists were rescued from stranded vehicles along snow-swept Ohio highways, and authorities said more than 2,000 more remained beyond reach.
In Illinois, interstate highways looked like automobile "junkyards," one state trooper said, as travelers abandoned cars, buses and trucks and waded through waist-high snow to safety.
The greatest danger to life, authorities repeatedly warned, was the panic that forced stranded travelers and rural homeowners to seek help on their own through drifting snow and winds gusting up to 80 miles per hour.
Cleveland Police Chief Richard Hongisto sent out convoys of buses and heavy-duty snowplows to reach mired motorists and carry them to the shelter of schools and armories.
"No matter how many times you put it on the radio to stay off the freeway, some fools will drive out there with a quarter tank of gas and get stuck. When they run out of gas and start freezing to death, that's when we've got to them," Hongisto said in a telephone interview.
At the height of the storm, the wind chill temperature in Cleveland was 128 degrees below zero, he said.
The Midwest was not the only region raked by the storm. The Southeast was drenched by rain and sleet, causing severe flooding, and a windwhipped downpour blanketed the Atlantic states from Georgia to Maine.
Most of the deaths blamed on the storm occurred in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, although fatalities were reported as far south as Alabama and as far north as Maine.
As in all natural disasters, the area stricken by the blizzard was littered with stories of personal tragedy, pathos and poignancy.
At the Massillon State Hospital, south of Akron, Ohio, about 100 semiambulatory mental patients were plunged into sudden darkenss when power lines went dead, Washington Post special correspondent Abe Zaidan reported.
Dazed with fear the patients were led and carried on litters by orderlies through gale force winds to other buildings when downed telephone lines made it impossible to call for help.
Among the victims in Indiana was a 1-year-old boy, Timothy Kimble, who died of exposure after the furnace broke down in his parents' mobile home.
The coroner's office said the boy's mother took him in her arms and sought help from a neighbor, but turned back when she became trapped in a snowdrift. By then, the trailer door had frozen shut, and the mother pounded on the door for four hours before she was able to break through the ice. By then the baby was dead.
There were also stories of heroism and humor.
There were also stories of heroism and humor.
About 65 passengers aboard a stranded Amtrak train near Roachdale, Ind., were rescued when a snow-plow train struggled for 12 hours to reach them. The rescue locomotive was unable to pull free the Florida-bound train, and the crew painstakingly dug out a path and helped the passengers over an 18-foot drift.
They were ferried to a crossing three miles away and taken to shelter in a firehouse.
In Buffalo snow-wary residents who were spared the effects of the Midwest storm, planned to gather today for the city's "First Annual Blizzard Ball" exactly a year after the memorable Blizzard of 1977 buried their town. Weather forecasters said there was a possibility of snow.
Rhodes said his office was receiving 24 calls every five minutes, which he described as "cries of mercy."
"They want help and you can't get it to them," the governor announced in anguished tones.
In Akron, authorities said the major problem was that wind-whipped snow drifted behind snowplows as quickly as they were able to clear a path, so that most of the area's roadways were still closed.
The Ohio Turnpike remained shut down and may stay so through today, the State Highway Patrol said, and other highways of the interstate system were either impassable or had only one narrow lane open.
An estimated 200,000 homes and businesses were reported without power at one time or another during the blizzard, and every National to shelter those without heat.
Many stranded residents turned to local radio talk show programs for help, Zaidan reported, and the radio stations in turn broadcast appeals for volunteers and pinpointed special hardship cases.
Robert Pfifer, a metereologist with the National Weather Service, said that as the storm continues to move northeast through Quebec Province in Canada, winds in the Midwest will die down further. "It looks like there won't be much falling snow and they may get a good chance over the week-end to dig out," he said. CAPTION: Picture, Chunks of ice from Potomac pile up around Jack's Boats near Key Bridge. Frank Baxter checks for [WORD ILLEGIBLE] By Bob Barchette - The Washington Post