Wednesday, Aug 15, 2018
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Bottled blizzard taps blast from past


Ken Dressel of Ottawa Lake, Mich., loaded a truck with snow at the Toledo airport in 1978 and put it in tiny bottles. Many of the blizzard souvenirs remain in his basement.

Allan Detrich Enlarge

Miriam Dressel admitted with a laugh that she probably thought her husband, Ken Dressel, was “a bit crazy” 26 years ago when he showed up at home with a truckload of snow.

Since then the couple from Ottawa Lake, Mich., has stored in their basement bottled snowmelt from the infamous “Blizzard of '78” that blanketed the Toledo area in more than 13 inches of snow, winds in excess of 50 mph, and drifts as high as 16 feet.

The result of Mr. Dressel's souvenir 1978 snow turned into 40 gallons of water that he soon bottled and labeled.

After two years, he decided to sell the liquid history and purchased a classified ad in The Blade.

“Make offer,” the ad said on March 4, 1980. Sales tapered off after a few weeks, but buyers still can act and make an offer - there's eight gallons left in Mr. Dressel's basement.

He swore in 1980 that he wouldn't just dump the water - which had a good deal of sand and dirt mixed in with it. Maybe like wine, it would get better with age, he told The Blade.

“I was employed by the FAA at Toledo Express Airport, and I was one of the first to arrive after the blizzard,” Mr. Dressel said. “I had witnesses there and I loaded this snow at the airport and brought it home in my truck - they thought I was crazy.

“I had a friend at the airport whose wife was a nurse, and she had access to these little sterile water bottles they used for injections. I bought corks that would fit and had some labels printed,” he said.

Mr. Dressel, who is a Whiteford Agricultural school board member, got a flurry of inquiries after running his ad for the famous snowmelt. He also got some wisecracks and a few strange offers.

“I sold a few bottles of the water,” he said. “But then I had some trades. I traded one for a can of land from someone in Alberta, Canada, and I got a can of sunshine from someone in Florida.”

The blizzard hit Toledo on Jan. 26 that winter. Mr. Dressel was an electronics technician at the airport and arrived the Sunday after the storm. He chose the airport because that's where official weather readings are recorded and two witnesses were available.

He had a hunch that some of the snow should be saved for posterity, but never imagined it would be with him for this long.

Mr. Dressel has no plans to part with the 1978 keepsake and his wife doesn't mind the containers gathering dust down in the basement.

“There are a lot of silly things that have been sold,” Mrs. Dressel said. “It's all right with me - it's his project.”

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