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This Day in History, 1978: Blizzard

Thirty years ago today...

On Monday, February 6, 1978, a blizzard covered the northeastern United States. causing snow to fall for about 36 hours straight.

One of the major problems with the Blizzard of 1978 was that it was not widely forecasted. In areas where the storm had been well reported in advance, some people chose to ignore the reports, since New England meteorologists were notoriously inaccurate with many of their reports regarding snow storms. Because of this, people did not have enough time or will to prepare properly for the blizzard.

Many people were stranded in their cars along roads and highways throughout the New England region. Several people perished on Route 128 as snow piled high enough to prevent the exhaust from escaping from their running, idle vehicles. Over 3,500 cars were found abandoned and buried in the middle of roads during the clean-up effort. This figure does not include the countless other vehicles buried in driveways, on the sides of streets, and in parking lots.

While many people had been caught in the storm while driving, most others were trapped in their homes or offices with snow drifts of up to 15 feet in some places blocking the exits.

There was also the issue of flooding along coastal areas. The fierce winds from the storm combined with the precipitation forced the water up over the land along the Atlantic, Long Island Sound, Cape Cod Bay, and other bodies of water.

Personal note: At the time, I was a kid. The Blizzard hit New York City with as much snow as New England, but I don't recall it being a problem. What I recall was how delighted my brothers and I were to have so much snow to play in. We built huge snow forts and threw lots of snowballs. I think school was cancelled for the whole week. Yay!

What do you remember about the Blizzard?

(For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeastern_United_States_blizzard_of_1978)


I got nothin'. I was living in West Berlin in 1978, as an Army brat. It was our last winter there, and I do remember that it was the only year (of six) that it snowed.

The PX didn't carry sleds, so we went sledding on trashbags. Which were good for 1 or 2 runs before being completely shredded.
I barely remember the Great Blizzard. I guess I was six at the time. I recall seeing the snow piled up high in the front yard. I don't remember, but this has become a family story, that we had to evacuate due to flooding. A red cross volunteer knocked on the door, and said, "Run for your lives, the water is coming!" Our house was actually at the top of the hill, so it didn't flood, but the pizza place down the street was totally submerged. We were living in Lansing, Michigan.
I was ripped off.

Although we moved to Boston in 1971, we were not in Boston for the blizzard. My father had a visiting appointment at UPENN law in 1977-78, so we were actually in Lower Merion (a suburb of Philly) at the time.

We certainly got some snow, but not nearly as much as the folks in Boston. My brothers and I felt amazingly ripped off. I still harbor bitterness to this day.
The Blizzard of '78 was great fun for a 12-year-old and his friends in Brooklyn. School was closed for the better part of a week. Our street was plowed, but the drifts had completely covered the cars on both sides of the street. If you ran down the center of the street, it felt like making the Death Star canyon run in Star Wars.

My strongest memory is of my friends and I playing football on that drift-rimmed, empty street. The game was played like a fairly normal street football game, though there was no out-of-bounds, and the usual plays like "go ten steps and I'll hit you in Volpe's driveway" were useless. However, at one point, my friend Billy told the quarterback that he was going to actually jump up on top of one of the cardrifts, and the QB should hit him there. The play went perfectly, until Billy ran across the top of the car, and vanished into the snow between it and the car in front of it. We were digging frantically to try to get him out, when we heard Billy calling us. He had crawled under the pickup truck that was in front of the car where he'd dropped, and come out over the goal line.

My dad was gone the whole week, as he worked maintainence for the Port Authority. It fell to my mom, my brother and myself to shovel our steps and walk. We piled the snow into our little 8x8 patch of garden, and then my brothers and I dug into it to make the biggest igloo we ever could.

That was a great Blizzard.
I remember we had to get out via the garage door, and when we opened it it was just a great big solid wall of snow (I was a kid, so I'm not sure how tall I was, but it seemed very high!) Took my dad much of the day to dig a path out, but then there was nowhere to go. My brothers and I made the biggest, best snow-fort *ever*.

Huh. I should ask my folks how much snow we actually got.

Yay, snow day!

I was working for Equitable Life and we got at least one snow day (very unusual, as corporations hate to give snow days - unlike those wimpy schools). My recollection is hazy, as this blizzard is blurring into all the other blizzards. In fact, I started to write that I was working for MetLife but I didn't start there until 1979.
For a computer-geek/weather-geek view: http://www.wunderground.com/US/MA/012.html#PUB

I lived in Kentucky at the time, and I think we got a whopping 6 inches to a foot. I was five, so I don't remember details, other than the freezing rain we got on top. It was enough that I could walk around on top of the snow, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. I also remember sledding with a homemade wooden sled, on the ice; the sled hit a dent and stopped, and I just kept going down the hill.
I still lived in New York State then (central-western), and it didn't affect us at all. What I remember is the big ice storm of '77, when we didn't have electricity for 5 days and got to stay in a motel.
I was living in Cambridge at the time, and sat out the storm in the MITSFS library. A band of people from APO (a service fraternity) broke into the gym and stole cross country skis, then used them to deliver food to the elderly.
I was living in the library for the first 48 hours of the storm, and then was able to slog homewards to Innman Street.

I have vivid memories of sitting inside the student center just outside 20 chimneys on the 3rd floor and watching the snow 'fall' horizontally.
I was home in Manchester, MA, taking a semester off from college. I'd had a school friend visit me, and it was time for her to go home to upstate NY. We took an early train in to Boston, and headed to the Greyhound Station on St. James Avenue. Her bus involved one to NYC then a connection to someplace north; her family lived in Delhi, NY at the time. So I said good-bye, and headed back to North Station to take the train back home. Or so I thought.

I sat in North Station for several hours, and finally gave up as there were no trains running, even with snow plows, and joined several business men in a cab. I think the drive was quite slow, and there was a lot of snow. I was dropped off at the Exit 16 ramp on rt 128, and had to walk home from there. I slogged home thru wet heavy snow almost up to my hips. I think one pick-up truck passed me the entire 2+ mile walk, and he didn't even stop to offer me a ride. When I finally arrived home, my mother greeted me at the front door, directed me to the downstairs bathroom, where I took off my sopping wet clothes, emptied the boots into the sink, and went directly upstairs for a hot shower.

The blizzard took away all the sand from Singing Beach, I think to one of the islands. It did come back, slowly, and was there for the summer. I have some wonderful pictures of the beach with all the metal pipes showing and the rip rap down to the bare bones.
I remember building snow tunnels and igloos in the front yard because there was just so. much. snow. And the entire street being blocked off because the plows couldn't even get through. Much fun. Then again, I was five. :)
I was a senior in High School, had a job, and the week before bought my first car. It was parked at my neighbors house, and was completely covered with snow.
I remember my dad telling me that in the apartment they lived in (in upstate NY at the time) they were able to jump off the second-story porch into snow drifts below with no injury because the snow drifts were so high.
I missed it all, grumble grumble. In early 1977, we learned we were moving from Connecticut to Buffalo, New York. Actually, the news came just about the time the Blizzard of '77 hit Buffalo, to the dismay of my grandparents. But early July, when we actually moved, there was nary a flake in sight. Then in early 1978, the rest of the northeast got its blizzard, while we in Buffalo had none. As Sally Brown said: I've been gypped! I was robbed! I'll sue! No blizzard for this northeasterner.

As an aside, have I ever mentioned the fact that I attended four years of high school in Buffalo (well, a suburb thereof), and didn't miss any days for snow? I remember how disappointing it was to wake up during those winters, hoping (praying, begging, dreaming) for a snow day, listening to the litany of school closings on the radio, and never once hearing the name of my high school.
I was in the Bronx at the time.

I was also in utero (and only just), so I can't say that I have any memories of it.
I was two weeks shy of being four years old. So my memories are those of a toddler. But I do remember some things.

One is that I noticed how hard it was snowing, and Mom said that Dad was going to stay home from work, and I asked, if he wasn't going to work, why his truck wasn't in the driveway.

His truck WAS in the driveway; you just couldn't see it. Well, you could just barely see the tops of the pipe-rack over the bed of the truck.

I remember playing in the backyard, and going to the top of the piled-up snow, and looking down, and seeing a rope running through the snow beneath me. I tried to figure out what it was. It was the clothesline.

I remember my parents pulling out the Radio Flyer sled and pulling me along the streets in it. Me and a couple bags of groceries. We also had a plastic sled, too, so Mom could pull one and Dad could pull the other, so they could carry both me and the groceries.
I was far too young to remember it (still in the larval stage), but my dad remembers how it hit Indiana. I'm really, really glad he didn't rest on the way home that night.
I don't honestly remember it being a big deal out in Springfield. I mean, yeah, we got snowed on pretty badly too, but it didn't strike me as any kind of superstorm compared to the other winter storms we tended to have.

ETA: I just looked up the totals for Springfield for that storm, and they were a mere 14.5 inches, compared to Boston's 27.1 and Woonsocket's 38. So yeah, there's a good reason why it didn't seem like such a big deal in Springfield.

Edited at 2008-02-06 05:56 pm (UTC)
I have memories of a 7 year old about the blizzard of '77 in Buffalo, with snow drifts up to the roof in parts. Over in WNY as I recall '78 was just a normal winter....
I wrote my thoughts about the Blizzard here. We had no school for a week and no power for, I believe, six days.
Added: I was fifteen at the time, with two other high schoolers, one college student [commuter], and two parents all stuck in the house with me, needing to keep two much younger kids and a kitten entertained.
i was nine years old and still living on long island. my strongest memory is of the driveway to our apartment building being plowed and the resulting piles being taller than i am by at least a foot. that might not seem like a big deal, but it was a small driveway.
I didn't think it was such a remarkable storm. I was in northern Manhattan, and I do remember having pictures of SOME snowstorm, but it was earlier than 1978. I was 7 at the time, so I think I would remember the huge snowdrifts. I must have gone sledding in Fort Troyon park. I can't imagine I would have missed that with my friends. These were the same friends who made go-carts out of milk crates and raced them down the hill :-O
I remember my mom was really worried my dad wouldn't make it home (Brockton) from work (downtown Boston)... took him hours but he made it. My dad has always been a great driver. Then after the snow stopped it was up to the top of my swingset. And all the cars were totally buried. It was an amazing experience.

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