Blizzard of 1978 – 30 Year Anniversary

This week marks the 30 year anniversary of the Great Northeastern Blizzard of 1978. This powerful nor’easter formed on Sunday, February 5, 1978 and dumped up to 55 inches of snow on the northeast United States over the next three days. At times the snow was falling at a rate of 4 inches per hour. Many people were stranded in their cars and offices with snow drifts up to fifteen feet high. Some motorists stuck in the storm died when the accumulating snow blocked the exhaust of their idling vehicles on the roadways. Commuters on Route 128 were evacuated by cross country-skiers and snowmobilers. Over 3,500 cars were abandoned in the middle of the roads and buried in the snow.

I was a 15-year-old sophomore in high school living in Wenham, Massachusetts at the time. No cars were allowed on the roads for an entire week, which of course meant school was cancelled, too. After the blizzard was over and we got all shoveled out, I remember walking with friends for miles around the empty streets of our town. It was a little eery seeing the whole town brought to a standstill like that. The local IGA was still open, and people were cross-country skiing to the market bringing back their grocery supplies in backpacks.

Did you go through the Great Blizzard of 1978? What memories do you have?

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  1. I was a kid living in Kentucky at the time. We got nothing like what you did, but I remember the unusually high snow drifts and enjoying it very much!

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Gunny – Wow, I didn’t know this storm system stretched all the way to Kentucky. I thought it was just a “northeast” thing.

  3. Margaret says:

    Yes, I remember that blizzard. My husband and I were two who skiied to the IGA for food! Fun at the time, but wouldn’t choose it as our regular way to buy groceries!

    This winter in Maine has reminded us of that storm, – not as fierce, and not as much all at once, but we have already had almost six feet of snow this winter. We are becoming expert shovellers! The skiing is pretty good too.

  4. Sharon Gamble says:

    I remember the stillness of it, without traffic, without deadlines, without planned and purposed days. It was a great time to de-stress. I say that because I was at home and safe and had parents responsible for me. I suspect if I were stranded on 128 I would have far different memories…

  5. Ray Sr. says:

    I was working at a company off major route 128. When the snow began falling heavily I got my car pool to leave in spite of personnel trying to stop people from leaving. After travelling a few miles in heavy snow we broke out into sunshine and a cloudless blue sky. When I got home I told Margaret to get in the car as we needed to food-shop before the storm caught up. We did just in time before 3 feet of snow fell. Shopping after that was done on skiis. The snow blocked 128 for one week and left many of my co-workers stranded away from home for a week. Not going to work for a week was nice but the overtime that followed was not.

  6. Jeff says:

    “No cars were allowed on the roads for an entire week”

    It’s a good thing I had that 1968 Scout with the plow on it that your parents loved you and Bethany riding in to youth group events! (but thats a story for another day). I was 17 and my dad had a bunch of plow customers and he had a Scout also with a plow. The only vehicles allowed on the roads for days were those clearing snow and emergency vehicles. So imagine how important I felt as a 17 year old able to drive anyplace I wanted during that week! I remember having to go to Brake and Clutch in Salem for some parts for the plow and drove right over the Beverly Salem Bridge being waved on by the National Guardsman keeping a watchful eye for non emergency vehicles. I also remember the WORK. My dad fortunately had purchased a brand new 2 stage simplicity snowblower a few weeks before the Blizzard. Every driveway that we did and I think there was 17 of them at that time had over 3 feet of heavy wet snow and in place drifts of 6 feet. My dad had a v plow on his Scout and we would first make a path down the middle of the driveway with me running the snow blower and my dad standing on top of the snow chopping the snow down so I could get to it and blow it out of the way because the snow was way over the top of the snowblower. After we did that my dad would get in the truck and line up the point of that v plow in the path we just made and break open the driveway, then I would clean up with my truck. We only used that snowblower that week because we wore it out. It never did run again!

  7. Ray Fowler says:

    Thanks everyone for the great blizzard stories. It sure brings back memories, don’t it? I am hoping we don’t get a repeat this February!

    If anyone else has a blizzard story, feel free to share!

  8. Bethany says:

    Aagh – I remember that Scout. Some serious guardian angel work probably went on during those years! Still, my memories of the blizzard are all fun. As a Senior in High School it was great to have a week off, and as a teen I didn’t worry about running out of food or heat. I think I must have just assumed everything would be OK. I do remember having to do a lot of shoveling, and trying to get out of it by offering to do the ironing instead, while the boys did the hard labor. I think it worked!

  9. Ray Fowler says:

    Bethany – It must have worked because I don’t remember doing any ironing!

  10. John Ayan says:

    Hi, yah I remember that storm. I remember the one the previous week as well. That one was forecasted and we left work in plenty of time. We still had to shovel to get into the driveway. For the “real” blizzard, a bunch of us at work in Watertown, MA, had just purchased some subs and liquid refreshments, (BJ) and were settling down to watch some flicks at the office. The bulb on the projector burned out and we didn’t have a spare. God watches out for the foolish as well as the wise. Thank you God!

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