Flashback to the “Blizzard of ’78”: Although I only talk about the beauty and wonder of the storm of the century through the eyes of a child in my poem “Starbird Hill “, New England and parts of the New York metro area were covered in up to a nearly 5 foot deep blanket of cold and white. The snowfall began on February 5th and ended on February 8th, with the 6th-7th being the time of major accumulation. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island were the hardest hit, with up to 55 inches of accumulation in some areas.
In New England weather forecasting is difficult and one of the primary issues with this storm was that we were broadsided without foreknowledge of the storm’s severity.
Known for clearing the roads well in advance of the work day and informing workers of impending severe conditions, the Boston area was dumb-struck in the wake of this storm. Routes 128 and 93 were literally buried beneath an ocean of vehicles, snow and human beings. The army and the national guard were called out to pull the vehicles and individuals off of the highways. Over 3500 cars were found abandoned and buried just on the major roadways, in the aftermath. The state of Massachusetts was deemed a “natural disaster area” and all driving was banned on the roadways.
While so many were stuck in their cars on the roadways, countless others were literally buried inside their homes and many areas, including where I lived, were without power for over a week. There were snow drifts of up to 15 feet in some places.
Without heat, food, electricity or water and no transportation for more than a week, the chill had set in. People lined the streets with sleds, cross-country skis or walking, to transport food and water from the few nearby stores that were open for business. The sound of the streets was so quiet and there were people everywhere, talking, laughing, shoveling, amazed by the wonder all around us. In most areas snow banks were more than 10 feet high!
The only vehicles on the roadways belonged to the army and national guard and kids found the most amazing places to sled; in the long, hilly, windy New England roads!
Along the coast, many homes were destroyed or literally washed into the ocean. The hurricane force winds, unusually high tides and the full moon were all unexpected as were the waves some as high as 20 feet. Basements flooded ceiling high or worse, some people were literally trapped in several feet of the icy ocean, inside their own homes. Rescue workers lined the streets in boats called “Amphibians” instead of cars, some standing in waist high water in these towns to try to evacuate the trapped people from their homes to nearby businesses and schools that were providing shelter. Some waited up to two weeks to return to their homes only to find them in a complete state of chaos or worse, completely destroyed.
More than 10,000 people were moved into emergency shelters, more than 2500 homes were severely damaged or destroyed and 99 lives were taken too early, including a young boy who disappeared in the snow and was found days later just outside his front door.
It is said that more than $2.3 billion dollars in damage was done.
In the aftermath, clean up took months, for some even years. Our shoreline was ravaged and in the wake of this terrible storm, its face has been forever changed.
Copyright © 2008 Michele Cameron Drew. All Rights Reserved.