For most people, February 6, 1978 started out as just another Monday. There was a light snow falling that morning which had started the night before. Not even close enough for people to stay home from work. A tropical cyclone and a powerful Arctic cold front linked up off the coast of Virginia. The storm rapidly intensified as it took aim toward southern New England with Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts lined up directly in its path.
Later in the morning, the storm started to grow in intensity. It was enough where it was noticeable. After lunch the weather started to get much worse and by two pm there was no doubt that this was a blizzard that was reaching its peak. Many businesses started to shut down and send everyone home. The Governor’s of a couple states ordered everything shut down, private business as well as government offices. Out of factories and offices poured thousands of people at once. Most went for their cars as they tried to quickly get home, but by then it was too late.
The roadways were at a standstill. Those people who were lucky enough to live close to work and did not have to drive on the highway would eventually make it home. For the thousands that took to the highways, they were not as lucky. Mother Nature seized control over Southern New England, as automobile, air and rail traffic were shut down and businesses went dark.
The strong winds along with heavy snow caused white-out conditions and travel became nearly impossible. The Boston area of Route 128 became a virtual parking lot with over 3,000 vehicles stuck on the highway. Hour after hour of heavy precipitation and strong winds brought the region to a complete standstill.
When the winds and snow later died down from the full fury of the storm, the silence was broken by the voices. After 33 hours, people started to emerge. From the safety of their cars where they had been trapped on the major roadways, thousands started to emerge. Soon, they were joined by thousands more that never made it home but found comfort in office buildings, churches and diners.
You couldn't go anywhere; the plows had abandoned any thought of clearing side streets. The fallen snow was three feet high, but the piles made by the plows that were working on the main streets were nearly twice as high: When it was over, The Blizzard had dumped anywhere from 2 ½ -3 feet of heavy snow for an unprecedented 33 hours with hurricane-force winds of 86mph and gusts over 100mph! Aside from the snow, the presence of an astronomically high tide caused serious tidal flooding and beach erosion.
The National Guard was called in to rescue people and start the long process of digging out the streets and removing abandoned cars. The American Red Cross reported around 100 deaths, 1,700 homes were destroyed, over 39,000 people were displaced, thousands of injuries, and over 500 million dollars of damages!
The Blizzard of '78 is certainly the one that is remembered by those that are old enough. It is also the main reason that now, 36 years later when New Englanders hear the weatherman call for any significant storm; the rush is on to stock up at the supermarket.