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Destructive Blizzard of 78 - A Storm From the Eyes of a Teenager
Massachusetts’ Most Memorable Winter Storm…I Was Fourteen!
On Monday, February 6, 1978 two weather systems collided and stalled over New England causing one of the most catastrophic Nor’easters in history. It was the most destructive and most memorable storm to ever hit the state of Massachusetts…it was the Blizzard of ’78!
This powerful storm dropped up to four feet of snow in some areas of Massachusetts, with some reports of fifteen foot drifts. The wind gusts ranged between 83 and 100 MPH. During the blizzard there were four successive, flooding, high tides…one running into the next, causing some cresting of over 15.2 feet.
The heavy coastal flooding washed away many beachfront homes and caused major damage to over 1,700 other homes. Approximately 17,000 Massachusetts residents were forced to seek emergency shelter. Schools, businesses and roads were closed for six days.
The storm shutdown Interstate 95 and brought Route 128 to a halt, causing several people to die of asphyxiation in their cars. There were fifty-four deaths reported during the Blizzard of 78, with twenty-nine of them being in Massachusetts. All of that being said, this is how I remember it…
I was sitting in class on Monday morning, just staring out the window, daydreaming, as usual. Now you see, even at fourteen years old, Mondays are awful. The sky was looking a little dreary, but then the snow began to fall. It started off as a very light snow, but began to come down rapidly. It wasn’t very long after the snow began to fall that the school announced early dismissal. Suddenly I loved that Monday!
As soon as my sisters and I got home I called mom at work (in Nashua, NH) to tell her we had been let out early. She informed me that she was heading home too. We had no idea exactly what we were in for…it was just another snow day.
I left my sisters at home and went to a friend’s house down the street. This was a friend who happened to be the sister of my “on-and-off” boyfriend for over a year. As luck would have it, by the time mom got home there was so much snow on the ground that she agreed I should probably just stay at my friend’s house for the night.
It was still snowing on Tuesday morning, with no signs of it letting up any time soon. As a fourteen year old I wasn’t too interested in watching the news to see what was really going on…I had another snow day, and that’s all I needed to know. I did manage to make my way back home that day, with some strong suggesting by mom.
By Wednesday morning we realized that it was going to take some time before they could clear the roads. We had nothing better to do, so mom decided to grab our sleds and head to the grocery store by foot. Under normal circumstances the 1.2 mile walk to the store was a piece of cake, but those weren’t normal circumstances. It was quite the adventure, but it was fun. We got our groceries and some exercise at the same time. The snow finally came to an end at some point during that day.
Massachusetts had been under a “State of Emergency” since the storm began on Monday, and remained that way for the remainder of the week. School had been shut down for the week.
Our house was on the outskirts of town, therefore we had to wait a little longer for the plows to reach us. The condominium we lived in was situated in a complex on a large hill, with ours being located in the bottom group of condos….so we went skiing. My sisters and I, along with a couple of friends, spent the afternoon walking to the top of our hill, skiing all the way down into a field across the street from our house, then hauling everything back up the hill to do it all over again. A snowmobile would’ve come in handy that day!
All in all, for a safely sheltered teenager, the Blizzard of 78 was an unforgettable, yet pleasant, experience. It was also the storm that opened my young eyes to the destruction natural disasters can leave in their wakes. It wasn't until I was done playing, and enjoying my time off from school, that I realized how many people had lost their lives and how many homes had been destroyed in the very same storm that gave me such pleasure!