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Great Blizzards

Updated on April 16, 2013
Blizzard of 1978, Rhode Island
Blizzard of 1978, Rhode Island | Source

What is a Blizzard?

According to Wikipedia, a blizzard is "a severe snowstorm, especially with strong winds and greatly reduced visibility". A blizzard is different than a snowstorm because of the strength of the wind. It has sustained winds or frequent gusts that are at least 35 mph (56 km/h) with blowing or drifting slow that reduces visibility to 1/4 of a mile or less for at least 3 hours.

Weather Map for the 1978 Blizzard
Weather Map for the 1978 Blizzard | Source

The Great Blizzard of 1978

The blizzard I am writing most about is the one in the northeast, where I live. But there is one big blizzard that happened in January of that same year.

The Great Blizzard of 1978 occurred a few days earlier than the one in the northeast, and it affected the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes. It happened Wednesday, January 25 through Friday, January 27, 1978. It turned into a severe blizzard. Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and southeast Wisconsin were the hardest hit. Around 51 people died in Ohio, and 20 in Michigan as a result of this terrible storm. In some areas, up to 40 inches of snow fell, and winds gusted up to 100 mph. Wind chills reached - 60 degrees F across much of Ohio.

My Family's Recollection:

I was alive during the great blizzard of 1978, but I was too young to remember it. I can only imagine what it would seem like to a baby. But as I grew up, I remember hearing stories about it. It seemed like every time we had a lot of snow, it was compared to that year.

We lived in Virginia at the time, so it wasn't as intense, but my parents remember that day. My mom drove my father to work, and I was in my car seat in the back. The car barely made it up the hill at the apartment complex we lived in. We made it, but then my Mom got stuck in the parking lot of my father's work place. She says she remembers that there was a lot of snow.

I remember seeing pictures. One that stands out in all our minds is the one of my Grandpa's car (an ugly AMC Pacer) covered in snow. I have seen many photos like that online, too.

Northeastern U.S. Blizzard of 1978

  • An extra-tropical storm off the coast of South Carolina merged with an Arctic cold front and a cold air mass, forming a catastrophic nor'easter that brought blizzard conditions to the northeastern states. Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts were the hardest hit. It formed on February 5, and broke up on February 7, after bringing heavy snow for a full 33 hours.
  • Since it started during a New Moon, there was an abnormally high tide, resulting in a huge storm surge that caused a lot of coastal erosion, damage, and property loss.
  • Making the harsh storm more intriguing was an unusual thundersnow in southern New England and Long Island. Lightning and thunder accompanied 4 inches of snowfall per hour at times.
  • At its worst, there were sustained hurricane force winds of approximately 86 mph with gusts to 111 mph.
  • Nobody was prepared for a storm of this magnitude. When it didn't start as early as the experts thought it would, many people went to work and school. At some point, many employees were sent home early. With zero visibility for travelers caught in the storm due to the strong winds and heavy precipitation, many were stranded, and some even died in their cars or in the process of trying to find shelter.
  • During the cleanup, over 3,500 cars were found abandoned and buried in the middle of the roads. That doesn't include those that were buried on the side of the road, in parking lots, or in driveways.
  • Most of the interstate had to be shut down for days, as well as air and rail..
  • Plows had a hard time keeping up with snow removal.
  • Many people were trapped in their homes or offices, with some exits blocked by snow drifts of up to 15 feet.
  • Around 10,000 people had to move into emergency housing temporarily.
  • Many states declared a state of emergency.
  • Schools were closed, even in New York City, where they barely ever close school due to the convenient transportation system that rarely stops.
  • 2,500 houses were reportedly damaged or destroyed.
  • The storm killed approximately 100 people in the Northeast, and injured around 4,500.
  • It caused $520 million in damage (or in 2010 terms, the equivalent of about $1.85 billion).

Northeastern Blizzard of 1978 Snow Totals:

  • Boston, MA: A record of 27.1 inches
  • Providence, RI: A record of 27.6 inches
  • Atlantic City, NJ: An all-time storm accumulation record of 20.1 inches
  • New York City: 17.7 inches
  • Philadelphia, PA: 14.1 inches
  • Baltimore, MD: 9.1 inches
  • Washington DC: 2.2 inches

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Washington D.C., 2009Washington D.C., 2010
Washington D.C., 2009
Washington D.C., 2009 | Source
Washington D.C., 2010
Washington D.C., 2010 | Source

Blizzard of 1978

Do you remember the blizzard of 1978?

See results

Blizzards since 1977:

  • 2011 Halloween Nor'easter: Storm Alfred. Affected Northeastern US & Canada
  • 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard. Affected the majority of North America
  • December 2010 North American Blizzard. Affected Deep South, Mid-Atlantic, New England and Eastern Canada.
  • February 25-27, 2010 "Snowicane". Affected Mid-Atlantic and New England regions.
  • February 9-10, 2010 North American Blizzard. It's a category 3 ("major") Winter Storm, affecting some of the same areas that had been hit by a huge Nor'easter only 3 days prior. Affected the Mid-West, Mid-Atlantic and New England regions of the US.
  • February 5-6, 2010: "Snowmageddon". Affected the Midwest and East Coast of the US, as well as New Mexico, Mexico and Eastern Canada.
  • February 2007 North American Winter Storm, a.k.a "Valentine's Day Blizzard". Affected Midwestern and Eastern North America, and Gulf states.
  • Saskatchewan Blizzard of 2007. Affected British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
  • Blizzard of 1999. Affected the Midwest.
  • April Fools Day Blizzard of 1997. Affected New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
  • Blizzard of 1996. Severe Nor'easter that paralyzed the East Coast.
  • March 1993 Superstorm, or "Storm of the Century", or "'93 Superstorm" or "Great Blizzard of 1993". It was a largely cyclonic storm that affected Canada, the US, and Cuba.
  • Halloween Blizzard of 1991. Affected the upper Midwest.
  • Chicago Blizzard of 1979. Affected northern Illinois and northwest Indiana.
  • Northeastern US Blizzard of 1978. Affected Northeastern US.
  • Great Blizzard of 1978. Affected the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region.
  • Blizzard of 1977. Affected upstate New York and Southern Ontario.

Storm of 2013

I will let you know how the storm or blizzard of February 2013 goes, and whether it is big or over-hyped. It is always hard to tell how storms will shape out until they get here. But I can't see it being worse than either of the storms in 1978!

Any of you who are in the storm's path, stay safe and warm!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
2011 Halloween Nor'easter : Many trees still had their leaves, so when the heavy snow stuck to them, many branches fell. It was sad to hear the periodical loud creaks and cracks all night in the park across the street from us.2011 snow in the park
2011 Halloween Nor'easter : Many trees still had their leaves, so when the heavy snow stuck to them, many branches fell. It was sad to hear the periodical loud creaks and cracks all night in the park across the street from us.
2011 Halloween Nor'easter : Many trees still had their leaves, so when the heavy snow stuck to them, many branches fell. It was sad to hear the periodical loud creaks and cracks all night in the park across the street from us. | Source
2011 snow in the park
2011 snow in the park | Source

Share Your Stories with Me

Feel free to share your stories with me. I would love to hear stories and recollections of the blizzard of 1978, or any other snow storm.


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    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      I just listened to the song. I like it! I remember hearing the Bee Gees a lot when I was a kid. My parents liked that group. They even had an 8 track of it (if that is what they are called).

      I look forward to reading your newest poem. You write them so quickly and easily. Very impressive.

      ~ Kathryn

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Actually one of my favorite songs Kathryn is Words by The Bee Gees, if not familiar check it out on you tube and yes during my cuppa tea time on the deck I just wrote another one while listening to John Barry's legendary film scores called:

      It was in the gorgeous music (we once heard) to be posted in a bit

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut


      Thanks, you always offer up such wonderful compliments!

      It would be a wonderful day to swim! I haven't even stepped outside today, although I went on the cookout at Laurel Lake yesterday. I visited with my parents, siblings (two brothers), sister-in-law, and two adorable little nieces yesterday, and enjoyed a lot of great cookout food. It was cloudy out, and misted here and there. But it was pretty comfortable, and I enjoyed it. Hopefully next time I go to a lake, I will bring my swimsuit, and have a chance to swim!

      Where do you get such decadent treats?! The cheesecake with the passion fruit glaze and Greek yogurt sounds sooo good!

      I don't make desserts too often, especially when I am on a diet, but I made a "Cookie Fruit Pizza" for the cookout. I will be posting a recipe for it sometime, but not quite yet. It was basically a large sugar cookie the size of a pizza, with whipped cream/cream cheese frosting, covered with fruit: kiwi, strawberry and banana. Mmm, it was tasty! We had the last little bit of one of the smaller ones that we had left, after sending a whole fruit pie home with my dear parents.

      You're welcome, Colin. I hope that I will be able to gradually buy all of your books as they come out. I would love t support my favorite poet more than someone I don't know!

      I'm glad that you use your poetry as therapy, and I hope that it always comforts you, and that we help to make you feel better. Words are all I have, and I hope they help ease you.

      Best wishes back to the three of you, and your little neighbor cat when you see him, and a big hug as well. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

      ~ Kathryn

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      This is quite a hub my Kathryn of Kool to look at once again especially on a day like today where it is ideal summer condtitions. I suppose that is our North American prerogative,lol, to complain about the weather where we live - as it's either too hot or too cold. I always have loved how you take precious time to every little fact and detail and image to your hubs - with the pride you take and it shows is also the pride your readers take as well.

      I just got out of the water on this lazy, hazy crazy day of summer - remember that Nat King Cole song and I will have a nice cuppa tea now with Tiffy and Gabriel out on the deck and a slice of cheesecake which is topped off by passion fruit glaze and greek yogurt and is to die for. lol

      Also please accept my sincere thanks for buying my books and as you know I suffer from depression, anxiety and high blood pressure my writing is like my therapy so thank you once again and coming from a great writer like you means a lot to me.

      Sending you my good wishes and good thoughts from the three of us at lake erie time canada 2:50pm

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Colin, I always enjoy your visits, and I feel as if I have just sat down and had a coffee with you. If only I could reach out and pet your cats, and see for myself the beautiful lake! It sounds like you have a pleasantly comfortable life.

      It is nice to sleep strange hours once in a while. I love watching day break. Many mornings I am outside as the sun comes up, and I enjoy watching it.

      I'm glad Winter is over, although it has its appeal. Here it is also turning green, flowers are blossoming, and the birds seem louder. It's getting more colorful.

      At the moment, it's only in the 50's, but we have had many days lately that were 60's-70's during the day, and it was very enjoyable! I'm able to go outside in the mornings with just a sweater or light jacket, rather than a heavy Winter coat, and by the afternoon it's often warm enough to take my extra layer off! I like it.

      Ooh, big game! I hope the Bruins have mercy on your Leafs ;)

      I'm returning your high five, and I hope you have a fantastic weekend! I am about to have a fresh cup of coffee, because hearing about yours makes me crave it :)

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Good afternoon Kathryn and I would safely say that 'blizzards' are behnd us once again and I do remember the blizzards of 1977/78.

      I've had some white knuckle/Indiana Jones commutes home (a hour's drive made longer by the conditions so it was more like an hour and half or more)

      Well I must say because we live 'relatively' close together that we are both experiencing late spring/early summer weather conditions now.

      Particularly in the last week I am seeing everything growing once again and the trees are full and green and the grass is higher and waiting for its first cut.

      I sit on the deck with my two cats and we look at the lake which is about 150 feet away.

      This is the first week I've felt comfortable in my shorts with no shirt.

      Amazing isn't it because April seemed to be a non-month, a write-off:

      it was no longer winter but yet it was trying to make about its mind about being spring and then here comes May and all of a sudden it's early summer.

      Sending you a Canadian high five from Colin , Tiffy and Gabriel and sincerely hoping all is well in your part of the world.

      Just woke up after night shift sleep - went to bed after watching the daybreak around 7am and now it's 1:34pm while listening to some lovely choral music with a pot of coffee and sitting on the deck with my cats.

      Peace be with you and keep thinking good thoughts

      Your Bruins are beating up on my Leafs with a big game tonight

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      You're welcome, Tiffany, thanks for reading and commenting. Have a wonderful (snow-free) week!

    • tiffany delite profile image

      tiffany delite 4 years ago from united states

      another fantastic hub with some beautiful pics! thank you so much for sharing...blessings!

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      I can't imagine not having snow! But most every region has some kind of exciting or dangerous weather phenomenon.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Rajan! I am glad you found it informative.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      We do not have snow here at all so really have no experience of this. Reading this hub was informative though. Thanks.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      I just published the sister hub of this one, on the February 2013 storm, fyi. If you read it, enjoy all of the photos and information! I had fun writing it!

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Some of it is melting away, since it has been mild out, but there are plenty of snowbanks that will still be there!

      I will be careful of the black ice, thanks for the warning. It is a nasty surprise to forget. I tend to walk fast and confidently, so when I start walking without thinking about it, it can hurt!

      The last I heard, the power outages were mostly gone. It seems like the crews got most of them back up faster than during the October snowstorm in 2011.

      You have a good day, too, Dream on.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 5 years ago

      With the Blizzard of 2013 over and more snow on the way.Four to six inches they say.The snow was piled high.Luckily for me it was light and fluffy.Still so much to shovel before the rain washed some away.I am glad you made out good and hopefully those who lost power have it back again.Thanx for an update and be careful of black ice it can be pretty slippery.Have a good day.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      I don't mind ithere, it has its charms, but I am looking forward to Spring. We have had enough snow to satisfy me. And I really like it when it is warm enough to dress down, and the buds start growing on the trees, the grass gets green and the beautiful flowers come out. It's my favorite time of the year, although it is nearly tied with Autumn.

      Thanks for reading this, and for your comment! I appreciate it.

    • profile image

      Vickiw 5 years ago

      Hello Kathryn, this is a great Hub, and must have been fun for you to research! Far eclipses my whining about our winter here! Spring is on its way now - at least that's what I am telling myself, and soon maybe I will be able to get out into the garden again. Thank goodness I don't live on the East Coast!

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Snowmaggdons can be bad enough, especially for a place that's not used to a lot of snow!

      Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it!

      The photos are pretty. Only 2 of them were taken by me, but my next post I write about snow will have my own photos. I took many from the February Blizzard (although only from inside my apartment on the 15th floor).

      I have many photos of snowfall from the past, but most are on my cellphone, not my camera, and I have never loaded them on my computer. Although, now that I think of it, I believe I have a cord that would allow me to upload them.

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      Gorgeous photographs. We don't get real, destructive blizzards where I am (the UK), but we do sometimes get a snowmaggedon - I've been snowed-in a couple of times in the last few years, and it was quite scary. Really nice article - voted up and across :)

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Thank you, Jim.

      I can imagine living out West is completely different, but every region has its own "beasts".

    • JimTxMiller profile image

      Jim Miller 5 years ago from Wichita Falls, Texas

      We don't tend to get many true blizzards here on the Texas/Oklahoma Rolling Plains, although we did get a taste of what it's like in 2009. Glad you came through this last one okay.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Wow, 2 months of snow sounds awful!

      This wasn't terribly bad, I think for Boston it hit the #5 mark. But it seems like many people heeded the law to stay off roads for 24 hrs, so there were less fatalities than usual. I just feel bad for those that live on the coast, and have to worry about losing their homes to the ocean.

      I just went outside this morning, and it looks deeper than I imagined. But it seems like the town is doing a pretty good job of plowing the roads, and such.

      Thanks for reading my hub, Nell! Take care.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Evidently the worse one we had over here in England was back in 63' it went on for over two months! the electric went out, the water froze and people had to queue for water from huge trucks, fascinating read, and thinking about all those in America at the moment going through it, I have been watching it on tv, nell

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      DDE, I'm glad that you had snow, and got to enjoy watching it fall, The best snow days are the ones that don't cause any problems, and can be enjoyed.

      It actually went pretty well in the Northeast USA this Blizzard, for the most part. There was coastal erosion in nearby towns, over 900,000 power outages, and very few deaths. But every death is a tragedy, and every house damaged is a home to somebody, so it is sad when things like that happen.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I live in Croatia and we had snow for two days now but hasn't caused any issues in the area where I live and I enjoyed watching snow fall,

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Nuffsaidstan, thanks for the comment.

      When I lived in Virginia several years ago (they get snow, but not usually much), even a few flurries would send everyone to the stores to stock up, cause school to be closed, and prevent many from driving to work. They always reacted as if it were going to be a big one, instead of just a coating or a couple of inches.

      The Northeast USA is pretty good at handling storms, usually, but they are very prepared and careful, because bad things can happen if they're not.

    • nuffsaidstan profile image

      nuffsaidstan 5 years ago

      In Britain whenever we get a bad blizzard the whole place comes to a complete standstill, schools, workplaces etc close, we British are completely useless at dealing with a bit of snow, we get it most years but are always unprepared!

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Thank you for commenting.

      Yeah, being a kid during a blizzard or snow storm is usually a lot more exciting, because you can have fun in the snow, you don't have as much responsibility, and are often not as aware of the bad things that happen.

      Stay safe, and enjoy the snow, as well.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 5 years ago

      What an interesting hub.I was 14 at the time.I lived about 7 miles outside of Boston,Mass.So much snow and so much fun for kids.The adults seen it altogether differently.Tell you more later,I have to get on the road early ready for the Blizzard of 2013.Be back to share.Enjoy the snow.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      MaximumFatLoss, everyone seems to be holding up, so far. It shouldn't creep in until later (although there have been flurries in some areas nearby). Yesterday and today people have been rushing to the grocery stores (one place reportedly had "bouncers" /security guards, just in case) and to the gas stations. Some places are running out of fuel (or at least the cheap kind), and shelves at the stores are emptying. The plows are getting the road salt ready. I'm so glad I went on my errands yesterday, so I'm prepared!

      I used to live in NOVA, for a little while. My Mom's family lived there throughout my entire childhood, so it was always like a second home. They don't get much snow very often, though, so it's cool you experienced the 1996 storm. Wow, if I were a kid, being able to go inside a giant snowball would be awesome!

      Isn't it sad to hear trees crack like that? It's beautiful when there's ice on the trees, but it is so damaging, and the cracking sound is unsettling.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Unknown spy, you haven't seen snow? Or a blizzard?

      I think it is exciting, although I don't like it when people get hurt, and property gets damaged. I live near the coast, so I have a feeling there are going to be a lot more sad stories of people losing their homes in Scituate, Hull and Cape Cod (along the beaches). I just hope that people listen to the Governor, and get off the roads before the snow gets bad. If people stay out of the way, and are prepared for the storm, there will be less tragedy.

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Abby Campbell 5 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I was wondering how everyone was holding up in your neck of the woods. I watched the news last night and saw that Boston had 34 inches... almost a foot more than predicted by the weather channel. I don't remember the blizzard of 1978 as I was living overseas at the time (I was a military brat). However, I do remember the blizzard of 1996 as I was living in Northern Virginia at the time. We had so much snow that my husband rolled a snowball that was 7 feet tall and carved out a doorway into it where my girls could crawl into it. LOL. I now live in the Charlotte area. When we moved here in 2005, we were only here for a few months when we got hit by a major ice storm. We have a grove of about 1,000 pine trees and they were snapping left and right (sounding like shotguns going off). We were also out of electricity for 3 days! I hope you and your family and weathering this storm well. ;)

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 5 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      wowww.. snow.. sorry, haven't seen one before but i wished i could! :)

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      Thank you, Bill. I spent hours researching and compiling this, and I am so happy with it. It is very fulfilling to write these articles, and learning is part of the excitement.

      I am ecstatic about the storm, and I am prepared to remain inside and enjoy it :)

      Wow, last year we had no snow to speak of at all, with the exception of the freak October snow storm.

      They're saying Boston could have 2 feet of snow. We'll see.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      We don't see huge snowstorms like those here in Washington State. The worst on record happened in 1950 with four feet of snow over two days. Last year was one of the biggest snowfalls we have had in quite some time and that was eighteen inches, but this year...nothing. :)

      Be safe! Good job on this hub; very interesting.