Blizzard of ’78: Where Were You 34 Years Ago Today?

Nearly three decades ago we were blanketed with 27 inches of snow.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 34 years since Massachusetts was hit with the Blizzard of '78, but the stories will withstand the test of time.

On Feb. 6, 1978, the area was blanketed with a record 27 inches of snow with the added bonus of hurricane force winds. The storm began the morning of Feb. 6 and lasted through the following evening. It was a storm that was never really predicted to be this large, and yet from it one good thing came – we learned about emergency preparedness. 

The snow came down so quickly (at a rate of an inch an hour) that thousands of motorists were stranded in snowdrifts as they drove down Rte. 128. Roads throughout the state were impassible and cars were abandoned at every turn.
For those of us who were old enough to remember, the memories differ. The motorist stuck in his car for hours on the highway, the family wondering where that person was, to a community paralyzed by Mother Nature in a storm no one ever expected.

As a young girl I remember climbing seven foot snow piles while my parents shoveled and plowed our driveway so we could get out of the house. I remember, walking from Dedham’s Oakdale Square, down to the Rte. 128 rotary with my family and neighbors pulling children on sleds. We crossed over the highway and I remember seeing the graveyard of cars sitting on the highway, just frozen there, covered in snow. We were walking to  in Westwood, the only store open in the area for milk bread and anything else we needed while the Commonwealth was in a state of emergency. 

As a child it was almost magical because we didn't understand the danger. Our parents shielded us from the chaos and we didn't know people lost their lives in that storm. Looking back as an adult, it's terrifying how unprepared we were for this event. 

Thirty-four years ago we had 27 inches of snow. Today, the forecast is saying temps will be in the 50s. I’ll take the 50-degree temps over what happened here a little more than three decades ago.

Where were you during the Blizzard of '78? What do you remember? Tell us in the comments section. And if you have photos of the snow, show them off by clicking the "Upload Photos and Videos" button. 

Warren Dew February 06, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I was a freshman at MIT during the Blizzard of '78. It was a vacation week between MIT's Independent Activities Period and the spring semester - or at least, it ended up being a vacation week. I walked up to The Games People Play in Harvard square, where I often spent a few hours browsing on vacation days and saturdays. I was disappointed to find it closed. The reason became apparent on the walk home, which was through much deeper snow; apparently the proprietor had paid attention to the weather reports. By the time I got back to MIT, most of the remaining pedestrians were on skis. The snow came down much faster than an inch per hour during the day on Tuesday - it seemed like a foot per hour, though wikipedia says only four inches per hour at the peak. This was still fast enough that, with the daytime traffic, enough snow accumulated to block the plows. The plows had not been prepositioned on the highways as they are today. While there may have been only 27 inches of snow in Boston, I remember reports of four feet of snow at the time, perhaps in the suburbs or on route 128. Errors in the state's handling of the emergency played a part in governor Dukakis' defeat by King in the Democratic primary later that year. (cont)
Warren Dew February 06, 2012 at 10:40 PM
The entire state was pretty much closed for most of the week. The MIT campus itself was cleared fairly quickly, but the surrounding roads were not. I ate at a cafe on campus - Pritchett lounge - which had a wide variety of food at the beginning of the week, and by the end of the week was down to hot dogs and nothing else. We would have been in trouble if the roads had been closed for very much longer. I'm glad I was a student on campus where the difficult parts of the snowstorm were handled by others. On my part of campus, the students focused on burying an unpopular 20 foot modern art sculpture in the snow. The blizzard must have been much more difficult for people who had to tend their own houses and yards. I wonder how many of Somerville's residents were in Massachusetts at the time.
Warren Dew February 06, 2012 at 10:41 PM
That last line should have been, "I wonder how many of Somerville's residents today were in Massachusetts at the time."
Ron Newman February 07, 2012 at 02:37 AM
I was a junior at MIT, living across the river in a coop house (independent living group) on Bay State Road. As Warren mentioned, MIT had to close for the entire week and start the spring semester a week late. With the streets impassible, our usual food deliveries did not arrive on their usual schedule. 25+ college students go through gallons of milk in a day, and we soon ran out. The house had a toboggan, so they sent me and another student off with it in search of milk, which had become hard to find in any local Back Bay or Kenmore area store. We ended up all the way at DeLuca's Market on Charles Street in Beacon Hill, and had to explain to the other folks in line why we were buying so much milk. We loaded it on the toboggan and towed it back to Bay State Road.
Amanda Kersey February 07, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Excellent stories, gentlemen. What a coincidence that both of you were attending MIT at the same time.
Anthonya1981 February 08, 2012 at 08:07 PM
I grew up in the Heath Street + Langmaid Av neighborhood. I was in the 9th grade at the old Northeastern Junior High on Marshall Street. We were dismissed early on the 6th. We were off from school for 3 weeks - 2 weeks due to the storm plus February vacation. The one thing I remember so much was how everyone came together in the neighborhood and helped each other shovel their driveways and sidewalks and dig out their cars. The word "selfish" did not exist. The storm really brought an already close knit neighborhood even closer.


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