Tell Us How You Remember The Great Blizzard of “78”

| February 1, 2018 | 46 Replies

The Great Blizzard of February 6-7, 1978 was one of the most significant weather events of the 20th century in New England.

If you experienced this storm 40 years ago, let us know how you remember the Blizzard of ’78 by leaving a comment below.

Here are some of the weather observations at the Blue Hill Observatory from this blizzard:

Total Snowfall: 30.1 inches
Total Precipitation: 2.96 inches
Snowfall Duration: 37 hours (from 10:43 AM on February 6 to 11:58 PM on February 7
Max/Min Temperatures: February 6, 30/24; February 7, 30/21 (during the snowfall)
Fastest Mile: 67 mph NE at 9:04 PM on February 6
Peak Wind Gust: 84 mph NE at 9:04 PM on February 6 (estimated from fastest mile)
Highest Hourly Wind Speed: 44 mph, ENE 9-10 PM and 10-11 PM February 6

Here are a few observations from other stations in the area:

Boston Logan Airport:
Snowfall: 27.1 inches, Precipitation: 2.85 inches, Peak Wind Gust: 79 mph, ENE
Providence, RI:
Snowfall: 28.6 inches, Precipitation: 3.20 inches, Peak Wind Gust: 67 mph NE
Worcester Airport:
Snowfall: 20.2 inches, Precipitation: 2.02 inches, Peak Wind Gust: 50 mph, NE
Concord, NH:
Snowfall: 13.1 inches, Precipitation: 0.62 inches, Peak Wind Gust: 46 mph NE
Mount Washington Observatory:
Snowfall: 12.5 inches, Precipitation: 1.81 inches, Peak Wind Gust: 131 mph, E
Block Island, RI:
Snowfall: 10.5 inches, Precipitation: 1.19 inches, Peak Wind Gust: 68 mph, E
Snowfall: 0.0 inches, Precipitation: 0.90 inches, Peak Wind Gust: 90 mph, E



Category: Events, News

Comments (46)

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  1. Bob and Patti Colombo says:

    We are interested in the Blizzard of ’78 event. We do not see the price of tickets on the website detailing the information. Please advise. Thank you.

    • Mike Iacono says:

      Thank you for the comment. I have added a line to the post clarifying that the ticket prices are listed at the Square store page. Follow the link in the post to Square to see the prices, though payment can still be made in any way you prefer from the listed options.

    • Joe says:

      Woonsocket RI had 50” of snow in the Blizzard of 78. Not drifts. Joe

      • Mike Iacono says:

        As incredible as this sounds, I note that Kocin and Uccellini list in a table a snowfall measurement of 38 inches for Woonsocket, RI, while also stating in the text that 50 inches or more was reported over a small area in northern Rhode Island.

      • Larry Linonis says:

        I drove an employee home from Putnam , CT to Blackstone, MA on Rte 44 . We left mid afternoon .
        I made it home late evening . I had a new Volvo with snow tires . The round trip was in second gear 4000
        RPM . VERY SCARY . I flew helicopters in Vietnam and
        that trip gave me white knuckles . Got home to a very
        angry wife . Oh Well !!

  2. Jack Guinan says:

    I may be blind, but no where does it show the price of the tickets!

    • Mike Iacono says:

      Thank you for the comment. I have added a line to the post clarifying that the ticket prices are listed at the Square store page. Follow the link in the post to Square to see the prices, though payment can still be made in any way you prefer from the listed options.

  3. Barney Beard says:

    I wrote a poem many years ago commemorating the great blizzard of ‘78:

    Beware of winds, from the northeast,
    The snow flies wild, in a drunken frenzy.
    Like a crazy, panick-strickened beast
    Smothering voids, indescriminately.

  4. Keith Fisher says:

    $65 and up to remember the weather? Mike, this event is just plain weird. You will be celebrating? Did the NWS actually get predictions right? Maybe you should reconsider…

    • Mike Iacono says:

      Hi Keith,

      I guess you had to be there. This blizzard is worth remembering not so much for the weather itself but for the extent and duration of its impact, which has not been matched by any winter storm in this area since. Forty years later, this event stands as a reminder of why we have to continue observing, advancing our understanding, and improving our predictions of such storms to protect lives and property and to minimize their disruptive impacts.

      Mike Iacono

  5. Beverly and Oldmike says:

    Countless stories, both good and bad… Worthy of a tome of it’s own, or an annual retelling of a “story for the ages..”.

  6. Brian Stewart says:

    I will be there with my father! He was a first responder in the town of Scituate. Looking forward to what should be a great day!

  7. Jay Usher says:

    As i recall and i was 15-years old and at Channel 7 with Harvey Leonard the weekend going into The Blizzard! The main model at the time was the LFM. I remember seeing the Prog charts when i was there at 7 February 4th, 1978 and it looked big! Harvey was already predicting 10-15″ for Boston. Mark Rosenthal from Channel 5 saw the model and was predicting 1-2′ feet of snow for Boston. His forecast was on Sunday February 5th, 1978! As i’m told, nobody ever predicted a 1-2′ foot Snow storm before! Now it would be the norm! As for the LFM Bob Copeland says that nobody had ever seen a storm of such intensity forecast by a model before! And it’s track record wasn’t so hot the winter 1977-1978 leading up to the Blizzard so it was hard to believe! Matter of fact, Don Kent from WBZ(Old School) forecaster and around long before computers and one not to forecast 100% based on computer didn’t buy it early on and waited for morning upper air and pressure fall charts to verify! Because of this he waited till 11:00 am monday February 6th to be sure than went on the air and said the now famous line:”We’ll be measuring the snow in feet, not inches”!! Well any way this was one time the computer was almost 100% right on and had forecasters had more experience with models(which only became routine in 1971) and had this same model not been so misleading earlier in the winter what this model predicted might have been a little more believable at the time! Regaurdless a major storm was predicted but i don’t think any one forecaster at that time would have thought that the LFM would be as accurate as it was!! Even now with all the supermodels out There GFS-European-Canadien-NAM..The can still get it right but a lot of times it’s wrong!! But with the Globals we can see things down stream 16-days that back in 1978 the computers mainly went out 48-hours!! Happy 40th, Blizzard of 1978!! And oh yeah, we did have a Blizzard before the Blizzard that year!! Does any one even remember the January 20-21 Blizzard of 1978 which dropped 21.4″ of Snow 2-weeks before the Blizzard!!

    • Mike Iacono says:

      Jay, thanks for your reminiscences of the forecasting challenges in 1978. I remember being impressed by the January 20-21 Blizzard, which left 19 inches of snow at Blue Hill, only to be surpassed by 30 inches two weeks later. As I recall, there was also a strong Midwest snowstorm between the two blizzards that brought 2-3 inches of rain and temperatures in the 50s to New England on January 25-26. It was a very active pattern that winter up to the February Blizzard, but after that storm finally passed the whole pattern shut down completely and there was no significant precipitation for the rest of that month at Blue Hill.

      • John Buddington says:

        I am a native of the Springfield MA area and was a student at Valparaiso University in northwestern Indiana. I missed the New England storms of 1977 -1978 but certainly remember the Great Midwest Blizzard of JAN 25-27. Valparaiso received about 20 inches which was whipped up unto 20 foot drifts. There was a National Guard station located near the campus and for several days after the snow stopped, helicopters seemed to be constantly coming and going. I later learned that they were delivering food and supplies to rural areas which were essentially inaccessible by road in they days following the blizzard. The snow from that storm and several lesser ones which followed lingered on the ground until late March

    • Phil says:

      Jay: thanks for the walk down memory lane. Remember driving home around 2PM, Belmont to Stow. Had a ’68 Volvo coupe and the passenger side window wouldn’t close, had a dear friend in the car and she was covered in snow.Have very fond memories of the following 6 days. The neighborhood was totally snowbound and it proved to be a wonderful “bonding” time. There are a couple of my friends kids who should be celebrating their “incarnation day” sometime during 2/8-10/1978 !!! 🙂

  8. Dano says:

    would like to attend as i deliverer the daily transcript in norwood that day, but will be skiing,
    one question though, if this happened lets say next week, how many, i’ll call them experts would say, its because of global warming ? just a question for discussion

    • Mike Iacono says:

      Dano, drawing connections between individual storms and the mean weather (climate) remains a challenging task, but the answer is not black or white. Mean temperatures may influence such storms without being the primary cause or deterrent. The fact that at Blue Hill 2017 was on average 3.5 degrees F warmer than 1978 is significant on one level, but it is only one of many factors that affected the formation of individual storms in those years.

  9. Lori from Walpole says:

    I was 11 and will never forget it! My Mom was trying to drive home from the Cape with my baby sister, and great Aunt after visiting my Grandma for lunch. My Dad was out to lunch and could not be reached. Eventually my dad was reached, my sister and I took home all the class pets from school and were the last ones to leave. We watched the news hoping my Mom would make it back, luckily, she did, she said she kept on driving no matter what!!! Our swing set got burried by a drift, and we had a blast all week playing in the snow, my parents even walked to the grocery store with our sleds. I’m sure as kids of ’78 we remember the storm much differently than the worries all our parents had during that week of being snowed in.

  10. Elaine M. Sudanowicz says:

    Remembering the Great Blizzard of 1978 recognizes all the good in humanity. Neighbors caring for neighbors sharing what they had on hand with each other and giving away what they made from scratch. To this day we find ourselves always clearing off the supermarket shelves buying bread and milk based upon memories experienced from the Great Blizzard of 1978.

    The roads were dangerously impassible. There was an immediate need to distribute food to the local level. The only vehicles big enough to get through were those with super-sized tires on the very large National Guard bulldozer trucks. My father John A. Sudanowicz was a retired pastry chef at the Ritz Carlton in Boston. After retirement, my Dad continued as a baker at a local neighborhood bakery grocery store called Bombadieri’s in the Field’s Corner section of Dorchester. Dad was very gifted in his talented ability to create baked goods, especially breads. He just happened to have a special skill desperately needed during the Blizzard of 1978.

    The Massachusetts National Guard picked-up my father bringing him to the bakery so he could bake bread for days on end. My father baked bread for a week. The Bombadieri’s family gave away hot baked bread to feed their neighbors. This Field’s Corner neighborhood smelled of comforting fresh steaming hot bread. Forty years later all I have are the memories of my Dad being one of our unsung heroes, the Massachusetts National Guard going above and beyond the call of duty, and of Bombadieri’s a wonderful locally owned neighborhood bakery serving their neighbors in a time of need. All are unsung heroes when people help people bringing out the very best of humanity.

  11. Joe from Plymouth says:

    I was only 6 at the time of the Blizzard, and remember huddling in 1 room with the rest of the family to try and stay warm near the stove which we cooked off of for days hoping we didn’t run out of wood…The snow plows could barely make it down our road but they left gigantic drifts that us kids later turned into snow forts…! My grandparents lived in Brant Rock (Marshfield) at the time and they were stranded for days because of the flooding.

  12. Joseph says:

    I have heard that the actual death toll from people killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in their cars along Route 128 wasn’t fourteen, but was closer to a hundred.

  13. Jerry says:

    In 1978 I was thirteen and can still vividly remember how the forecasts became more severe with each successive news cycle. From Bob Ryan’s (name from the past) Friday evening February 3rd forecast of “it could be a big one” right up to Elliot Abrams Monday morning February 6th forecast “This will be one of the greatest snowstorms of our time.”

    There is a popular misconception that the storm was under forecast. The wind forecasts certainly were not. The snowfall and duration were moderately. This of course resulted from the storm closing off over the Cape. However all the local Meteorologists were very concerned about the potential close off. The Coastal impacts however were definitely under forecast.

    History now verifies that the Great Blizzard of 1978 was Southern New England’s most furious, perfect and awe inspiring storm of the Twentieth century. The meteorological conditions that were present and the combination of snow, wind and storm surge are unprecedented. It’s truly the Benchmark storm (40/70 no pun intended ) to which every severe snow storm before and since have been compared. Some of the chronicled Eighteenth and Nineteenth century storms may have rivaled it but certainly no storm since has.

    On a personal note witnessing first hand the storms raw ferocity was one of the most intense experiences of my life. It’s extrodiarly unfortunate that there were storm realted fatalities and so much coastal devastation. However the resulting sense of community was something to be cherished and never forgotten.

    Truly a storm worthy of legend, folk law and commemoration. SIMPLY THE GREATEST SNOWSTORM IN SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND’S HISTORY.

  14. Richard Rothstein says:

    It should be acknowledged the two-day blizzard during January 22-23,2005 that I personally experienced as a NWS storm spotter in Plymouth MA (and also severely impacting other southeastern MA towns) certainly rivaled that benchmark historical 1978 blizzard in terms of measured snow depths and sustained extreme wind speeds. But, my most memorable blizzard was the February 1969 “Mayor Lindsey” snowstorm which was a quick hitter dropping almost 3 feet of snow in ~16 hours, and I recall it took ~17 straight hours to drive back to Rutgers from the Hartford CT area to New Brunswick NJ to try to not miss any of my college classes. The New England Thruway (I-95) at the CT – NY border was like a parking lot with abandoned cars and trucks, and subsequently driving through the Bronx on the many blocked side streets trying to wind my way to cross the George Washington Bridge was quite an experience I’ll never forget. (I’ll also never forget the kind elderly woman who opened her door on Westchester Avenue, fed me breakfast, and let me use her phone to call my parents to let them know I was safe and OK – you don’t see people often doing that act of kindness in the world we live in today!) It took NYC almost a week to plow everything out and get everything back to normal (and for that reason Mayor Lindsey was blamed and lost his re-election bid!) I believe the “Mayor Lindsey” blizzard was the same storm that Paul Kocin highlighted with Dr.Uccellini in their famous Northeastern Snowstorms monographs! Unfortunately not available to attend this upcoming Blue Hills Observatory event, but regards to meteorological colleagues Harvey and Barry! Sounds like it will be a nice reunion for “we old-timers” and those younger folks who want to learn more from the best!

    • Mike Iacono says:

      The February 24-28, 1969 snowstorm remains the largest snowfall from a single storm on record at Blue Hill with 38.7 inches, including 27.4 inches on the 24th. The February 1969 monthly snowfall total of 65.4 inches has since been surpassed by the new monthly record of 83.6 inches in February 2015. The Blizzard of 1978 now ranks as the fourth largest snowstorm at the Observatory:

      Blue Hill Observatory Largest Snowstorms, inches:

      1) 38.7 on 24-28 Feb 1969
      2) 30.8 on 26-28 Jan 2015
      3) 30.3 on 3-5 Mar 1960
      4) 30.1 on 6-7 Feb 1978
      5) 30.0 on 31 Mar – 1 Apr 1997

  15. Richard Rothstein says:

    Actually, the “Mayor Lindsay” blizzard that I noted in my prior comment affected the northeastern U.S. earlier that month (February 9-10,1969). That also was the specific snowstorm that Paul Kocin described in his prologue to the subject Northeastern Snowstorms monograph that he and Dr. Uccellini originally wrote back in 1980.

  16. Jerry says:

    Forgotten the December 5-7 2003 storm that buried the North Shore of MA with up to three feet. Living in Peabody it was the highest amount I ever witnessed.

    No question some serious storms before and since. Some with greater snowfall totals and others with strong winds and coastal impacts. However unlike 78 Mother Nature did not provide them with all the meteorological conditions needed for a 100 year storm. Those conditions may not exist again until later this century.

    Most importantly none matched it’s unprecedented and prolific FURY. That’s why unlike all others it’s deservedly Commemorated.

  17. Jerry says:

    Maybe if were lucky in early to mid February (7TH TO THE 11TH) get a 18 hour , 20″, gale with hopefully minimal coastal affects. Not historic but memorable. A notch or two greater than last month’s storm and about 60% of 78’s FURY. Just a little reminder.

    Then bring on the stronger sun angle and a slow gentle melt and call it a successful winter.

  18. Sylvia says:

    It’s been great reading all these accounts. I was a newly divorced single Mother who was working as a cashier at Beverly Hospital on Herrick Street in Beverly. It was necessary to sleep there overnight. I remember having been given a set of scrubs to wear for PJ’s and being mistsken for a nurse at times.

    What an amazing pile of snow!! I believe the hospital snow plough vehicles plowed us all out so we could go home the next day!!

  19. Still, the greatest and most ferocious snowstorm of my lifetime! Local forecasters downplayed this storm, they didn’t have today’s technology and as a result we were left unprepared. I have seen and been through a lot of big storms in the last 40 years but the blizzard of ’78 still is number one with me. The snow and wind went on for most of the day and all night long… Unbelievable, even now.

  20. Deanna Douglas says:

    My husband and I had just moved back to Massachusetts from five years of living in San Diego. We were renting a home in Wellesley p, and I started my first day of school, teaching at Milton Academy the morning of Feb 4. I met all my classes, then someone came by my classroom to say that school was closed. I got to my car, a Mazda with the Wankel motor, and headed north on 128. The windshield wipers tried mightily to keep up and barely did. The car was clearly not suitable for snow. As I noticed cars getting stuck on the southbound side, I kept talking to the car, saying, ‘You can do it! You can do it! Knowing that if I could get to Rte 9, I could walk from there, so I thought. I did make it to the exit and managed through the wind and snow to get to our house, which we had lived in for less than a week.
    But where was my husband? He worked at Draper Lab in Cambridge. I tried to phone his office but couldn’t get through. I called the main number and got security. The lab had been closed since noon. I feared he was buried on the Pike. Around 7:00p.m., he walked in the door! I was both relieved and hysterical with worry. “Where were you?” I cried. “Oh,” he said, with the calm of the engineer he was, “I thought I’d wait until the traffic was over!”

  21. Mitchel volk says:

    I remember that the 72 hr models, which is like today’s 384GFS run showed the possibility of it on the Friday before the storm. I was looking at it with Joe D’Aldo and other fellow students at Lyndon State College and we knew it was a good possibility of it happening. And the rest was history. Now of days theses storms are more routine due to global warming.

  22. Sara says:

    Yes I remember the Blizzard of ’78 mostly because it took the Governor to require and announce a snowday (our headmistress of the Winsor School rarely cancelled school for snow). I lived in Dedham and we walked over the rt 128 overpass to see the cars and trucks stranded. We had to go to Westwood for milk and bring it back on a sled. As a kid, I loved building snow forts and igloos and having almost a week off from school. It was long before satellites and gps etc so we learned to predict the weather with our noses. “Smells like snow” or “look, there is a nimbus around the moon” my mother would tell us. The smell was part ocean breeze and dampness with just the right amount of cold. She was often right. To this day, I stock up on canned goods, milk and bread whenever it smells like snow.

  23. Carol says:

    I was a newlywed living in our little apartment on the second floor. The drifts ended up as high as my windows, completely covering the first floor on two sides. My new husband was an Army Reservist and had been called out. No electricity but our gas stove was also our heater so at least I stayed warm and could cook. I remember looking out my window and seeing nothing but wild blowing whiteness. Snowed in on her dirt road in Lunenburg my mother was having symptoms of a heart attack. The ambulance couldn’t get up her street. A state plow was called to clear the way to her house and went before it all the way to Burbank hospital. Turned out she had a bleeding ulcer and was hospitalized for days. I eventually got a ride to the hospital in a plow two days later. Everything had come to a standstill. It was quite the storm. Only thing as dramatic since then was the ice storm of Dec 08, which left where I live now looking like a war zone.

  24. Mary says:

    Will this presentation be available on youtube or some other media? We wanted to attend but it was sold out!!!!

    • Mike Iacono says:

      Parts of the presentations were recorded, but not by the Observatory. We will provide information on any video from the event that becomes available to us. I’m told there is a short video from the meeting on the Observatory Facebook page.

  25. Carey Dickerman says:

    Thank you for setting-up a forum for such an incredible New England weather event! I was 12 at the time and living in Lexington, MA. We were sent home from school mid-morning on the 6th. When the storm first started, I remember being somewhat desensitized to major snow storms thanks to the January 1978 event which also closed down schools and was quite impressive. However, by the time the February storm had reached peak intensity on the night of the 6th and then run it’s full course into the 7th, all of us (including long-time New Englanders I knew) were awed by the storm. I was trully moved by the storm and love to share the events with my children. I remember clearly watching the news cycles of the coastal devastation and magnitude of the state shut-down, not to mention the ban on driving. As a kid, all the sledding down roads closed to traffic, and biking down major thru-ways was massively fun! This storm among other events, and a general love of science, inspired me to become a meteorologist. Anyone living in southeastern New England at the time, that was not too young, will maintain this storm as the judge against block buster snow storms since. It’s important to put in context the limitations of weather forecasting at the time. Numerical weather prediction today is so far ahead of where it was in the mid/late 70s (Duhh!) that should a comparable storm happen today, a driving ban would be issued well in advance and non-essential businesses would shut-down. This wouldn’t help coastal damage, but you get the point!!

  26. Two urls that will be of interest:

    Even though the urls look the same, each is for a separate document.

  27. Henry A Hartley says:

    I was living in Melrose MA during the blizzard of 78. Just to clarify what really happened, as I have read a lot of what I would call erroneous history, there had been a major storm two weeks earlier, Jan 20-21, that dumped approximately two feet of snow in Eastern Mass. Fortunately, in between that storm and the blizzard of 78′ there was a warm period and a rainstorm that dumped about an inch and a half of rain, completely dissolving the snow from the Jan 20-21 storm. So the Feb 6th blizzard began on dry pavement. I distinctly remember driving my VW Bug to work at Faneuil Hall and parking on clear pavement. The snow started around noontime and fortunately my boss let me go home early, when there was only an inch on the ground. I made it home to Melrose easily in 30 minutes with no difficulty. I parked the car in the driveway, and the wife and I spent the rest of the day indoors and went to bed. About 7am the next morning, I put on my snowsuit and grabbed a shovel and went outside. I was stunned by the amount of snow I saw. When I stepped off the front porch onto the walkway the snow, no kidding, was up to my chest! This was way more than the piddly 27 inches reported at Logan, or the 30 inches reported at Blue Hills. I would put the estimate closer to 42″ in most of Melrose. So I say, believe every story you read when someone says their town got 40+inches, or four feet, or even 50 inches of snow. Those recollections give a truer picture of what most towns experienced. I know there have been a couple of thirty inch storms since then, and people say “that was bigger than the blizzard of 78”, because they compare it to the Logan airport totals. Anyone who truly experienced the blizzard in towns where it really hit laugh at these other storms and the people who try to compare the to the Blizzard of 78′.

  28. Stephen Towne says:

    I flew out of Logan airport with my mom on the way to nashville on that Sunday afternoon was sunny and clear on Feb 5 1978. The weather forecasters were predicting 8-16 of snow to start on Monday. We landed in heavy snow at Washington DC Reagan airport on our way to nashville berry field airport. It was snowing so bad and his visability close to zero.fortunatley we took off from Washington DC on to nashville . The snow was just a bad as we landed at nashville airport aka berry field .least we made our flight to nashville safe and new home.

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