Childhood Memories....the Blizzard of 1978

I was just 14 at the time, and living in Billerica, Massachusetts with my mom & 2 brothers. Our house was situated between two hills, one in front of us leading down to the main drag (Nashua Rd.,I believe) which connected Billerica with the town of Chelmsford.The other hill was in back of the house leading to a smaller road. The morning of February 6, 1978 started out like any other, we had just gone back to school from a few days of snow days because of a previous storm that left nearly a foot of snow in our yard two weeks prior. The forecasters were calling for a mild rise in temps for the next few days. A weak front was heading our way from the Gulf stream, and if we got anything in the form of precipitation, it would most likely be rain.Little did anyone know that an Arctic air mass was heading our way from Canada.

When it started to snow on that Monday morning, no one was too surprised or worried.
Nobody, not even the meteorologists knew that the snow we were getting would get worse, and would not stop for the next 24-32hours. While we were at school, we noticed that the snow was still falling, but, being it was early February, and we were well accustomed to seeing snow (and lots of it) at this time of year, no one really made a big fuss about it. Except the teachers who were complaining about having to drive in it.
When we did get home, we were havin’ fun with the snow that was already on the ground. Mom had asked me to walk down to the store for a few things. The store was a 5 min. walk down the road, and I went willingly because I liked walking around when it was snowing out. It didn’t feel that cold out, so i just relied on the hood of my jacket & didn’t wear a hat. On the way home, I got about 4 or 5 yards down the road, and the wind had turned bitterly cold. The snow was in smaller, icier flakes now, it was falling horizontally, and stinging my face, I had to walk backwards the rest of the way home, and to my surprise, a sled was standing upright in the snow, I used it to get down to the house instead of trying to make it to the driveway, or walk through deep snow. This was much easier.
When I got in, Mom was grateful I found it home, little did I know that I was walking through the beginning stages of a blizzard. Mom had been watching the news, and the weather, and the meteorologists were telling us all that the weak front that was headed North from the gulf has just collided with an Arctic air mass coming from Canada. It started out in New Jersey and headed toward New England.
This little “front” has become a Blizzard! The snow expected from will be at least 12+ inches, probably more. The coast will have storm surges, and probably flooding, but very little, if any snow.
So we sat glued to the t.v. for updates, otherwise we listened to the wind howl, and watched the snow pile up. Schools were already being canceled and they were doing it by counties. Middlesex county schools, Worcester County Schools, Essex, Suffolk, Bristol, Hampshire… the list goes on. It probably would’ve been easier to say ALL the schools in the whole darn state of Massachusetts will be closed tomorrow. The snow was falling at a rate of almost 2" per hour. An 8mile or so stretch of rte 128 (I-95) had been turned into a snow covered parking lot. Some people were able to abandon their cars, others weren’t and had to spend the night. If they had enough blankets and heavy clothes on, they could bundle up in that, but it was a slim chance you could survive all night.
People were coming from neighboring houses on snowmobiles to rescue people from their vehicles, they either took them to shelters, or even their own houses. People who were in their houses even got evacuated. Most lost power/electricity/heat. Shelters, Churches & Schools were opened up to house evacuees. On the coast it was a different story. The fierce blizzard winds had caused coastal flooding. Storm surges caused great devastation. Most hurricanes and nor’easters bring one tidal storm surge then it recedes. Not this one. The Blizzard of 78 caused 4 successive tidal surges, and did NOT recede. One right on top of the other. It was as though the tide kept coming in, and wouldn’t go out.
We watched in horror on the t.v. (we were lucky and didn’t lose power) where people on the coast were being blown around in the wind. If they tried to walk against it, it would just keep them back, their feet would be moving but their bodies couldn’t push the fierce wind.
Massive waves crashed against houses along the beach, if they managed to stay intact, they were still busted up somehow, if not their houses as well as cars were swept in all directions. A total of 99 lives were lost in New England as a result of that blizzard. Half of them were in Massachusetts alone. I’m glad to say that my family and I not only survived this blizzard, but we had the most fun with the snow we had ever had.
When dawn broke the next day, a total of 27.7 inches fell from that storm. In some places, as much as 30". We (my family) had a total of 22". That morning I had to take our dog out to do her business. We could not get our door open. My mom had to put one of my brothers out the kitchen window into the snow. He was then handed the shovel and then a broom. He said the snow was hip deep, it looked more like waist deep, I guess that all depended on how tall someone was.
We reformed our sled path in the snow , we hooked the dog up with a makeshift harness and hooked it to our sled and gave sled rides to the kids in our neighborhood. Then last but not least, a HUGE snowball fight. Involving the whole neighborhood, adults and kids alike. It was a blast. I felt sorry for the people who lost their homes, possessions, their loved ones and even their own lives. But I was also thankful that we came out of it unscathed..
It was still an awe inspiring storm, a surprise monster storm, and if there’s anything like it again, it probably won’t happen for another 70 yrs. I think storms like this come along once every 100yrs or so. The forecasters said after this storm was over that the last blizzard to hit was one back in 1880.
It was also a blessing in disguise..during the blizzard and after, people came together to help others, they gave of themselves w/o thinking…is this person a bad person, is he/she going to rob or kill me? No, that wasn’t on the minds of anybody at that time. People risked their lives to help others, rescuing them from vehicles & homes to bring them to shelters and even their own homes. Sometimes I think that there ought to be kindness like this ALL THE TIME….why does a natural disaster like a blizzard, hurricane, tornado or earth quake have to happen for people to be kind and helpful to total strangers?
Maybe it’s God’s way of seeing that they do every once in a while. Whatever the reason, I just wish it happened all the time.
The End

Childhood Memories....the Blizzard of 1978


Joined December 2007

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