There’s a big storm coming. How big? Hard to tell, but definitely a very substantial snow event. This seems to be the time of year when the biggest storms hit this region. About 37 years ago, when a storm began moving into eastern Massachusetts on the afternoon of Feb. 6, 1978, thousands of people were let out of work early to get home before the storm. But traffic was, as usual, heavy and the snow began falling at over an inch per hour. Soon more than 3,000 automobiles and 500 trucks were stranded in rapidly building snowdrifts along Rt. 128 (same as Route 95). Fourteen people died from carbon monoxide poisoning as they huddled in trapped cars.
There are so many incredible scenes that remain clear in my memory from the Blizzard of ’78.
I was smack dab in the middle of it from the beginning as one of the few reporters who could get to the station without a car. I lived just down the street and was able to slog through the snow to the newsroom. I found myself doing myriad live shots across Massachusetts and other parts of New England. I would like to give a special shout out to my colleagues who ran the cameras, the trucks, set our cable and mike lines, kept getting signals when it seemed impossible and worked nonstop under the most dire and difficult conditions. All I had to do was stand in front of the camera or interview people. I recall standing in the middle of the Mass Turnpike, the Southeast Expressway, Rt. 495 and other major arteries doing live shots.
There was no traffic. There were no people. Abandoned vehicles littered the landscape. It was surreal. Sometimes it felt like Rod Serling was calling the shots. The snow accumulation was beyond impressive. I am or was 5 foot 6 inches. I often had to stand on snow “mountains” to be seen. My creative camera crews used the reverse image to dwarf me (no snickering, please) to show the impressive snow piles. No trickery was needed. Mother Nature did it all.
Downtown Boston looked like something out of the cult movie “The World, The Flesh And The Devil”. The end of the world at hand. No motor traffic, very few people: just snow as high and as far as the eye could see.
Ironically, people who were usually indifferent to each other became friendly and caring. Acts of kindness and compassion were commonplace, at least for a few days. Those of us working in front or back of the camera logged long hours, minimal sleep, lots of coffee, lots of pizza and intermittently laughed and grumbled. There are some behind the scenes stories that will stay there for discretion’s sake.
The Blizzard of ’78 will always be among the top stories in my news biz career. It needs no embellishment. The facts and the pictures tell it all.
One more thing. It needs no hype or hysteria.