Remembering the Blizzard of 1978 – Garry Armstrong Was There

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. 35 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.

-

See on www.boston.com

 

Just one of those days …

This was basically a good day. Really. Gar and I went to a real party and saw people we almost never see. We didn’t stay long because both of us have trouble with loud parties, but it was a lovely home, good company. Pleasant and full of happy noises.

stop-signs

We got home with only one missed turn off and managed to correct it, even though our GPS, “Richard,” seemed to feel we could make a u-turn on the Southeast Expressway, also known as Route 93 … an elevated limited access high-speed road with perhaps the heaviest traffic in the region. At rush hour, no less. So instead of our GPS, we were forced to rely on a blind luck to find a route that would let us reverse our direction and get back onto the Expressway in the opposite (correct) direction.

If we hadn’t been just outside of Quincy, it would have been easier … probably. Massachusetts was one of the earliest settled parts of the U.S. and our roads are a mess. If you look on a map, they look like a bowl of spaghetti.

We have wrong way concurrence of road, incredibly complicated intersections, signs that don’t make any sense … and no signs where you desperately need them. For you foreigners (anyone not from around here), the town is actually pronounced Quinzy, leaving me with the eternally unanswered question: Was our sixth president called John Quincy Adams,  or John Quinzy Adams.

The roads in and around Quincy are totally illogical. To go south, you have to first go north, but not necessarily vice versa. The signs, although better than they used to be, can’t entirely clarify. Getting on and off of route 295 heading south on route 146 requires keeping right, then left, then right in rapid succession, and when coming back the other way, a high-speed dash across 5 lanes of rapidly moving traffic and the signage doesn’t begin to explain that you have to gun it and keep going, no matter how many cars and trucks are heading at you. If you are driving in a vehicle that doesn’t accelerate quickly, prayer is recommended.

And that is approximately where we missed a turn off. With our GPS shouting at us to turn around, then losing track of us completely. At one point, we were apparently in the middle of the bay, at least according to Richard. It’s wasn’t as bad as downtown Boston — few things are — but it’s bad.

typical Boston road sign. Try to read this going 30 mph.    Ryan39s Smashing Life!

We eventually managed to circle around, though we had to go a few miles.

We got home and discovered that Nan, our innocent, sweet lamb of a Norwich Terrier had chewed a very neat but sizable hole in the previously unopened 20 pound bag of dog food. It’s hard to tell how much she ate, but for a dog that is about 11 inches at the shoulder, she is astonishingly food-driven. Her need for food is hard explain unless you’ve seen it because she is such a little sweetheart … and willing to battle a mastiff to get to the food dish first.

After dealing with the dog food, I decided to take care of what I assumed would be a simple task: getting a new cell phone for my husband. His phone has gotten old. It’s just a couple of years old, but in cell phone years, that’s practically ancient. I can barely hear on it and I have normal hearing, so he probably can’t hear anything. It’s just old.

But AT&T says that Garry is entitled to an upgrade and they have the new version of his Blackberry Curve at the upgrade price of $29.99. So I logged myself in … it took three tries, even though it was unquestionably the correct password … and when I went to do the upgrade, I discovered they were going to charge me $36 dollars for “upgrade services” plus $18.69 sales tax. The phone is $29.99 … which would make the tax significantly more than 50% of the price of the phone. The “upgrade service fee” is more than the phone.

Both of us already have Blackberries. We are adding no new services. We are changing nothing. So the “services” consist of mailing us the phone, whereupon we insert the chip, the battery, charge it, configure it and all that jazz.

Message

I have stuck with AT&T for years, not because they have the best signal — not even close — or the best prices, but because they’ve always had great service. I was seriously pissed off. Eventually, I talked to a supervisor who agreed that perhaps the $36.00 fee was a bit much, but the sales tax is based on the full retail list price of the phone … a price nobody ever pays. And oh, the systems at AT&T are down, so they couldn’t take care of it right now. By then, I’d been dumped out of my account and in trying to get back, was informed that I’d tried to get into the account too many times and was now locked out. Not that it made much of a difference anyhow since the system had stopped recognizing my password yesterday and only intermittently recognized the new one.

Curve

They said they’d call me tomorrow. I said I was going to be at the hospital all day tomorrow seeing the neurologist who I hope can do something about my back, or at least make some of the pain go away. I’d happily settle for less pain.

Of the 450 minutes we pay for (and they no longer offer that plan … you have to buy at least 500), last month we used, between the two of us, 17 minutes. Of my 200 MB data, I used 9 MB. Of his 200, Garry used 12. We don’t need more features. What we need are telephones with decent sound that can be used to make telephone calls. We aren’t going to play with apps. We just need telephones for emergencies. There doesn’t seem to be a plan for people like us.

I started to wonder if we really need Blackberries at all, but there are practically no phones you can get that aren’t smart phones that have even passable sound quality. We both have laptops and desktops on which we get email. I also have a netbook and Kindle … both of which get email. How many ways do we need to get email? We take everything with us everywhere we go out-of-town. If there was a decent telephone that isn’t a smart phone available, we could save $60 a month. But any phone with good sound quality is a smart phone and requires a data plan which we don’t need or want. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Again.

Finally, I settled down, baked a frozen pizza and watched some television. I’m mentally preparing to find out if my spine is salvageable. I have a feeling that sleep is not going to come easily tonight.

I think I need to chill. Between dealing with my new HMO (that’s a whole other story) and AT&T, and the dreaded cable company … how did I ever find time to work a full-time job?  I’m way too busy to work.