THE BIG ONE: THE BLIZZARD OF 1978 – by GARRY ARMSTRONG

This is the time of year when big snowstorms hit this region. Forty-three years ago, a gigantic winter storm began moving into eastern Massachusetts. On the afternoon of Feb. 6, 1978, thousands of people were let out of work early so they could get home before the storm.

High winds and a high tide along the shore did enormous damage

High winds and a high tide along the shore did enormous damage

Traffic was typically heavy. Snow began falling at more than an inch per hour and continued to fall for more than 24 hours. Soon more than 3,000 automobiles and 500 trucks were stranded in rapidly building snowdrifts along Rt. 128 (also Route 95).

Jack-knifed trucks and drifting snow soon brought traffic to a complete standstill everywhere. 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 great Blizzard of 1978.

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.

Seen from above, the daunting amount of snow residents had to dig through to get to their cars is apparent on Farragut Road in South Boston on Feb. 8, 1978. New England was hit by a blizzard with hurricane-force winds and record-breaking snowfalls the previous two days.

Seen from above, the daunting amount of snow residents had to dig through to get to their cars is apparent on Farragut Road in South Boston on Feb. 8, 1978. New England was hit by a blizzard with hurricane-force winds and record-breaking snowfalls the previous two days.

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.

weather-map-blizzard-of-78

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 generosity 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. Drank lots of coffee, ate 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 career. It needs no embellishment. The facts and the pictures tell it all. We have since had deeper snowstorms, but none which packed the punishing winds and extensive damage as that monumental storm.

One more thing. It needs no hype or hysteria.



Categories: #gallery, #Photography, Garry Armstrong, History, New England, snow, Transportation, Weather

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9 replies

  1. Excellent recap – photos and commentary, both! And see, this is what happens when Marilyn let’s Rod Serling loose from his hidey hole!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, babsje. I never felt the same about winter after ’78.

      Rod Serling would’ve made a good narrator for this one.

      Time enough at last.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember that winter very well indeed. Southern Utah (where I was living for my last year of high school) got socked as well (not the winds of course, but the snow? My gosh!) I remember walking to school in the morning, right down the middle of Main Street (which they’d blocked off because of the massive amount of snow), and following a tiny path that had been plowed through the mess. The walls were easily 7 feet (maybe 8?) and towered over me. I was the same height as you at the time and could imagine very vividly what would happen if one of those walls caved in on me. Sobering evidence of who is actually in charge of things in our world. Your service and dedication to letting folks know in Boston what the situation was, with unembellished factual reporting, is amazing. I’ve said often when commenting on Marilyn’s posts, that we need more reporters like yourself, and a lot less of the airhead, sound bite, grab the moment on a cell phone reporters. Good for you!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that storm did come in from the west so yeah probably was the same storm. It hit the western states first and gathered enough momentum to totally clobber the northeast. We got only a piece of it in New York where I was still living — that was right before I left the country, too, so I wasn’t paying much attention to anything buy the big move. That was a huge storm. It was almost the size of the continent, thought the bulk of it hit the north — especially right here.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Melanie, you are very kind.

      The blizzard of ’78 stands as a benchmark for Mother Nature wreaking havoc. I vividly recall – as I write – standing in the middle of the Mass Pike, surrounded by lines of abandoned cars and NO people to be seen. Just gigantic mounds of snow everywhere. So surreal. So very Twilight Zone.

      More than 4 decades later, people still link me or my face to that story. It could be worse, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. these monster storms are never forgotten and it takes a village of a news crew to cover it. thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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