This is the time of year when big snowstorms hit this region. Thirty-nine years ago, a large 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
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.
Stranded cars on Route 95, Blizzard of 1978, Boston.
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.
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 crossing during the storm
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.
And, as if in answer to this post, New England makes it’s own comment. Beginning tonight and for the next 48 hours, we’re expecting a foot (+ or – who knows how much) snow — with daytime temperatures in the mid 20s (-3 Celsius) — much lower at night. It’s that time of year again. February is the cruelest month, no matter what any poet says to the contrary.