Today marks the 36 anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978. The unforgettable storm was "born" on February 5, 1978, with the merger of a Canadian high-pressure system to the North and a dense mass of low pressure off the Carolina coast. It will be remembered as one of the most destructive storms in recent memory.
What do I most remember about the blizzard? Connecticut's late Governor Ella Grasso closed all state highways due to the heavy snow; local schools were closed for several days; my next-door neighbor lost his car keys in a snow drift and didn't find them until the Spring; and I worked two straight days at WNAB where I had just landed my first radio job as the overnight announcer a half-year earlier.
The station program director, the late Tiny Markle, called me early in the day and asked me to prepare to work a 24-hour shift. Naturally, I was thrilled, but it took awhile packing my belongings for the trip to East Washington Avenue in Bridgeport. I watched as over two feet of snow fell, and the experience punctuated my fascination for weather.
As for the powerful storm, strong winds reached speeds of 86 miles per hour with gusts of 111 miles per hour during its peak. The lowest central air pressure was 980 millibars, which made the storm comparable to a strong Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Click here to listen to a clip of Walt Devanas' weather forecast on WICC in Bridgeport from the morning of February 6, 1978.
Arriving at the time of a new Moon, the storm produced heavy coastal flooding along the New England shoreline. Beachfront homes were washed away due to strong winds and coastal flooding. More than 1,700 homes suffered major damage or were destroyed, and 39,000 people took refuge in emergency shelters. Federal disaster assistance totaled $202 million.
Snow fell at a rate of four inches an hour at times during the storm, which lasted for 36 hours. The unusual duration of the 1978 Nor’easter was caused by the Canadian high, which forced the storm to loop East and then back toward the North. Thunder, lightning, and hail were seen in the blizzard as it blanketed the Northeast with over three feet of snow. Drifts in parts of New England were reported to be 15 feet deep.
Traffic came to a standstill as major corridors like I-95 shut down. During the storm several people died on Route 128 around Boston from asphyxiation, since snow had blocked the tailpipes of their idling automobiles. In New York City, skiers could be seen sliding up Fifth Avenue.
I will never forget the Blizzard of 1978.