Between February 5th and February 7th, 1978, Boston received a record 27” of snow, while Providence, R.I., did Beantown half an inch better, at 27.6”. Atlantic City, N.J. also broke an all-time record with 20” of snow. Some areas reported drifts of up to 15 feet.
How Did The Storm Start?
The storm was created when an extra-tropical cyclone off the coast of South Carolina collided with an arctic cold front. Conditions were worsened by the fact that the storm developed during a new moon, resulting in unusually large high tides. The combination of high tides and extreme weather resulted in broken sea walls and extensive coastal flooding.
Hurricane force winds of 86 mph, with gusts up to 111 mph, and heavy precipitation, dropping at rates of up to 4” per hour, combined to create zero visibility conditions, making travel impossible and knocking out power in many areas.
The poor visibility and the depth of the snowfall stranded many motorists, who, due to inaccurate forecasting, were not prepared for a blizzard. In Boston alone, more than 3,500 cars were found abandoned, buried in the snow on city streets and highways. Many of their owners did not make it home for several days, while others died from the cold.
Roads throughout the Northeast were impassable for several days after the storm, and it wasn’t unusual to see people getting around on snowshoes or cross country skis. Downed power lines left many without heat or electricity for a week or more, and forced some to move into temporary shelters.
In three days, the storm claimed 100 lives and was responsible for another 4,500 injuries. In addition, the blizzard caused more $520 million in property damage (roughly $1.85 billion in today’s dollars).
Did you live through the Blizzard of ’78? If so, share your stories below.