I remember the Blizzard of '78 way too well. I had just returned home from an NROTC midshipman cruise in the Mediterranean with images of the burned-out hulk of SS Jagat Padmini
out of Bombay firmly emblazoned on my brain and several souvenirs from the Holy Land in hand to return to class for the second semester. I went into campus on Monday morning for registration with the prognosticators forecasting "two to four inches" and returned home with snow already falling at a pretty good clip right after lunch. As it turned out, the "two to four" was correct. Alas, the "inches" should have been "feet." At the time, it was a record snowfall for much of eastern Massachusetts.
And we got classic costal Massachusetts snow -- very wet, heavy, and packed. We shoveled and plowed the driveways and the walks several times while the snow continued on Tuesday and Wednesday just to keep up with it. One time I was out shoveling the driveway, I heard a very loud cracking sound right behind me and turned around in time to watch a limb from a sturdy maple crash into the street, setting up an impasse in which the plow drivers refused to plow the street until the tree warden cleared it and the tree warden refused to come up the street to clear it until the plows cleared the snow up to it. After the snow stopped on Wednesday, my dad and I went out with the chain saw and cleared that limb so the plows could do their job.
The Blizzard of '78 posed four (4) problems that are unusual for eastern Massachusetts.
>> 1. The error in the forecast caught the Commonwealth's highway department off guard. As a result, they were not prepared to deal with the snow that actually fell.
>> 2. Shortly after it started snowing, several semitrailers jackknifed on Route 128, completely plugging that road just as everybody was trying to get home from work. As a result, many motorists ran out of gas and began abandoning their vehicles to take refuge at nearby hotels. When the snow ended, the National Guard had to shovel the entire highway by hand, bringing people back to their vehicles as they got the snow cleared around them. Many of those people
>> 3. The storm brought very strong northeasterly winds and consequent abnormally high waves during "spring tide" conditions (when either conjunction or opposition of the sun and the moon cause tides to be most extreme). As a result, the waves came over and breached sea walls in several communities, including Quincy and Revere, causing localized flooding. The National Guard used boats to rescue those who were trapped in their homes.
>> 4. The first administration of Governor Michael Stanley Dukakis displayed the utmost of incompetence in managing the casualty, later matched only by that of Louisiana's Governor Blanco in managing the response to Hurricane Katrina. Governor Dukakis subsequently lost the Democrat primary that year, but returned to office in 1982 and won reelection in 1986 before his presidential campaign became the laughing stock of the nation in 1988.
The governor decreed a state of emergency that forbade driving anywhere in eastern Massachusetts for the rest of that week and that extended within Route 128 for an additional week. Most of the area recovered by the following Monday, but those of us who needed to get into Boston or Cambridge, when classes actually resumed, had to take special buses for a week because we could not drive.