… New England was pretty much dead-smack in the middle of one of the most ferocious snowstorms ever recorded in the area.
The storm formed on the 6th of February, 1978 and broke up on the 8th, and brought with it hurricane-force winds, record snowfall amounts, and coastal flooding. People died in their cars on major highways because the snow both prevented their movement and piled up high enough to block exhaust pipes, causing carbon monoxide to build up in the cabins as drivers kept their engines idling to keep warm. Many people were trapped inside of homes and offices as snow drifts piled up over 15 feet in some places, effectively barring doors and even second-storey windows. Businesses, schools, and state and local governments were closed down, some for more than two weeks, as people struggled to dig out and clean up.
I was nine, and I have vague recollections of my father, who owned a small auto repair and used car garage, being called in by someone he knew who worked for the Massachusetts DPW. The gist of the call was “go to the end of your driveway, drop the plow on your wrecker, and DRIVE. We don’t care where you go, just don’t stop.” He did just that, leaving our house in West Peabody at about 8:30 last night and stopping for good at about 9:15 tomorrow morning. He would come by the house periodically to pick me up, and I’d drive around with him, drinking Coca-Cola and eating Ring Dings and talking with him to keep him awake. It’s a wonder either of us survived.
One of the few things I wish I had from my childhood are pictures of that storm; I remember one of them of me on top of the chasm my father had managed to shovel from the back door to the driveway. The snow pile was about twice as tall as I was. I also remember that the grocery stores were pretty much empty for weeks following the storm; people bought up everything they could and new shipments couldn’t get through because the roads were impassible. The Blizzard of ’78 is essentially when the habit of people to buy bread and milk before a snowstorm was put into practice.
It’s snowing here today, though it’s nothing compared to that storm 30 years ago. As I listen to news about the devastation from tornadoes in the south, I’m reminded of just how fragile we are in the face of nature’s machinations. Let’s everyone be careful out there.