The Boston Blizzard of 1978
February 6-9, 1978

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The second week of February, 1978 -- "The Week That Wasn't" for a majority of people in the Boston area.  Major coastal damage was caused by severe winds, tides, and wave action.  Driving bans were in effect for a full week as all of the cities and towns struggled to clear roadways filled with buried vehicles of all kinds.  Area businesses shut down all non-essential activities because nobody could get to work.

At the time I was living on Springfield Street behind Watertown Square and working at Digital Equipment Corp. in Maynard.  The storm began in earnest around noon on Monday; the majority of people left work early, but I stuck around until about 2:30.  I had a front-wheel-drive Volkswagen Rabbit and a set of tire chains for the front, so I was pretty confident that I could get home safely.  My regular commuting route was secondary roads through Sudbury, Lincoln, Waltham, and Belmont, so I did not have to travel on the main highways at all.  Little did I realize that I would be one of the few lucky ones, in spite of driving on the shoulder and on the wrong side of the road to weave around less capable vehicles...

Cars & trucks stranded on
I-95/Route 128

Many drivers and passengers spent the night trapped in their vehicles

The storm continued to build on Monday, and all of Tuesday was a day to stay inside and hope.  High winds and 'white-out' conditions prevailed as the violent Nor'easter stalled off the coast and pounded the Boston area, delivering 25 inches of heavy snow and building drifts of 6 to 10 feet. Power and telephone outages hit many areas, but my house was spared.  Fortunately I had done my bi-weekly food shopping the previous Saturday, so all I had to do was wait out the storm.  With radio but no television, I could just listen to the news and imagine.

Wednesday morning dawned clear and very bright -- everything in sight was buried in snow, with one execption...  Sitting in my driveway was my red VW Rabbit, without a flake of snow on it anywhere, bare pavement underneath! Across the street and next door, my neighbors' cars were visible only by a patch of roof or the radio antenna.  Sometime overnight the snow plows had made at least one pass, so there was a 5-foot plow ridge that took me about 45 minutes to clear -- but that was all.

My house was on the corner and on a hill, with a 3-foot retaining wall up from the driveway to a postage-stamp front yard.  Apparently the winds came off the hill, over and down the face of the wall, then scoured all of the snow off my car and the driveway.  A little heap of snow next to each right wheel was all that I had to clear.  I felt lucky and guilty; my neighbor up the hill had a garage under his house with walls on both sides of his driveway -- and 8 feet of snow filling it from sidewalk to foundation!

A hopeful warning for snowplows

Everywhere inside of Route 128, many cars were visible only by a radio antenna, a roof rack, or a small section of roof.

An unexpected break from work was OK, but Wednesday and Thursday and Friday morning dragged on...  I walked down to the Store24 near the square once or twice, along with the other victims of cabin fever.  The emergency driving ban was still in effect inside of Route 128, but the Merrimack Valley north of the city had not been hit as hard.  Friday afternoon I put the chains on the car, threw some random spare computer parts in the front seat with my Digital Equipment Corp.  ID badge, and impersonated an "emergency" repair technician to get over to I-93 North.  From there it was clear and empty roads up to a [female] friend's place in Andover for the weekend.  Just another winter storm in New England. . .
Driving was prohibited in much of Greater Boston for almost a full week; skis and snowshoes provided transportation for some

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Copyright 2003-2016 by David B. Tuttle, Reading MA
This page last updated 19-Mar-2016

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