A Look Back at The Blizzard of '78

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By Stephen Gode on February 5, 2013, 7:22pm Last modified: February 7, 2014, 6:16pm

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A plow operator tries to make his way down Route 95 in Providence as the cleanup of the Blizzard of 1978 got underway.

Thirty-six years ago was the anniversary of one of the most paralyzing blizzards to affect the area. Unfortunately, I am not old enough to have experienced this event, but stories from my parents and grandparents told of how paralyzing the storm was. Thousands of cars became stranded and most stayed in their houses for at least days. They experienced an epic storm. Unfortunately, this storm was deadly, destructive, and paralyzing. This nor'easter was historic and one of the benchmark storms to the area. 

Woonsocket, Rhode Island officially received a snow amount of 38 inches from this storm. The article by the Providence Journal says Woonsocket had 54 inches, which is the total snow depth. Lincoln had 55 inches of total snow depth with snow drifts as high as 27 feet, which is unofficial by the National Weather Service. This was the only Blizzard in Boston (since 1961) to verify on a “sustained” wind of 35 mph for 3 hours or more: 2/6/78 2 PM - 6 PM EST. The strongest wind gusts were 93 mph in Chatham and 79 mph in Boston, Massachusetts. In Hartford, CT, there was a storm total of 16.9 inches of snow, which was on the low-end for snow amounts in Connecticut. The snowfall from this storm was the only measurable snowfall for many in the area that month of February. 

NWS Taunton, MA PDF: 

Also, this day in weather history was the "Super Tuesday" Tornado Outbreak (The Weather Channel article) and more (some maybe repeated and sources shown):

From The Old Farmer's Almanac:

2008: Dozens of twisters were reported in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama

Last 7 days:

1959: An ice storm hit Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire

1803: A storm in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, brought 20 inches of snow

1978: An East Coast blizzard brought winds up to 50 mph and below-zero temperatures

1920: Forty-five degrees below zero F in Pittsburg, New Hampshire

1949: A record low of 0 degrees F hit San Antonio, Texas

1936: Two-day storm brought Birmingham, Alabama 11 inches of snow

1921: Eight billion board feet of timber was destroyed in North Head, Washington, by a severe storm with winds up to 113 mph

From Weatherforyou.com:

For Tuesday, February 5, 2013

1887 - San Francisco experienced its greatest snowstorm of record. Nearly four inches was reported in downtown San Francisco, and the western hills of the city received seven inches. Excited crowds went on a snowball throwing rampage. (David Ludlum)

1987 - Thunderstorms in the Southern Plains Region caused flooding in parts of south central Texas. Del Rio TX was soaked with two inches of rain in two hours prior to sunrise. (The National Weather Summary)

1988 - Cold and snow invaded the southern U.S. Roswell NM was buried under 16.5 inches of snow in 24 hours, an all-time record for that location. Parts of the Central Gulf Coast Region reported their first significant snow in fifteen years. Strong winds in Minnesota and the Dakotas produced wind chill readings as cold as 75 degrees below zero. (The National Weather Summary) (Storm Data)

1989 - Severe cold gripped much of the nation. Thirty cities reported new record low temperatures for the date. Morning lows of 9 above at Astoria OR and 27 below zero at Ely NV were records for February. In Alaska, Point Barrow warmed to 24 degrees above zero, and Nome reached 30 degrees. (The National Weather Summary)

1990 - For the second time in two days, and the third time in a week, high winds plagued the northwestern U.S. Winds in Oregon gusted to 60 mph at Cape Disappointment, and wind gusts in Washington State reached 67 mph at Bellingham. The first in a series of cold fronts began to produce heavy snow in the mountains of Washington and Oregon. Ten inches of snow fell at Timberline OR. (The National Weather Summary) (Storm Data)

2006 - Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire reaches a high of 41°F, the warmest February 5th on record at the summit and two degrees off the monthly mark, where records have been kept since 1932. The Weather Doctor

2008 - The deadliest round of tornadoes in nearly a quarter century kill 58 people in the south. The storms kill 32 people in Tennessee, 14 in Arkansas, seven in Kentucky and five in Alabama. Damage is likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The Weather Doctor

2010 - A mega-snowstorm, which President Obama dubbed Snowmageddon, buried the Washington D.C. area with more than 30 inches of snow in some areas. At American University in Washington the official snowfall was 27.5 inches. Snowfall totals in the Washington DC area range from a low of 17.9 inches at Ronald Reagan National Airport to 40 inches in the northern suburb of Colesville, MD. Dulles Airport reported 32.4 inches, which established a new two-day snowfall record. The Baltimore-Washington International Airport, MD, measured 24.8 inches from the storm breaking the record for the largest two day snowfall there. It is one of the worst blizzards in the city's history.

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Stephen Gode

Town: North Haven, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since September 2012.

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