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The Blizzard of 1978
On the monday morning of the storm it was cloudy skies but no snow was falling so most people just went to work. For the people that got to look at the newspaper, there was nothig bad in it. The paper said maybe six inches accumulation but thats it. People who had time to listen to the morning radio or TV would've found out there would be heavy snow. New England had just experienced record snowfall and little damage was done. Therefore no one worried and went on with their normal lives (Tougias 11-12).
The first bit of snowfall started in the Boston/Providence area around 10:00 a.m. Instead of starting off easy it started hard. Snow accumulated fast. When workers looked out their windows at lunch they saw that a storm was coming. The people who were near radios or TV would find out that heavy snow was changed to near blizzard conditions. By 1:00 p.m snow began blowing around on the streets and winds were up to forty miles an hour. Workers started be released around 2:00 p.m from their offices (Tougias 19).
Monday night the new moon high tide was at its crest. Waves caused by wind fell over sea walls and brought houses into the ocean. It flooded coastal neighborhoods and stranded some people. Four high tides hit the coastline during the blizzard. Hurrican force winds were 79 miles per hour in Boston and 92 miles per hour in Chatham. Massachusetts was the hardest hit, Naragansett bay watched over Rhode Island's northeast facing shoreline. The areas that were hit hard were outer Cape Cod and highly developed shorelines of Revere, Winthrop, Scituate, and Hull. Elderley people were the one's who needed to be watched on the most. Police, firemen, and helpful people rowed row boats to homes where people were stranded in waste-deep ice water (Tougias 33).
Wind started blowing at 60 miles an hour by the middle of the afternoon. People who drove motorcycles had the feeling they'd fall right off the bridges because it was extremely windy. With the wind and ice, trucks were in for it. The trucks caused big problems on the highways. The worst tractor-trailer accident was on the southeast expressway at 3:30 p.m. A truck went across the northbound lane and into the southbound lane, it blocked the high-speed lanes. By 4:00 p.m the highways were pretty much dead stopped. Some people got out of their cars and walked to shelter. Others got trapped in their cars and were relieved when they heard taps on their windows because they knew it was a state trooper. Some people suffered heart attacks and other medical emergenices and died because help wasn't there fast enough (Tougias 20-21).
People who traveled by bus, train, and subway hurried to their stations and blocked the transit sytems. The wind was very forceful and whipped snow everywhere, especially in peoples faces. People had to hold onto things to keep from slipping into the street. The road ways were horrible and hard to pass. Cars would slide on sideways on the slightest turns. Cars that could not move anymore made the streets even smaller. Plows had difficulty early on trying to get snow off the roads. Streets were jammed of people just trying to get home (Tougias 20).
hode Island government officials realized they did not have equipment to remove huge amounts of snow. Therefore they called in the U.S military. Their plan was for the U.S to fly in huge cargo planes with heavy equipment. It would be to help save people and clear paths for emergency equipment. Before anything could be done a sixty- foot wide strip needed to be plowed just so the cargo planes could land at Green airport. Blowing snow made the job extremely hard to do. Finally 478 military troops were able to land and with them brought 178 pieces of equipment. Equipment was pat to work right away, opening interstates 95 and 195. By thursday night most of the highway was cleared except for cars packed in the center lane. Friday, drivers searched for their abandoned cars and most of the traffic jam disappeared (Tougias 61).
Snowmobiles handled medical emergencies also four-wheeled-drive trucks and national guard helicopters. These helicopters were also used to bring food to delivery points where it would be passed out to stores and restaurants. The blizzard showed how relyant New England was on trucking as its main mean of transporting goods. Hundreds of houses were destroyed in the storm and almost 6,000 residences damaged. The largely forgotten, that did occur was when thieves took advantage of abandoned stores. In the first three days of the storm, 125 people were arrested in Boston (Tougias 79).
Conditions improved on the highways but Providence was still a big mess. Snow removal was difficult in snow-clogged streets that mayor Buddy Cianci put a ban on cars and all pedestrians because they were getting in the way of plows. The Friday and Saturday after the storm progress was being made, but as late as Sunday and early Monday the city was still closed to traffic. Many Providence businesses did open, but workers had to be bussed by special buses from areas outside the city into the city. The traffic ban was lifted by late morning on the Monday ( Tougias 61-62).
The medical examiner listed 20 deaths during the period from February 6 to 11 as being storm related. One death was due to a sledding accident. Two were carbon monoxide poisioning, and the rest were shown assudden non-traumatic death happening out-doors. Of the last 17, nine only had a history of ischemic heart disease. Two to eleven hospital emergency admissions were marked as dead-on-arrival, were due to funeral directors and doctors not being at the scene of death on time. Dead-on-arrival meant that bodies were brought to the emergency room just to be pronounced dead ( Blizzard Morbidity and Mortality: Rhode Island, 1978).
The cause of the storm began when cold upper-level air pushed down from the great lakes Saturday night, February 4th, and moved southeastward. When it hit the ocean the warm water amd high humidity made a low-pressure system. Sunday the storm moved on down Southeast of North Carolina's Cape Hatteras and started to move nothward following the wind up the coast. When it traveled northward it would feed on the warm water below and cold water from the north, forming into a gigantic storm. Meteorologists stated that when the storm reached New England it stalled because a "ertical stack" happened, with an upper-level low on top and a surface low beneath. Warm wet air grew over cold and then froze when it fell through the cold layer to the ground (Tougias 108).
Frozen water vapor is snow. Snow forms high in the air. The air holds up all the moisture it can. When extra water vapor freezes into white, large, six-sided snowflakes and it falls through a layer of warm air, the snowflakes may combine and make large, wet snowflakes. When the temperature is 20 F and wind blowing at 35 miles per hour, the coldness of the wind makes it feel -20 F on a calm day. In a bad blizzard the air would feel the same as 38 F below zero in calm air. With these cold temperatures add heavy snow blowing everywhere so thickly you can't see and thats how you have a blizzard (Brown and Anderson 148).
The measurement of a blizzard is measured by the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale. There are five storm categories: Notable, Significant, Major, Crippling, and Extreme. The scale was invented to measure huge storms. They measure storms that are 10 inches or greater. The storms area gets measure by meteorologists, the amount of snowfall and the number of people living in the storms path. This information is used to caluculate a NESIS value for the storm, including 1 for a notable storm and 10 or higher for an extreme storm (NESEC).
Belive it or not the blackstone valley area, Woonsocket R.I got the biggest amount of snow. The blizzard of 78 was the worst storm to hit southern New England in the 20th century. The blizzard had come just 18 days later from another bad storm that had just hit them. But that storm was not nearly as bad as the blizzard. The reason it was so bad was because it had hurricane- force winds that whipped the drifts of snow higher and made tides larger. Snowfall totals of Northern Massachusetts and central Mass. had 24 to 30 inches, Boston came in at 27 inches, and Western Massachusetts and southeastern coastal Mass. had 12 to 24 inches. Rhode Island had about 50-55 inches of snow (Tougias 103-104).
The weather report for February 6th, 1978 was only listed as heavy snow into the next day. Providence, Coastal Rhode Island and Connecticutt, Cape Cod and the islands, and Boston would all experience heavy snow at times that night. The accumulations wuld be from 8 to 16 inches. It would be windy with driftig and snow would end the next day. The temperature would be low in the teens. High the next day in the 20's. North East winds 25 to 40 mph and the next day 25 to 35 mph. In Maine there would be light snow in the north and sometimes heavy snow else where. New hampshire show would be heavy at times. Vermont would have snow accumulating to four to eight inches. New York city would have heavy snow ending later that night and accumulations possible of over one foot. This was what the blizzard was supposed to be, it turned out a whole lot different. (The Providence Journal 1).
The severe storm that was heading north was being put under near blizzard conditions. A slow moving snowstorm that meterologists described as worse than the horrible storm of two weeks before. Temperatures were not going to go over 30 degrees. Weathermen did not expect any change to rain during the storm. One of the meteorologists Everette Mediros predicted the storm to be near blizzard conditions. it would be worse than the the storm they had tow weeks ago. Everette Medeiros had no prediction of how much snow would fall but would probably be measured in feet (The Providence Journal 2).
If you are ever stuck in your car in a storm here are a couple of things you should do. First tell others where you are going, your time limit, and to make sure someone knows where you are. Always keep your gas tank full to stop from having ice in the tank and fuel lines. Stay on plowed roads only. If you would like you could always have a disaster supply kit, a shovel, wind shield scraper and small broom, flashlight, battery powered radios, extra batteries, water snack food, matches, extra hats, socks and mittens. Also, first aid kit with pocket knife, necessary medications, blankets, tow chain or rope, rock salt, booster cables, emergency road flares, and a help sign and flourescent distress flag (NESEC).