Flogging the Collective Memory: The Blizzard of 1978

Flogging the Collective Memory: The Blizzard of 1978

The week the state stood still.

NOAA satellite image of blizzard on February 6, 1978.
NOAA satellite image showing the position of the storm on February 6, 1978.

Beginning on the morning of February 6, 1978, and continuing through the evening of the following day, snow fell on Rhode Island at a rate of one to two inches an hour. Hundreds of commuters were trapped in their cars on the interstates and had to be rescued. Others walked home through thigh-deep snow, spent uncomfortable nights in their offices, or crashed with friends. New England had seen blizzards before, and it has seen some since, but this one took the region by surprise.

In the aftermath of the storm, Rhode Island, for all intents and purposes, was closed for a week. President Carter declared Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts federal disaster areas. Driving was banned, so everyone walked, or skied, to the closest grocery or convenience store. Kids built the biggest and best snowforts of their lives, and went sledding on major roads that would normally be off-limits.

Depending on the source, anywhere from seventeen to twenty-six Rhode Islanders lost their lives because of the storm. Some had heart attacks while shoveling snow, and some froze to death. But still, most Rhode Islanders look back upon this natural disaster with fondness. Below are just a few of their stories.

If you were in Rhode Island during the Blizzard of '78, and you have a story you'd like to share, send it along to us at stuffie@quahog.org. Please include your first name and your current town/state. We also welcome any photographs taken during or after the blizzard.

Our thanks to all of the kind people who allowed us to reprint their stories here.

Wed, 02/09/2022 - 22:02
Last Edited


North Kingstown, Rhode Island

I was a young man driving a delivery van for an office supply house in Providence at that time. I recall being on Route 10 that morning of February 6th when I saw the first flakes fall. I also remember hearing a forecast for ten to twelve inches of snow, but little did we know just how ferocious the storm would actually get. The weather was deteriorating quickly by mid-day and I was sent home from Providence at 2pm. Five or six hours later I was still in Providence heading east on 195. At that point it had become obvious that we were all parked and going no farther. I decided to abandon my Chevy Vega and walk home to Seekonk. Fortunately, I was young, strong and dressed for the weather because of my job. Less than 100 feet from my car, I realized I was going to need my sunglasses to shield my eyes from the howling wind and driving snow and went back to retrieve them. Of course this was well after dark (bright light was certainly not the problem).

Stalled traffic on Washington Bridge, Providence, February 1978
"Cars, trucks and rescue vehicles are stopped dead in their tracks on Route 195 East along the Washington Bridge." (Anestis Diakopoulos/Providence Journal-Bulletin, February 8, 1978).

The trek home was an unforgettable and surreal experience. The highway was clogged with tractor-trailers, cars, even plow trucks, all stuck because the vehicle in front of each was stuck. Many were already unrecognizable white mounds. Biggest mess I've ever seen on a highway before or since... and of course, no cell phones! I walked up an exit ramp onto Route 44 in East Providence. The city streets were empty of moving vehicles but there were a few scattered pedestrians. I met another young guy walking in the same direction and we walked together for a while. A strange experience shared with a stranger, walking down the center of a street usually bustling with traffic. I cannot remember his name now. We parted ways at the intersection of Pawtucket Avenue (114A) and Taunton Avenue (44). He went North, I continued East. It was quite dark. Apparently there were scattered power outages in that area. There were no people to be seen now, no moving cars, no lights... very eerie... getting late. In fact, I don't believe I saw one moving vehicle since I left mine hours earlier. I don't know what time it was at this point but as I walked on I passed one of the car dealerships (Tasca I believe it was, this was before they moved further East to the current Seekonk location). The large front show-room window was blown out and an alarm was going off (electricity?). This all felt very creepy on what was a normally busy street, now a dark deserted road in a blizzard. I kept walking straight down 44... quickly. Finally, maybe a mile more up the road, I heard an approaching vehicle from behind me... the intrepid driver was conquering the deep ruts with chains on his tires! He pulled beside me and offered me a ride, saving me from walking the last mile ahead of me. The most intense snow storm I've ever seen here. Made for a bizarre night, but created some fond, unusual and lasting memories. I'm thankful I was in my early 20s, had a warm coat, hat and gloves... and those sunglasses.

Keep emergency supplies in your car, people; you never know for sure what mother nature has in mind.

Received via email, February 15, 2012.

Wed, 03/15/2023 - 00:06


Brooklyn, New York

That was my senior year at Brown. What I liked best was the bus abandoned in the middle of Thayer Street, and the ski jump that some clever person built on College Hill. And the signs that went up in response to the University's "Operation Dig Out," trying to get students to help shovel: "Prevent School. Operation Dig In." My sister sprained her ankle foolishly jumping out of some second-floor window on Wriston Quad into a snowbank, and had to be taken to the hospital by sled. Those were the days. It felt like a cross between Winter Carnival and the London Blitz.

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, January 13, 1994.

Woman digging out car, Providence, February 1978
"Marie Zarlenga digs out her car on Providence's Branch Avenue." (Margaret D. Capaldi, Johnston, The Rhode Islander Magazine, February 6, 1994).

Tue, 03/14/2023 - 01:41


East Providence, Rhode Island

I remember the blizzard well. Was 13 and living on Snake Hill Road in Glocester. Our school, Ponagansett, was out on vacation that week so we were home watching the snow build up. Interestingly, our lights never went out and the main roads were plowed. However the National Guard did come and dig us out of our house due to the fact that my mom was a kidney dialysis patient. She went by truck to Johnston, then by snowmobile to Rhode Island Hospital. Didn't see her for about a week.

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, February 7, 2003.

Woman on snowbank, Cranston, February 1978
Someone's mom (not Tony's) enjoying a post-blizzard seat on a Cranston snowbank. (February 1978).

Sun, 03/12/2023 - 17:10


South Kingstown, Rhode Island

Climbing and sliding down a snow pile, Providence, February 10, 1978
"To the summit: Janet Sleszynski and Guy Porreca of Providence climb a drift of snow which accumulated against the side of a parking garage, left. They get to the top, above. Victory. And... slide all the way down." (Robert Emerson/Providence Journal-Bulletin, February 10, 1978).

I was attending Providence College at that time. A friend of mine was an EMT, and had gotten an emergency license to travel when the roads were shut down. He and I took this girl back to her parent's house in Middletown (she had a bad flu), in the middle of the night. We got stopped by some National Guardsmen in Providence and had to produce the license. It was an eerie ride, as there was nobody out on the streets at all.

The snow drifted so high that kids at my dorm (Fennell) could and would jump out of third floor windows into the drifts below.

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, January 7, 1994.

Sun, 03/12/2023 - 01:06

Tara and Tracey

Johnston, Rhode Island

Being it's our thirtieth birthday today, my twin sister and I just wanted to share our story from the Blizzard of '78 with you. As everyone knows, there was snow everywhere and Rhode Island was, for all intents and purposes, closed for a week. Well, our mother was immensely pregnant with us as we were originally due to be born in late March or so. As it turned out, we decided to come early. Our father was plowing snow at the time, and according to what we were told, when our mother went into labor (about eight weeks early), they managed to contact him to tell him that his snowed-in wife was in labor and needed to get to the hospital. Our father, God bless him, managed to get to her, and plowed the way for the ambulance to get us to Kent County Memorial Hospital where we were born. Due to complications from being born so early and weighing just about three pounds each, we were then airlifted in incubators by the National Guard to Women and Infants' Hospital where we later stayed, I believe, until our original due date. So in just hours of our birth we got quite the welcome into the world and truly have an appreciation as to the lengths that not only servicemen, but emergency personnel and our own parents, went through to make sure we arrived as safely and healthily as possible.

Received via email, February 11, 2008.

Snow plow, Providence, February 1978
A snow plow passes on Butler Avenue, near Temple Beth El, on Providence's East Side. (Alfredo Esparza, February 1978).

Sat, 03/11/2023 - 02:57


La Mirada, California

Hand-made Old Stone Hotel sign, February 1978
All sorts of businesses found themselves transformed into emergency shelters during the blizzard, including Rhode Island Hospital... and Old Stone Bank. (Old Stone Bank newsletter, March 1978).

I was a nurse at Rhode Island Hospital, working the 3 to 11pm shift. Since we lived out in Coventry at the time and it had started snowing, I left for work a bit early just so I could drive slowly and safely. Needless to say, I didn't make it home that night.

By the time dinner was being served to the patients, I-95, which passes directly in front of the hospital, was at a standstill. People were climbing down the embankment and taking refuge in the hospital lobby. I figured I'd work a double shift and head on home in the morning. As we checked the news reports on patient TVs, we realized we weren't going anywhere by morning. And when morning came, we realized we weren't going anywhere soon.

The hospital put us on twelve-hour shifts, opened up the cafeteria and provided free food around the clock to everyone. And their trays made the greatest sleds for careening down the huge mounds of snow heaped up by the plows in the parking lot. Our accommodations weren't the greatest—I slept one night on a stack of blankets on the floor of a supply closet, another night on two chairs pushed together, and yet another night on a gurney. We got scrubs from the OR since we had only the uniforms we came to work in.

As roads in the city were cleared and made passable, some of the staff was able to get home and fresh staff made it in to work. Since I lived out in Coventry, I didn't make it home till the end of the week. Despite all the inconveniences, we had a pretty good week at work!

A few years later I moved to southern California and the only snow I've seen since is on the mountains in the distance, and that's fine with me.

Received via email, June 1, 2005.

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 02:04


Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Snow baby ornament
Disquieting vintage snow baby ornament. (antiquesqa.blogspot.com).

For Pete's sake, I managed to have a baby during the blizzard of '78.

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, November 30, 1999.

Tue, 03/07/2023 - 23:09


Siler City, North Carolina

Paper bag from Eddie's Market
Paper grocery bag from Eddie's Market, Slatersville Plaza, North Smithfield. (Steven Johnson, Facebook, December 11, 2017).

I remember that storm. I was nine, growing up at Spring Lake in Burrillville. We had an eight-and-a-half foot snow drift in the front of the house. It took my dad five days to shovel the driveway. Finally with only two feet to go, he busted out with the snow mobile to find the road was not plowed. I said "Dad, can I shovel the steps." Well, he let me and I got the big idea to jump off the porch into the snow. I sunk in up to my armpits. My parents had to dig me out.

We also had a big wooden dog sled (like one of those used in the Alaskan race). Dad used to pull us with the snow mobile on it. So he hooked it up, and him and my mom drove it all the way from Burrillville to Eddie's Market in Slatersville, North Smithfield (about twenty or so miles) to buy food. A cop pulled my dad over and said, "I know and understand why—just please keep it off the main driving lanes."

Burrillville only had school one day that week and when it started to snow again, they immediately sent us home and cancelled school for the remainder of the week and the following week. We ended up losing our April Spring vacation because if it. That was a big storm and fun for us kids.

Received via email, February 6, 2010.

Tue, 03/07/2023 - 22:39


Cumberland, Rhode Island

I remember it began snowing around 11am in Pawtucket. I had arrived to work at Hasbro at 7am and as the rest of the office staff arrived, about the only question on their minds was, "Do you think they will let us go home early today?" By 11am when the first snowflake was spotted, everyone on the second floor went to the windows and stared out at the weather and traffic below on Newport Avenue. Not much work was done that morning as everyone kept leaving their desks and checking the weather conditions outside. Finally after a few hours of the snow falling at a rate of one inch per hour, some of the office staff made their decision to leave and head for home. I waited until 2pm when my boss informed us that Hasbro was officially closing and sending everyone home early.

I placed a call to my girlfriend Sue, who worked at a law office located a short distance away from us on Armistice Boulevard, to see if she could also leave work and go home. Sue informed me that her boss, Mike Horan, informed the staff that they could also leave, so I left Hasbro and headed over to her office to follow her home for safety reasons. I should have known that since Sue drove a Volkswagen Bug, she would have no problem driving on the unplowed roads.

Anyway, it took us about two hours to drive from Pawtucket to the valley in Cumberland; a trip that on any other day would have taken us only twenty minutes. Sue pulled her car in the double wide driveway and I followed with my 4X4 pickup truck. After I made sure that Sue and her widowed mother were alright, I stayed for a short time to have a nice hot cup of coffee to get the chill out of my bones. As I attempted to leave and go to my own house, a few miles away, I noticed that cars were beginning to get stuck all up and down Sue's street. In fact, one car got stuck right in front of Sue's driveway which meant that I wasn't going anywhere. I went back into the house and that is where I stayed for the next five days, living with my girlfriend and her mother.

At first it was very awkward and we had to get used to each other. Sue slept in her bedroom, her mother in her own bedroom, and I slept on the parlor couch. During the day, we shoveled the walkways and the very back of the driveway, just to make it easier later. At night, we either watched TV or played board games at the kitchen table.

Maple Street, Woonsocket, February 1978
Ice age conditions near #46 Maple Street, Woonsocket. (davoov2, Wikipedia, February 1978).

After a few days, the snow stopped and the sun came out. This is when our neighborhood took on the "Currier and Ives" persona. Neighbors who we haven't seen in days were all outside shoveling and helping neighbors in need of help. Hundreds of people were walking up and down the road, just looking at the amounts of snow that had fallen on our town. Moms and dads, pulling sleds and toboggans with children on them, walked by Sue's house. Everyone you met said, "Hi there, some storm huh? Do you need any help with anything?" It was GREAT, not a car on the road (emergency vehicles only for a few days after the storm ended).

I felt that if I ever had any doubts before about Sue being the ONE girl for me, this storm certainly did help me make up my mind. Sharing such close quarters for five days really helped me get to know my future wife and mother in-law. So, I asked Sue to marry me and on June 10 of that year, Sue became my wife.

So, YES, I certainly do remember the Blizzard of '78, and in June of this year, we will celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary together with our three sons who are all in the military serving their country.

Received via email, February 13, 2008.

Tue, 03/07/2023 - 00:44


Auburn, Michigan

Men with cases of Narragansett Beer, February 1978
"Look what kept WPRO on-air during the Blizzard of '78! Photo courtesy of Sean Frederick. His uncle, Holland Cooke, is pictured left." (narragansettbeer.com, September 14, 2012).

I was telling my daughter about this because we are getting a huge snowstorm today in Michigan where we live. I was a freshman at Rhode Island College and made it home safely that day due to a friend's dad who insisted I take a ride and not walk as usual. My dad was the principal of an elementary school in Lincoln and he and my uncle got stuck and had to stay with strangers in their home for a week. He ran out of his heart medicine and our neighbor, Governor Garrahy, helped get him out of there with the help of the National Guard. (God bless that wonderful man!)

My funniest memory was convincing one of my friends to walk with me back to RIC after a few days of cabin fever to see if the pub was open so we could have a few beers. It took us over an hour to go less than a mile and of course it was closed. Well, DUH! I felt like an idiot—here it was the great blizzard of '78 and all I could think about was beer! I do remember walking on the roofs of cars to get anywhere and what a cool feeling that was, but it was a scary time for our little state.

Received via email, December 16, 2007.

Mon, 03/06/2023 - 00:45


Bradenton, Florida

I got out of school about twenty minutes early the day of the blizzard. Wow! Twenty minutes early! That was really something for Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket in the late '70s. I lived in Rumford, over by the Narragansett Race Track, and took RIPTA to get to school and back. This day was no different. Well, maybe a little different. I trudged my way through the snow that was accumulating really fast and caught the bus just in time. Everyone else in Pawtucket also seemed to be going home because it was standing room only. Luckily I knew the bus driver and he let me squeeze on. Actually, I was standing on the next-to-bottom step of the entrance to the bus. That is how full it was!

The snow continued to fall on the roads, and the roads continued to fill up with cars. The traffic was so slow, that the bus had stopped for at least five minutes when I suggested that walking would probably be faster. The bus driver jokingly suggested that I try it. I took him up on the suggestion with one assurance from him: If he caught up to me, he would stop and let me back on without having to pay again. He agreed, and off I went. I walked for about five minutes when the bus stopped to pick me up. A couple of minutes later, he was stalled in traffic again. So I started to walk again. Walk. Ride. Walk. Ride. I alternated walking and riding the bus all the way back to... (What was the name of that restaurant on Newport Avenue on the Rumford/Pawtucket line? You know the place. Watch black and white cartoons while shelling peanuts and throwing the shells on the floor, while drinking a soda and waiting for an order of fries. Was it the Ground Round?) Between walking, riding, and waiting for traffic, it took me about two hours to get home from school that day. I think the bus driver enjoyed the trip as much as I did, wondering when we would meet up again and for how long. The other riders on the bus didn't seem to mind the frequent stops to pick me up again (and again, and again.) They actually seemed to think it was funny.

Over the next few days, while everyone was digging out, I remember walking over to the Star Market and just catching the milk delivery truck in the parking lot. He was either selling the milk from the truck, or giving it away, I don't remember which. I also remember a local drug store gouging people for things such as milk and bread. My family never shopped there again.

The Great Blizzard of '78 45 label

I also remember running across a 45 (you know, a pre-CD musical disc that used a needle to play the music) that was called "The Great Blizzard of '78." I think I still have it somewhere packed in a box. I looked for the lyrics on the Internet, and this was the first time I haven't been able to find any mention of something that I have searched for. The lyrics were so campy that you can't mistake them for any of the other Blizzard of '78 songs out there.

Early on the sixth in the year, second month,
In the winter like none to date,
Came the news in the ear, a storm was near,
'Twas the Blizzard of '78.

Received via email, May 20, 2003.

Sun, 03/05/2023 - 02:04


Atlanta, Georgia

Man with shovel, February 1978.
Less than delighted with the task ahead of him. (Zanghi family, Warren, February 1978).

Things I remember (I was only 10 at the time), growing up in Cumberland...

It took about ten days until our local streets were plowed, due to the depth of the snow. The main roads (like Diamond Hill and Mendon) were plowed a lot sooner, so it was really irritating to know you couldn't go anywhere. Our neighbor took orders from the neighborhood and walked a sled about two miles to the IGA on Diamond Hill Road to buy us all food.

I don't know how long the power was out, only a couple days, I think. We cooked dinner on one of those camping stoves with a disposable blue can under it.

When the payloader (too deep for a snowplow) did plow the road, I think every house on the street offered the guy coffee or beer. It also resulted in the largest snowmound (and later, largest snowfort) that our neighborhood had ever seen, where the payloader piled the snow between our yard and our neighbor's.

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, January 7, 1994.

Sat, 03/04/2023 - 03:06


East Providence, Rhode Island

I lived at Smith just below St. Augustine's at the time. I remember light snow on the way to school, lots of wind. Then by 11am, heavier accumulation and near white-out conditions. We were not allowed out for lunch, and by 1pm, pickup/release was for all those willing to venture out into it.

It took the RIPTA bus about an hour to go five miles (coming home from Classical). We got kicked off at River Avenue and Smith, about 3 or 3:30pm. At that point he could go no further—too many abandoned and stalled cars. The driver saw it as his last chance to hang a left on River and attempt a return to downtown. "Good Luck" and "get home safe" (or words to that effect) was the advice as mostly students and seniors climbed off into the snow (who else really rides the bus?). Most of the seniors ended up with one or more kiddos detouring to see them home, some as far as Douglas Drug in North Providence. Today there'd be multiple suits vs. the state claiming abandonment, but back then I'm sure everyone made it home okay and was more than happy for it.

RI Winter Bingo card
Weather in Rhode Island Bingo, Winter Edition. (Weather in RI Facebook page).

All the adventurous kids wanted out. I wanted to cross the field at LaSalle to the back ponds. Half way across I was seriously worried; the wind-hardened frozen crust was a factor, and it was snowing again. I abandoned my quest, instead seeking refuge at a girl's house near Elmhurst park.

I remember losing heat and electricity, and heat thereafter was provided only by the gas oven which warmed two rooms. I still have a gas oven. I remember fondly people paying me $20 to shovel a single-width access to the street, and $50 adding the driveway. The market fell out by the third or fourth day when teenage groups of three to four took over the industry. I remember the main streets acting as pedestrian thoroughfares, but not until two or three days after the storm.

It was the first time I ever saw a snowmobile, being originally from New York City, and this storm being the largest since we had moved. First time also I had ever seen National Guard vehicles at work in the streets (instead of in a parade).

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, December 6, 2002, and February 14, 2002.

Thu, 03/02/2023 - 22:32


Augusta, Maine

I was thirty-one at the time of the blizzard of 1978. I was working at Tilden-Thurber in downtown Providence Tuesday through Saturday (the days the store was open). I was also taking a course at the URI extension near the State House, in the old RICE (Rhode Island College of Education) and the old Henry Barnard School building. My class met on Monday mornings and this was the last class I needed before graduation in May. When I left URI at about 11am, it had just started to snow; by the time I was crossing the George Washington Bridge on my way home to East Providence, there was already an inch of snow on the ground. By the time I got to the area of Pawtucket Avenue where my street was located, there were two inches of snow on the ground. My parents and I were snowed in all week. We lived on a dead-end street, so we were one of the last streets to get plowed. One couple who lived across the street were snowed in at their offices in downtown Providence for two days. Another neighbor who worked in Lincoln got stuck mid-afternoon on the interstate trying to get home, ended up spending Monday night at a shelter while his car was buried in snow on the interstate, and then on Tuesday he walked home from Providence, a distance of about six miles.

The blizzard created problems for URI's graduation plans for May. Because there was no school for a week, it meant that classes had to run an extra week at the end of the schedule. Normally, they had ten days between the end of exams and graduation to figure out who had completed the requirements for graduation, but because of the additional week of school in May, they only had three days between exams and graduation. They weren't able to postpone graduation by a week to compensate, because speakers had been invited, plans had been made, etc. Normally, any student who didn't meet all the requirements for graduation in May couldn't participate in any part of graduation, but the school officials didn't have time to find out who could legitimately participate, so they let anyone who had a chance of graduating participate in the program. What they did, however, was to change the practice of handing out degree certificates at the graduation ceremony. All I got at the ceremony was an empty padded cover; a couple of weeks after graduation, I got my actual degree certificate in the mail.

I moved to Maine the following September. Since then, I've experienced Maine's Ice Storm of 1998; in some ways it was worse than the blizzard because I was without electricity for about four days in January, which affected my heat, lights, and hot water.

Blizzard Card
No more sunny skies! Turn the board over, it's every player for themself!

How many remember the Blizzard of '78 board game? It had a two-sided board, the sunny side and the snowy side. The object was to get to five locations (grocery store, bank, etc.) and then get home. You started on the sunny side until someone would draw a "blizzard" card from the chance pile, and then you'd flip the board over to the snowy side. Getting around on the snowy side was a lot harder because the squares had a lot of hazards that would cause you to slow down, miss turns, etc. I still have my copy of the game.

Received via email, October 23, 2007, and October 31, 2008.

Wed, 03/01/2023 - 22:45


Oxford, Mississippi

I was working at Miriam Hospital in Providence as a secretary/phlebotomist for the lab. Although [it was] only a mile or so from home it took me an hour and a half to get down Blackstone Boulevard to my small apartment on the East Side near Wayland Square. I was happy to get there safely.

All of us who lived in the house (which had four apartments) made it home that day. When I woke up the following morning I was absolutely amazed! I couldn't get out of the apartment from the side door entrance since the wall of a twenty-foot "snow drift" covered one side. I had to go through my landlord's apartment to get to the front door. The snow was at least waist high. It was incredible!

I remember the camaraderie of neighbors and strangers. We all made small narrow pathways through the snow [and] walked to grocery stores to get the basics. Cars and busses were covered in snow. Everything had stopped because the snow was overwhelming... yet it was beautiful. We helped one another, shared meals, shopped for elders, and made the best of it.

Students from RISD and Brown used Angell Street to ski on... while music blasted out of dorm windows.

Street skiing, Providence, February 1978
"After the blizzard, Brown University students take on a ski jump on Providence's College Hill." George Hadley, Lincoln. (The Rhode Islander Magazine, February 6, 1994).

My brother (who was working at Rhode Island College as an administrator) tried to walk home (his car was stuck in the parking lot) but ended up staying with strangers because the snow was so intense and high. The family lived close to the college. My brother left the following morning with goodies packed for him to eat (meatball sandwiches and fruit) and some extra warm clothing. He walked eight miles to get back to the East Side, not far from where I was living at the time.

I know it was tough for elders—many people died because of lack of heat, or they were stranded and not able to get help. When I did go back to work a few days later I got there by renting cross-country skis. It was the easiest way for many to travel in such high snow. I will always remember that experience as one of the most magical and enjoyable times of my life. I was twenty-two years old at the time.

I am now living in Northern Mississippi near Oxford. My husband and I recently left New Orleans after living there eleven years and surviving the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We were lucky to live in an area that didn't flood. I guess interesting weather happens to me!

Note: Artists Pati D'Amico and her husband William Warren were the owners of The Waiting Room Gallery which opened at 139 Matthewson Street in Providence in 1996 and had a twelve year run ending in New Orleans in March of 2008.

Received via email, May 16, 2009.

Wed, 03/01/2023 - 01:32


Tiverton, Rhode Island

I lived in Fall River at the time, and worked in Providence, in the then-Industrial National Bank building (now the Art-Deco granite building in the Fleet complex). Most of the people who worked with us left earlier when the snow started getting heavy, until there were three of us left. We headed for our cars, spotted the heavy traffic trying to get on I-95, and ducked in to Christopher's Deli for a beer and a sandwich until the traffic eased up. When we got out of the deli, the same car was in the same place on the 95 on-ramp, so we headed back to the office, hoping the snow would back off and the traffic would ease. We spent the next three nights sleeping on the floor in that office. We knew the President and chief financial officer of First Federal Bank across the street, and they let us in to use the shower. We also all went out to Winkler's Steak House in the thick of the storm on the third day, which was surprisingly open for business (I guess they got stuck there and figured they'd feed the people). Anyway, one of us three lived in Providence, and we hiked up there on the third day after the snow stopped, and spent a couple of days with him, finally hitchhiking back to Fall River when that part of I-195 outside the Washington Bridge opened up. I remember walking through all the abandoned cars on the bridge.

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, November 11, 2000, and February 6, 2003.

Snowbound downtown Providence, February 1978
"Pedestrians make their way past buried cars in downtown Providence in the aftermath of the blizzard." (Providence Journal-Bulletin, funkified, February 1978).

Mon, 02/27/2023 - 23:34


Largo, Florida

I was living in Warwick, attending Warwick Veterans Memorial High School when the blizzard hit. I have a few lasting memories of the time.

The entire state was shut down (except to emergency and heating repair vehicles), leaving major roads like West Shore Road and Warwick Avenue open to pedestrians. I saw sleds with kids on them and sleds with baskets of food or laundry going down the center of streets that normally were barely safe to cross.

Across the street from where we lived the snow had drifted to the roof of the high school. My step-brother and I actually climbed to the roof and jumped into the snow drift (in hindsight, not necessarily a wise decision).

I distinctly remember the neighborhoods and the entire state pulling together to help each other.

Received via email, February 8, 2013.

State of Emergency declaration, February 6, 1978
Governor J. Joseph Garrahy's declaration of a state of emergency, February 6, 1978. (Rhode Island State Archives).

Sun, 02/26/2023 - 22:45


Glocester, Rhode Island

I was... um... 13 at the time. I lived (parents still do) on Moorland Avenue [in Providence].

I don't have specific recollections of the storm itself in terms of a time frame. I do remember watching Art Lake or John Ghiorse on Channel 10—there was some question about who was the first to use the term "blizzard." I remember looking outside and watching the snow accumulate. I remember going to bed, and waking up the next morning and not being able to open either door to get out of the house, because the snow drifts were massive. Finally, I managed to squeeze through the back door, and started digging out snow which was up to my stomach. What really sucked is it was the wet heavy stuff.

My recollections of the blizzard are more "after the fact." For instance, I remember the next day when it was all over, I decided to "walk" down to my buddy Jeff's house, which was exactly one city block down the street. The snow was up to my waist, sometimes as high as my chest depending on the drifts. It took me 30 minutes to make it to his house. Only 15 minutes to get home, since I had already made the path.

Later that day, some people with snowmobiles drove up and down the roads, making a single path in the middle of the road where people could walk. I seem to recall things stayed like this for several days [until] huge front-end loaders cleared the main roads of Smith Street and Chalkstone Avenue, so people could again start moving.

About that same time, we decided to take a trip to the market. So we got our sled out, figuring it would be easier to bring groceries home on the sled. We walked over to Academy Supermarket. The trip, normally about a 30-minute walk, took closer to an hour. While we were on the way, we walked up one street where someone was digging their car out of the middle of the road... literally. They were unable to get into their driveway during the storm, so had abandoned their car in the middle of the road. What struck me about the scene was we were walking along the snow path made by the snowmobiles, and when we reached this place, we had to walk down the snow bank (like four feet) to reach the street where this guy and his neighbors were manually shoveling all the snow out of the path so he could get his car into his driveway. We then walked up the snow bank on the other side and continued our journey.

Stuck tow truck, February 1978
Stuck tow truck on Thayer Street, Providence. (Alfredo Esparza, February 1978).

Reaching the main roads was almost surreal. It almost seemed to be a scene out of an old western movie, but instead in modern times. Normally we're used to cars being present in our everyday lives, we are almost programmed to ignore them. Well, in this case, once we made it to the main roads, which were still snow-packed but plowed, the streets were crowded with people, sort of what you might see if you were walking down the main street in a old western town. the only thing missing was the horse and cart, although I do remember a snowmobile or two passing us.

I say "crowded" of course, but that's a relative term. People were walking up and down the middle of Chalkstone and Smith Streets. No cars were to be seen the entire time I walked. Just people. Dozens, maybe hundreds of people—certainly not jam packed, but hardly anything you're used to seeing when you drive down Smith or Chalkstone now.

We ended up stocking up on our bread and milk, and a few other goodies, and then started home. We took the long way (Chalkstone to Academy to Smith) just to look around and see what was open, what had been plowed, etcetera. I remember getting home several hours later and being bushed.

Perhaps a day or two later, the front-end loaders made it into our street, clearing our roads. I had two immediate impressions: the streets seemed HUGE in our neighborhood from curb-to-curb across the street, especially after walking down that two-across horse... er... snowmobile path that had existed for so long.

But, the most fun things of all were the HUGE snowbanks that the front-end loaders created at the intersections. They would just PILE all the snow up each of the four corners of the road. And, of course, because I lived in a house on a corner lot, I had one in my yard! With all my neighborhood friends out, we constructed snow forts out of the mounds of snow, and had perhaps the best snowball fights I've ever had in my life.

I remember the snow banks lasted well into late march before they disappeared completely. It was so weird walking down the street, seeing everything green, and this small patch of ice sitting on the street corner.

I guess at the time, I never really sensed any danger. Now, however, that I live in Glocester, five miles from the nearest "main road," on what can probably best be described as "winding country back-roads," I think about the Blizzard and wonder what the people who lived in my house, built in '72, went through back in 1978. I remember there were a lot of power outages—and frankly, without power out here, that translates into no heat, no water, no life. I oftentimes wonder to myself... did they tough it out? did they go to a shelter somewhere? were they even able to make it out or were they forced to stay here in the cold?

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, January 10, 1994, and February 13 and 14, 2003.

Sat, 02/25/2023 - 21:47


Coventry, Rhode Island

It was 7pm the day after the blizzard on the 7th. My brother-in-law called and asked us if we would go with him to the train station to get his son who was arriving from Okinawa. The excitement got to us and we agreed to go.

We lived off of Mary Street in the Woodlawn section [of Pawtucket]. We walked over to North Main Street and had to walk almost the whole length. It really did not look like North Main Street. It was beautiful. People were on skis and snow sleds. Many like us were walking. I never had given thought to having to walk back, lol. When we finally got to the station at 11pm, my nephew arrived wearing a light blue leisure suit with those '70s pump shoes, and carrying a duffel bag. Needless to say the Marine carried his own duffle bag. We never got home until 4am. It was an experience, but one I would never agree to again. :)

Union Station, Providence, February 1978
Union Station, Providence. "Refugees take shelter in buildings ranging from the train station to business firms." (George E. Rooney, The Rhode Islander blizzard special, March 19, 1978).

I remember going to get groceries and bringing the kids' sleds with us to carry the groceries back home, but I also remember the price gouging. My cousin was a teacher in an Uxbridge school and she was stuck there. But sadness happened. One of her students was found dead a few days to a week later. Apparently, she went out to play and a plow truck driver did not see her. They found her body when the snow began to melt.

Received via email, February 8, 2013.

Sat, 02/25/2023 - 01:13


the iCloud, Earth

Yardstick in snow
(Stock photo).

One factoid: Woonsocket, Rhode Island, had the deepest measurable snow at fifty-four inches deep. Deeper than any other place affected by "The Blizzard of All Blizzards!"

Received via email, November 5, 2013.

Fri, 02/24/2023 - 01:58


Warwick, Rhode Island

I lived in Jamestown on East Shore Road in '78. That storm blew sand and seaweed on windows that weren't even directly facing the bay. After it cleared, I had about four inches of sand and rocks in the driveway, but only a one- to two-inch crust of snow in most places. The road had been plowed of the small amount that had accumulated there and it lay bare to pavement in the sun. I couldn't believe that this was a big snow storm that caused school and work closings! Usually, coastal storms pile the snow up on the south coast and the Providence area is spared. I drove my little VW Bug up into North Kingstown and was surprised how much more snow they had near Electric Boat. The photos of that storm still astound me, especially I-95 jammed up with snow-covered cars. For me, the storm was a bore, once the tide left the yard and the wind stopped shaking the windows. But from where I was it sure was a Nor'easter. Apparently, the center of the storm stalled off the coast of Boston, and not south of us, so the Rhode Island coast was spared the dumping.

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, November 25, 2000.

Short Point Cove, Jamestown, 2003
Some sand, some rocks, some seaweed. Short Point Cove, Jamestown. (September 7, 2003).

Thu, 02/23/2023 - 01:43


Cumberland, Rhode Island

Alfredo Esparza in his driveway, 1978
Providence pathologist Alfredo Esparzo poses in the driveway of his Angell Street home, highlighting the height of shoveled snow. (Alfredo Esparza, February 1978).

The Blizzard of 1978 was truly about the total snowfall for northern Cumberland. The highest snowfall total in any storm ever [previously] recorded here was thirty-two inches in the blizzard of February 24-28, 1969. The Blizzard of 1978 gave us a mind-blowing fifty-five inches of snow with about thirty-eight to forty on the ground [when] compacted. Our average seasonal snowfall is about fifty-five inches, mind you. Along with this, what made the storm even more amazing, was that just two weeks earlier there was a twenty-inch storm which is a rather rare amount in itself. When the main blizzard hit, a good amount of this snow was still around. Furthermore, there was the "Great Midwest Blizzard of 1978" in the middle of those two storms. What a two week period! I can only hope that another one of these ultra severe blizzards strikes again. Although there have been storms with the power and intensity of that storm, specifically in recent years, none have been able to stick around long enough, or be all snow instead of a mix. Time will tell...

Received via email, January 5 and February 5, 2006.

Wed, 02/22/2023 - 02:56


Coventry, Rhode Island

We had a large, white Samoyed dog that loved the snow. Lady would jump around and tunnel about in it... she had brain damage I think. After the storm we let her out and couldn't find her for a few hours. Then I saw steam coming out of the snow and upon further investigation, I could see her little black snout.

The Blizzard shut us big time in Coventry. The road was not cleared until late Thursday afternoon, by this huge front loader from the National Guard. I remember there was a driving ban in effect that whole week. We fetched our weekly groceries at the local IGA across from the Anthony Mill. We pulled a sled with a box on it. The store was about three-quarters of a mile from our home. They only let in ten people at a time, and when three people came out, they let another three people in. They had no bread or milk, and no dough to make bread. All they had left was potato hamburger buns, and we got the last package. We also found some powdered milk. The groceries that were available were very weird. I remember one night we all had dry Froot Loops for supper. Crestwood Liquors was open all week and we took the sled there too. Later on, after Jimmy Carter declared a national disaster area, we all were eligible for food stamps. We stood in line for three hours to get forty dollars worth of food stamps... big bucks back then.

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, February 6, 2003.

Blizzard of '78 anniversary (WPRI, February 6, 2015):

Mon, 02/20/2023 - 01:54


North Kingstown, Rhode Island

Fortunately, none of us were stranded. All of a sudden, around 11am, I realized this was a serious storm. At that time, my husband's office was on Post Road in Warwick, about seven miles from home in North Kingstown. Our part-time person left to pick up her daughter and I also decided it was time to go. I tried to persuade hubby to come also, but he had things to finish up, and since we had separate cars, I headed out. I soon realized that if I was ever going to make it home in my little Chevy Vega, I had to pace myself so I wouldn't have to stop for anything! I made the mental decision that if the light was red at Post and Ives Road I was going to ignore it as long as no traffic was coming north. I did exactly that, not stopping until I rolled into the garage. Hubby had the good sense to realize, soon after I left, that he should too. The kids got home from school OK, and we were grateful to all be home safe.

Thurbers Avenue curve, February 1978
"Two days after the blizzard, the Thurbers Avenue curve (looking north) on Route 95." Nancy A. Carufel, Barrington. (The Rhode Islander Magazine, February 6, 1994).

We had no power, but the gas furnace worked on a manual switch, and the gas stove provided cooked food. Learning to shop from a mother who survived the depression of the '30s came in handy—the pantry is always full, and includes dry milk, yeast, flour... all the basics. We played a lot of board games and ate ourselves silly. Once we could get out to shovel our very long driveway the kids and hubby piled up square blocks of snow and made a huge wall on one side of the drive. Some of the neighbors made sled runs for supplies and in general, it was a big neighborhood party for almost a week!

The only negative was that my father-in-law was in an intensive care unit in Massachusetts and if anything had happened to him, there was no way we could have gotten there.

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, February 1, 2002, and February 8, 2003.

Sun, 02/19/2023 - 01:04


New York City

I had just turned 7 years old the week before. We lived in West Warwick, right behind Horgan Elementary School. That worked out great for us, because we were able to get milk from the cafeteria and run to Almacs, which was nearby. We lost power for a few days, but luckily we were used to losing power during storms. We had a camper stove to use for cooking and heating water, and plenty of candles, matches, and blankets.

I remember seeing snowmobiles for the first time. Dad helped the kids make gopher tunnels in the snow. When he and the other men cleared the walkways, the snow piles were at least four to six feet high. The tunnels were great for hiding from our mothers. Dad also took us to Factory Street, which is this mountain of a road. Everyone from town was there to enjoy great sledding.

I have fond memories, and some not-so-fond memories. But I'm glad I was young and able to enjoy it while it lasted.

Received via email, August 1, 2003.

Snowmobile, Providence East Side, February 1978
Snowmobile in use on Providence's East Side. (Alfredo Esparza, February 1978).

Fri, 02/17/2023 - 22:39


Forsyth County, Georgia

Blizzard of '78 lottery ticket
A commemorative Blizzard of '78 Rhode Island Lottery ticket. (Courtesy of Elaine Zeman).

I remember the Blizzard of '78 very well. I was at the tender age of six at the time it hit. The thought of being out of school riddled my mind. I remember that morning they were saying on the radio, "Don't bother sending your kids to school or going in to work, this is only the beginning." As expected, most, including my family, ignored what was being said and we went about our normal morning routine. I remember arriving at school to start our day only to turn around and have the schools close, and we were back home by 10 that morning. I remember watching the snow fall waiting for it to ease up so we could go out and play. In the days that followed, I remember my dad climbing out the dining room window so he could shovel out the door so we could go out. I remember thinking that this was a lot of snow and I was amazed that in places it was so deep we were walking on top of the cars. Me and my sister enjoyed playing in the snow with our friends and I remember digging a tunnel so we could crawl through the snow. My father also endeavored outside to help build a ship out of snow. I remember him going back into the house to fill pitchers with water to pour over top to make it a solid structure. I also remember enjoying sledding down the hill at the end of the neighborhood. This is when I was also introduced to "Snowcream." I also remember the thaw of this much snow flooding our basement. The summer following the great blizzard, my parents moved our family back to the south.

Received via email, February 8, 2013.

Fri, 02/17/2023 - 02:50


Marietta, Georgia

Dad and I just made it home. We both worked in Trifari in Providence, but on different floors. I went out on the loading dock at 10am and noticed a UPS truck having trouble backing up on a slope that was barely five degrees. I called my mom and told her to get home because she was working in a little jewelry shop at the bottom of a steep hill. She went home, then worried about us for the next six hours.

Dad and I didn't end up leaving work until 2pm when Governor Garrahy shut the state down. It took us two-and-a-half hours to get the ten-and-a-half miles from Trifari to our house in Cranston. I still don't know how we did it. The defroster in my car could barely keep up and all I could see in front of me was my dad's bumper. There were already cars piled up on snowbanks on either side of I-95.

We finally got off at the Elmwood Avenue exit and worked our way home through there. Mom was making buttons by the time we got in. Once we were in the door, Dad went right back out to get the snowblower going. He finally had to get me to come outside because the snow was already higher than the intake of the snowblower; I had to knock it down before he could use it. I can't remember how many times he went out with that thing. Once was in the middle of the night, I know.

We never lost power and had enough food in the house except for milk, which I drank a lot of. Thursday or Friday I climbed UP to the street and made my way through the snow to climb back down to Gansett Avenue and walked to the Sunnybrook Farms store on Cranston Street. There were a dozen other people doing the same thing. The storekeeper would only let people in five at a time. I remember there was a big stink about profiteering on food supplies, so they hadn't boosted the price on milk or other food, but a roll of film was ten dollars!!!

Cranston street, February 1978
A street in a Cranston neighborhood in the aftermath of the blizzard. (Estate sale purchase, February 1978).

All the other streets in our neighborhood got plowed out on Monday, but we got "lucky" and had ours done on Saturday. No, we didn't know anyone. Someone down the street had a heart attack. The paramedics went running down the street with their bags while a guy with a backhoe dug out the street to get the ambulance through.

We had a great time, anyway. As far as I was concerned, being out of work for a week was a "get out of jail free" card.

Originally posted to the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, February 7, 2003.

Linda has much more to say on this subject. Read her excellent essay, Like Snow Business I Know.

Thu, 02/16/2023 - 01:18


Narragansett, Rhode Island

Providence Journal special section, February 6, 1998
The Providence Journal issued a special section on February 6, 1998, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Blizzard of '78. The cover features a photo of vehicles stuck in the snow on Route 95.

I was a month shy of nine, and in St. Philip Elementary School in Greenville, when the blizzard hit. We had an early dismissal and were psyched. Thank God my grandmother lived with us because she was a help. My poor father got stuck in Providence when he went to pick up and drive my mother home from school (she was a teacher), only to find she had already left. He stayed with Governor Garrahy's brother and sister-in-law. For the kids, the snow was awesome! We had never seen snow so high. When the roads were plowed, the snow on the sides of the roads was well above the height of the stop signs. We walked to the grocery store in Greenville with my mother dragging a sled behind her. On Austin Avenue, one family set out a rest area. We found this hilarious. I remember seeing the cars stranded on the highway and not imagining how people could leave their vehicles. "Why don't they just keep going?" my sister and brother thought.

Fast forward to January 21, 2014, and the snow from that day. It took a long time, but I had my answer. I now live in Narragansett and work in Pawtucket. The commute is usually about an hour, but this day it was two-and-a-half. I drove at five miles an hour on 95 South for much of my drive. Most of the road had not been pre-treated, and, despite what I heard from the spokesman from DOT on my car radio, the plows were NOT out in full force. I drove from Attleboro to Narragansett, and at no time was there a plow on the southern portion of the road! At one point I saw some on 95 North in Warwick, but that was it. Route 4 had been plowed at some point and the traffic could drive at 40 miles-per-hour. Route 1 was a disaster, just like 95 South. I called family on the drive, loving that my car has Bluetooth, and told them I finally understood what it was like for drivers in the Blizzard of '78! In typical Rhode Island fashion, the DOT failed residents again. In '78 the snow was unexpected to most, but in 2014, the storm was forecasted, though not very far in advance. There is no reason for the plows and sanders not to be on top of the storm. Clearly, the State has not learned anything about snow removal and keeping residents safe, but has learned how to lie about it!

Received via email, January 25, 2014.

Wed, 02/15/2023 - 00:22


Cranston, Rhode Island

I know it sounds weird, considering I was 17 and ought to remember, but I don't have many memories of the blizzard.

I remember getting out of school a bit early. I know I was driving my much-loathed Datsun 510 station wagon. If any car deserved the name "No-va" it was that car. I think I offered the two brothers who lived next door a ride home, because I'm sure they pushed me there. I seem to recall a strategy session where we argued about the relative inclines of various routes for our mile-and-a-quarter drive home through mountainous Warwick. I know I wasn't feeling well and decided to call in sick to my part-time cashier job at a supermarket. My boss went ballistic, but my mom trumped him and home I stayed, getting sicker all the while.

My dad made it home that night from East Providence, but my mom couldn't make the drive across the city. Supper, my dad assures me now, was macaroni and cheese, which he said was his "specialty." Either that or corn pancakes, because that was his full culinary repertoire. I'm sure we had plenty of food because my mother shopped sales in a big way and we were always stocked up.

Cranston blackout dinner, circa 1978
A Cranston family gathers for a meal by candlelight, circa 1978. (Estate sale purchase).

We lost power for just a few hours, and eventually I ended up sick in bed. Thankfully a few days later my brother slashed his hand opening a can of dog food and off to the hospital we went. He got his stitches, I got my antibiotics, we picked up my mom and home we went, several days before others were allowed to drive. From that point on at least we ate well. No offense to my dad's, ah, cooking.

Boring, boring, boring. My dad's drive home from work was more exciting than all my blizzard memories combined.

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, February 6, 2003.

Tue, 02/14/2023 - 01:21


Centennial, Colorado

I was three and a half years old during the Blizzard of '78, but as a native Roe Dylandah now living in Colorado, I still make the bread-and-milk run when it snows here.

We had the Colorado Blizzard of 2003 last March. They were predicting a foot of snow the night before it started, which really isn't a whole lot for a big storm out here. I went to work that morning, and every once in a while I checked out the window and saw how fast the snow was accumulating. And as I looked at the big, heavy, wet flakes, all of a sudden I remembered my mom's description of the Blizzard of '78, which included huge, wet flakes falling at an incredible rate.

They let us out of work early (as they had let my dad out of work early 25 years earlier) and as I drove home, I noticed how cars were already getting stuck in the snow. This included SUVs. Again, shades of the tales of 1978.

(Aside: You can always spot Colorado transplants during big storms. They're in the SUV that is driving like a bat out of hell and flashing their headlights at you for doing 25 in a 55. Within three miles, you'll see them again... flipped over, rear ending someone, or stuck in a snowdrift bigger than the one in the commercial.)

Blizzard of '78 ornament, 2009
Blizzard of '78 Christmas ornament by My Little Town, commemorating the bread and milk run. (February 12, 2023).

As I neared home, I started to make the left turn to go into my apartment complex, but remembered: the bread and milk run! So I turned right and went to the grocery store. I picked up bread and milk, and left the store. In the 15 minutes I'd been in the store, my car became covered in snow. So I turned around, went into the store, and bought more milk, more bread, and plenty of food. A healthy 12-year-old boy lived with me at the time, so I shopped with the mindset of feeding him, me, and his mother for a week. You can imagine the final total. But the fact that I thought of having enough to feed them for a week shows that time and distance do not erase the bread-and-milk mentality.

And damned if I didn't turn on the news in the morning and hear Channel 9 doing a telephone interview with a Blizzard of '78 survivor from Cranston.

Received via email, November 2, 2003.

Sun, 02/12/2023 - 21:03


Warsaw, Indiana

I was a pediatric nurse at Rhode Island Hospital at the time and was home in Riverside that day with my two-year-old son and six-month-old daughter. My husband was a sales rep for an orthopedic company making a call at Woonsocket Hospital the morning of the blizzard. I remember telling him to get home as soon as possible since it looked so bad out. He drove as far as he could on 95 and then had to leave the car on the highway and walk to Rhode Island Hospital. One of the orthopedic residents let him sleep in his room since the roads were closed and he couldn't get home.

Blizzard of '78 snowfall map
Snowfall map for February 5-7, 1978. (NOAA).

The next day he walked from the hospital across the bridge and up Veterans Memorial Parkway in his suit and dress shoes to our home. The nurses at the hospital stayed over since no one could travel and they sent rescue vehicles to get other health care workers in. Fortunately, I was a breast feeding mom at the time and wasn't required to go back to work until the emergency was over.

I do remember the time fondly to some degree since it's always fun to be stuck in the house together during a storm, and there's a certain kind of camaraderie with neighbors you only see in tough times. I do remember an older couple dying in their car while stuck on Broad Street coming into Providence, though.

We're currently living in Indiana, my husband still works for the same orthopedic company, and I am currently working as the director of a college student health center. Outside the blizzard of 2007 rages on.

Received via email, February 13, 2007

Sat, 02/11/2023 - 01:46


Coventry, Rhode Island

Ad for commemorative t-shirts, 1978
Ad for "I Survived the Blizzard of '78" t-shirts. (Pawtucket Evening Times, February 17, 1978).

At the time of the '78 blizzard, we lived on Main Street in West Warwick's Crompton area. It began snowing while we were in K-Mart on Route 117 shopping for infant formula for our two-month-old daughter. By the time we returned home, roads were already white. As the day, then night, wore on, the 'estimated' total accumulation kept increasing. By the time the last flake landed, it was clear no one was going very far except on foot. It was amazing to see the huge equipment drive down the street to clear the roadway. Our neighbor and I shoveled a path from our front doors to the road. My husband could not help due to surgery on his leg a few days prior to the storm. Ironically, the surgeon's office called a few days after the storm ended asking if we were keeping our recheck appointment. It turned out the over-zealous office person had walked to work. My husband told her that unless the doctor planned to send a helicopter for transport, there was no way we could get there! He stayed with our daughter inside. Once a path to the road was accomplished, my neighbor's daughter and I walked to Roch's Market a little way down Main Street to get more infant formula as we had only picked up enough for a few days. We did a week's worth of shopping. Everything was available at the time since most folks were still digging out. Our location on Main Street was a great location as emergency vehicles often came by from Route 3 to Route 117 and vice versa, so our part of Main Street was passable. We lugged our shopping in a baby carriage and on a sled. It turned out to have been the wisest thing we could have done as just a few days later shelves everywhere were bare of the essentials. With a little clear thinking and swift action, we all made it just fine. My husband's leg healed well and our daughter turned thirty-five two months ago. She'll miss this blizzard [Winter Storm Nemo], however as she now lives in Texas! I think I will take out those old photos and reminisce as the snow begins to pile up in this blizzard since this time it's my turn to sit out the shoveling due to shoulder surgery!

Received via email, February 7, 2013.

Thu, 02/09/2023 - 23:04


Austin, Texas

This storm was predicted days in advance, but these warnings were mostly ignored by the populace—and there was a work slow-down by state highway crews that contributed to the mess. In fact, I distinctly remember one forecaster who was commenting on a storm that we just went through, (about a foot of the stuff), and he said that Monday could well make it look like child's play. He was right.

I had gone for one of my every-other-day swims at the Kent County Y and stopped at the old Burger Chef on Cowesett Avenue in West Warwick. While I was polishing off my second burger, it began to snow. I knew then and there that this one meant business. I went home and parked my truck in the driveway (as far from the street as possible, which would prove to be a mistake).

Unplowed Providence street with skiers, 1978
An unplowed street on Providence's East Side, traversed by residents on cross-country skis. (Alfredo Esparza, February 1978).

I was employed at Electric Boat at the time, but on the second shift, which was canceled on the day that the blizzard started, so I hunkered down near the woodstove in my basement with a bottle of Pinch. By 5pm, it was snowing at the rate of four inches per hour and the snow was up to the bottom of the mail box on the sidewalk. The news was riddled with reports of cars stranded everywhere, including I-95 which was at a standstill. For the first time in many years, Green Airport actually was forced to close.

The following morning was an exercise in white! It was still snowing and it continued on and off for another day. There was even thunder 'n lightning during the height of the storm early Tuesday morning. Over thirty inches of the white stuff had fallen. Nothing on the ground was visible, including my truck. It took two days just to shovel a path to the street, which, of course, was not plowed. A bulldozer came through on the third day and opened up a one-lane path.

Commerce throughout the state ceased. Virtually all large employers called work off for the full week. In fact, in a rare exception, everyone who could not work that week received unemployment compensation and food stamps. Also, the Providence Journal produced a Blizzard of '78 supplement, (which I still have somewhere) to a later issue of the Sunday Journal.

Fond memories? Well, sort of, but I sure wouldn't want to go through it again!

Originally posted to the alt.rhode_island news group, November 23 and 24, 2000, and February 7, 2003.

Thu, 02/09/2023 - 00:46


Sanford, Florida

I had just turned nine years old a few days before the blizzard hit (my birthday is February 1st), and was in third grade at Wickford Elementary School in North Kingstown. I remember getting out of school early, and while I was walking toward the school bus the wind was so strong it blew me over right in front of the bus! I was the last kid in line, so I was afraid at first that the bus driver wouldn't see me and [would] run me over! Of course now I know that wouldn't happen, but being nine at the time I was scared to death. School was out the rest of the week.

Providence's Great Blizzard game, 1978
Buffalo entrepreneur Charles P. Marino seized the opportunity to rebrand his 1977 Great Blizzard game as a Blizzard of '78 souvenir. Similar games exist for Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, Detroit, Baltimore, and Boston, among other cities. (Quahog Museum Collection).

When I got home, the front door to the house was frozen shut from the wind and snow. I was banging on the door crying, and had to walk through the snow in the yard to the back door to get into the house. My brother was in kindergarten at the time, and he didn't go to school at all, because back then there were morning and afternoon kindergarten classes and he had the afternoon one. After our driveway got plowed out, the snow banks on the side were over three feet high and the pile of snow from plowing was higher than our garage... and didn't entirely melt until May. I remember also the previous year when we had seven inches of snow one day in May.

Now that I live in the Orlando, Florida, area, snow is a thing of the past, but this past winter was the coldest winter ever here with quite a few nights in the 20s, and even some sleet and snow one day at my house. I couldn't believe it when I heard that all-too-familiar sound of sleet hitting the roof that I know all too well from living in New England for the first thirty-seven years of my life. People were saying it was the coldest they have ever seen here and the first time they had ever seen sleet or snow. After all, it had been almost thirty-five years since the last time it happened here. Then I show them about the Blizzard of '78!

Received via email, July 11, 2010.

Wed, 02/08/2023 - 02:33


Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Elaine on Rt. 95, February 1978.
Elaine paused for a photo opportunity on her trek from Brown to Rhode Island Hospital. Here she stands on Route 195 west, just before the junction with Route 95. (Elaine Zeman, February 1978).

Ah yes, the Great Blizzard of '78! What a fun time to be in Rhode Island! I was an undergraduate at Brown, but was working part-time at Rhode Island Hospital. When the full magnitude of the blizzard was realized, and it was starting to get mighty chilly in the Brown dorms and food was getting scarce, my new boyfriend and I decided to walk to the Hospital (via Route 95 mind you, which was completely closed and a graveyard of half-buried cars and trucks) and strand ourselves there, where there was plenty of free food, warmth, and entertainment. (As I recall, delivery trucks loaded with food, magazines, and movie reels destined for the Newport Naval Air Station were stranded on Route 95 right in front of the hospital, so they brought everything over for the stranded hospital personnel to enjoy.) We slept in a secluded computer room, which was quite warm due to all of the humming electrical equipment, and I promptly lost my virginity—terribly exciting and romantic!

Originally posted to the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, January 7, 1994.

Wed, 02/08/2023 - 01:37


Hillsdale, New Jersey

I will never forget that blizzard. I was a sophomore architecture student at RISD at a class at the Bayard Ewing building when we saw flurries out the windows. I hadn't heard any weather reports about a storm coming so I didn't think much of it. My morning class ended and I went back to my dorm room at Farnam Hall (which I recently learned was supposed to be the most haunted building in Providence. Who knew? None of us at the time, hahah). My afternoon classes got cancelled as the snow fell fiercely out of nowhere. My clearest memories include the uprising to keep the "taproom" open—first priority. Then I found that there was a worn path from behind my dorm to the "packie" on Benefit Street. All forms of liquor were gone from there by the third day of the storm, and the owner was staying there so he wouldn't be looted. There was a great snow slope built at the bottom of College Hill (on top of cars) that people skied down or used refectory trays as sleds. Also at the bottom of the hill were trucks that were abandoned and looted—especially the beer truck (it didn't have a chance). I remember a day that the refectory ran out of food, so I ventured to the local McDonalds, also out of food, but on the way I saw a little silver ball in the snow. I tried to pick it up, but then realized it was the tip of a car antenna from the buried car that I was standing on. The National Guard had to helicopter fuel oil and food to us, as well as Caterpillar tractors to dig us out. I also remember almost being run over by those six-foot high wheels of the tractor while walking home from the taproom one night. Oddly, I don't remember being inconvenienced or in danger. I just remember it was so much fun and exciting. Ah, to be young again.

Received via email, November 6, 2014.

Warwick Ice Cream's Blizzard of '78 ice cream, 2019
Warwick Ice Cream released their nostalgic Blizzard of '78 flavor—"whole roasted almonds and chocolate chunks buried in coconut ice cream"—in 2019. (March 1, 2019).

Two other things I remember from the storm were that my RISD friend's twin brother came for a rare visit—they didn't get along at all. His twin was stuck in Providence with us for about a week, because nobody could get out. I thought they were going to kill each other. And there was a busload of RISD students on their way back from a Boston field trip. The students were stranded on I-95, and picked up by emergency services and placed somewhere nearby in Massachusetts. All except my friend's boyfriend who braved the blizzard and walked back to Providence to be with her. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see him the next day. Ah, young love. Nothing can stop it.

Received via email, December 10, 2014.

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 22:37


Saint Paul, Minnesota

How can I ever forget the Blizzard of '78? I was a senior at Pawtucket West High School, and I had an after school job doing day care at the YMCA downtown. I would get picked up by the van driver on East Avenue after school, along with a whole lot of children. I, my friends, was enclosed in a van with about a dozen eight- to twelve-year-old boys while the snow fell and the traffic slowed. Normally, it would take us maybe twenty minutes to get the kids to the Y, where they had gym and other activities until about 5:30pm, when their parents began picking them up after work. I remember being stuck at a dead stop in front of the old New York Lace Store on Lonsdale Avenue. The volume in the van was a bit surreal and the boys were really keyed up, as you might imagine. By the time we got to the Y, it was time for the kids to go home. It took some of their parents awhile to get there, as I recall.

Wayland Square, Providence, February 1978
Skiers and walkers negotiate partially plowed streets and curbside snow piles in Providence's Wayland Square. (Alfredo Esparza, February 1978).

I don't remember how I got home to my apartment on Mineral Spring Avenue. I know that some of my friends walked miles from downtown Providence and had very frightening experiences. We had just done some grocery shopping, and the larder was stocked. I remember the next two weeks as being very cozy if a bit surreal. People had to walk everywhere and there was a renewed sense of community. That was the year I seriously began learning to cook. I also went on to teach, so I guess the experience in the van wasn't too harrowing.

Living in Arizona and Texas, I began to miss the snow. It's fun here in Minnesota where folks have no choice but to celebrate winter and hunker down by the fire when it gets bad.

Received via email, July 27, 2008.

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 22:25


Woonsocket, Rhode Island

Peter Gosselin school photo, circa 1978
Peter Gosselin went missing during the blizzard on February 7. His body wasn't found until the 27th. (findagrave.com).

People often forget that the Woonsocket-Manville area got the worst snowfall in all New England during the blizzard: fifty-four inches of straight fall, with eight-foot drifts.

I was a 10-year-old, attending East Woonsocket School at the time. At 10:25am on Monday, the bell rang, signaling the end of recess. As I walked inside, I saw the first snowflakes. The blizzard was on.

Within ninety minutes (if I remember correctly), Governor Garrahy had ordered an emergency evacuation of all public buildings. But, since I lived within two miles of the school, I had to walk.

By the time I was halfway home, the snow was already up to my knees. It would only get deeper. On the bright side, the topography of that area will allow me to tell kids that I really did walk uphill in the snow both ways!

But the worst thing I remember about the blizzard was the tragic death of Peter Gosselin, age 10, of Uxbridge [Massachusetts]. He had been diving off his porch roof, banged his head, knocked himself out, and died in a huge pile of snow... just a few feet from his front door.

Received via email, August 29, 2004.

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 22:15


Narragansett, Rhode Island

I depended on RIPTA back then and had to get from my job at Newport Creamery next to Apex, in Pawtucket, to my home in Darlington. I walked all the way home, which took several hours. I made a lot of snow angels on the way—not to have fun, but to take a rest and get my circulation flowing. The snow was hip high when I finally got home. Not something I want to repeat.

I woke up the next morning and couldn't open the door. Fortunately, I had made it a habit of feeding the dog across the street from my front door—a big, stupid Saint Bernard by the name of Benji. He used to sit in the middle of the road and stare down cars as they attempted to drive past. He was out prancing in the snow. I called to him from the window and he did big giant leaps in the snow across the street and to my front door. [Following his trail was] the only way I could get out.

Car buried to the roof in snow, 1978
"The blizzard almost buried my new (1977) Nova on Leach Street, in Cumberland." Francis J. Arsenault, Cumberland. (The Rhode Islander Magazine, February 6, 1994).

To this day, I still carry a pillow, a sleeping bag, a bag of toiletries, toilet paper, granola bars, and a jug of water in the trunk of my car. My husband thinks I'm nuts.

Compiled from alt.rhode_island news group posts, December 30, 2000, and March 6, 2003.

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 21:38


San Francisco, California

I was attending Rhode Island College, where I worked as a student assistant in the Adams Library. My girlfriend, RL, was working in Johnston near the intersection of Route 6 and Atwood Avenue. We lived in Washington Corners, Coventry, down beside one of the many rivers threading their way through town. As many will recall, we'd only recently gotten our power back after a monstrous ice storm that hit just a couple of weeks earlier.

RL had clients scheduled until late in the afternoon, but since RIC decided to close in the mid-afternoon, I headed for Johnston in our tiny 1976 Honda Civic (without snow tires) even as a couple of feet of snow had already fallen. I made my way over to the Howard Johnson's near her workplace and waited around drinking coffee until she was ready to go, sometime after 4pm. It was clear that our usual route home, Scituate Avenue to 116 going south past the reservoir, would be impassable, so I decided to take 295 south to 95, opting to enter on New London Pike—Arnold Road and Tiogue Avenue.

Howard Johnson postcard, circa 1960s
Postcard of the Johnston Howard Johnsons, circa 1960s. (Collection of Louis McGowan).

Once we got rolling the snow really got heavier. I knew that we had to keep going by momentum and that using the brakes would trap us for sure. I literally and honestly drove all the way home without using the brakes, many times just driving right around those who had made the mistake of doing so. I never stopped until I reached home. I can't but wonder at the fate of those in the far larger cars I passed, but that tiny little car performed a miracle and plowed through the snow to get us home. The ice storm scared a lot of people, so neighborhood stores were already empty of basics.

We spent the rest of the week walking the dogs and eating what was still available while watching the great Jack Cavanaugh (then still bald and chubby behind his horn-rim glasses), who almost single-handedly kept the newsroom of WJAR going during the crisis. I am not sure, but didn't he get a local Emmy for that?

Anyway, twenty-eight years and seems like yesterday.

Received via email January 21, 2006.

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 21:02


Summerland Key, Florida

On February 6, 1978, they said we would get one inch of snow. I saw a friend in the hallway at Hope High School. We talked, and then we met after school—early release due to snow storm. We started walking to downtown Providence. We had fun and I liked her alot. I could have ran home after school; I was a brown belt in karate and in good shape. I wanted to be with her and we made [it] to the Fleet Building and we talked and then went to have coffee next door and waited and waited for the bus. I stayed with her. Branch Ave. bus arrived, we got on the bus and made it two blocks, and the bus driver said the bus is not moving. Every car, bus, and truck was stopped. We got off and started walking and when we were walking on Charles Street she said, "Wait up." I took her arm and helped her walk. We stopped at the Girl Scout headquarters for shelter. We stayed the night together. I was looking out the window and said, "We are in for a shock. We are not moving Tuesday or going to school." In the morning police walked in and said for everyone not to leave. My friend wanted to leave and try to make it to her aunt's house. I did not want her to leave, but she did and the police officer said to me, "She will not make it," and I started to cry and watched her walk up the hill. Then it was my turn. It was hell. I had two miles to walk. Before she left she said, "Would you take my books with you?" I said yes, and I had a hard time walking in the deep snow, walking on cars, and my mom met me half way with boots and warm clothes. So my song for that day is "Monday, Monday" by the Mamas and the Papas. The snow storm was on a Monday. I still think of her to this day and play the "Monday, Monday" song every day and remember that day. I would love to write a book or a movie. Blizzard of '78 love story.

Received via email, November 19, 2012.

How the Blizzard of '78 changed the way we react to winter storms (WPRI, February 5, 2018):

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 20:47


Swanzey, New Hampshire

I was the opportunistic type and would pull cars out of snow banks near my apartment in Mansfield, Mass., which was conveniently near both 495 and Route 95. I'd get whatever the market would bear, which was sometimes pretty good, for extra money. $40 was a lot of gas in 1978. I did all this with a 1974 International Scout, which was the real predecessor to the 4x4 SUV. It was like a little tank since it was really marketed to those already buying farm equipment from International. Farmer needs a vehicle for hauling bags of grain during the week and fishing on the weekends was the apparent market. I got it used since I'd owned a couple of MGBs and a 1955 Ford flatbed truck, none of which were particularly good in the snow. I just got sick of getting stuck. I carried chains, a nylon tow rope, gloves, a good flashlight, and sometimes a change of pants for crawling around in the ditch under a car. The Scout could pull out most anything.

WPRO's commemorative bumper sticker, 1978
Radio station WPRO issued "I survived! with 63 WPRO" bumper stickers to commemorate the storm. This one was spotted on the basement wall of a Rhode Island home in 2022. (July 23, 2022).

That night the storm didn't seem all that bad and I headed out with my young wife and three year old. Sometimes after a big 'haul' we'd go to the DQ for a snack before calling it a night, so having them on board wasn't unusual. On Route 95 I found a guy broken down and in much distress about getting to his mother's house in Providence with his 'computers,' whatever those were. Oh, I'd heard of them but they meant nothing to me, but he eagerly offered $50 if I'd drive him to Providence. We put his mystery machines in the back of the Scout and headed off, sure we'd be back home in a couple hours at the most. We didn't see home for two days. We got stuck on 95 north off Route 126 somewhere. I could still move alright but all the other cars made it tough. There was another truck, a Ford F250 that was well set up, and he and I moved cars out of our way for most of the night to get a few feet distance. The wind was blowing so hard and the sleet stuck to everything that night. I had the heater on full blast, but it barely melted the ice off my face when I got back into the Scout from playing Chinese checkers with the other vehicles. We advanced up to Smithfield Avenue after almost three hours. The last move was a tractor trailer with an empty box that we pulled enough out of the way to get to the off ramp. At the top of the ramp was a ProJo delivery truck almost tipped over. We went up 126 to Route 1 and found a McDonalds open taking people in but not serving food. We spent the night there, not sleeping much and watching transformers blow up in the night and that awful wind knocking things around. The next morning they served breakfast, and since it looked relatively safe at McDonalds, I left my family and headed out on some reconnaissance to find a way out of the city.

I was able to move some on the roads and found a gas station where I was stopped by Providence's finest and told to either volunteer or get off the road. They paid for my gas and my new gig was now getting doctors, nurses, milk, and bread up the hill to Miriam Hospital. I did this all day and into the night, stopping in at the McDonalds occasionally where my wife was going quite batty. I took her and our son with me up to the hospital and continued making runs. I got cornered by a nurse or EMT or someone, and they subsequently kidnapped me to a warm room where I could shower and get into scrubs (no johnnies please!). I'd been wet so long I had dishpan body and a wild look with no sleep. Housekeeping washed and dried my clothes, and I worked through that Tuesday night delivering whatever was needed. One guy got his legs crushed between two cars and needed transport. Someone else had carbon monoxide poisoning, but a jeep took them up that hill. The city paid for my gas, and when I had a full tank I bid adieu to head up Route 1 to Mansfield and another four days of 'volunteering' in my home town. I had many more adventures there for another blog.

All in all a very memorable time, and I truly feel God Blessed we didn't have a much worse time of it.

Received via email, February 5, 2014.

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 20:41


Chantilly, Virginia

I was a senior at Pawtucket West in '78, and worked part time at the Thayer Market. The day the blizzard started I stayed home from school with a cold so I didn't go to work, either. After a few days I succumbed to the pleas of the desperate folks down at the market and made the five-or-so-mile walk down East Avenue, Hope Street, and Thayer Street to the market. When I got there the line was down the block to the old IHOP. The shelves were close to bare, people were even buying condensed milk and other crap.

Gridlock on Route 95, 1978
Route 95 south traffic at a standstill. (Old Stone Bank newsletter, March 1978).

At some point, when the crowd really started getting ugly, a delivery truck was spotted driving the wrong way up Thayer Street to the market. No one knew what it was bringing—milk, produce, fresh meat? Finally it got to the store and everyone could see that it was delivering... paper bags.

Received via email, March 3, 2005.

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 20:26


Providence, Rhode Island

My husband and I lived in a three-decker that we owned on Hope Street, corner of Larch, our first house. I was working at Brown, and (confident in my ancient VW station wagon's ability to get me home), worked all afternoon of the blizzard... I barely got the car slid up into our driveway after a harrowing ride down Hope Street from work.

Cars buried in snow, 1978
Buried cars on an East Side, Providence, street. (Alfredo Esparza, February 1978).

We were snowed in for nearly a week. We were young and healthy and unencumbered, so it was kind of fun. We walked down to Star Market (no more bread or milk! LOL), walked to a restaurant on South Main Street, and drank Irish coffees with a friend; there were people staying there who were stranded from busses, etc., on the highway, and the restaurant was giving them free soup and bread.

Everywhere, we walked on several feet of snow past the windows and antennae of cars that were otherwise buried on the streets.

A friend of ours whose flight from DC to Providence had been canceled made it up here Tuesday or Wednesday on the train, then found he couldn't get home to Marion, Massachusetts, from Providence no way, no how. So Bill walked—in "business" loafers and slacks and lightweight overcoat—the hill and stayed at our house for several days. Then he borrowed some boots and a parka from my husband, walked off the East Side and onto Route 195, made his way on foot through deep snow to the Massachusetts border, where miraculously the highway was clean to the pavement. A work crew picked Bill up and gave him a ride home.

I started walking into my office after a few days, but it was pretty dead there.

At the end of the week, we awoke to hear the "beep beep beep" of a National Guard bulldozer or backhoe about a mile north of us on Hope Street. All day it worked its way closer to us until finally, the pavement in front of our house was cleared. It took days more for the side streets to be opened up, but what jubilation when we could actually see Hope Street again!

On the other hand, I loved the utter quiet of that week without vehicles; it was lovely, and everyone was so nice.

Originally posted in the alt.rhode_island newsgroup, February 6, 2005.

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 20:14


San Diego, California

I remember this! I was born and raised in Newport, Rhode Island. After being married to my husband, who was in the Navy at the time, we lived in Navy Housing. My husband commuted from Newport to Boston, where he was stationed for a short while. The snow was so high that my husband was on his way trying to get home and his car broke down in the road and he was trying to hitch a ride back to Newport. No one would stop even if he did see a car passing. Finally he made it home, frozen to death [and] tired, to find he could not even find the front door. The snow had made a big drift to where he could not get in. This was a delight to the kids, though, because throughout Navy housing the kids (and parents, too) had to shovel their way out of the houses and so we had snow tunnels to get in and out of the house. This was way cool for the kids. My son (about 3 at the time) loved it. You could not get him to come indoors. We ended up getting a car bumper sticker and a certificate saying we survived the blizzard of '78. To this day, mention it to my husband and he shudders!

WPRO's Official Certificate of Survival, 1978
WPRO's "Official Certificate of Survival." (Courtesy Meg Patenaud).

Now we live in California. (You think '78 had anything to do with it?)

Received via email, May 6, 2007.

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 20:06


Providence, Rhode Island

Evening Bulletin front page, February 6, 1978.
The state may have shut down, and distribution may have been severely curtailed, but the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin both continued to publish every day. (Evening Bulletin, February 7, 1978).

I remember quite vividly I was working at Roger Williams Hospital as a ward secretary. I remember looking out the window when the snow started about 10am and I knew there was no way I'd be able to get home. Luckily my boyfriend at that time had a Volkswagen Rabbit which got through the snow quite well; plus he did not live too far away from the hospital, so I spent the night with him and his family—very lucky for me! I remember how everything was at a standstill. I did manage to walk back home to Smith Street [the next day], and it was weird seeing cars just stuck there, and numerous people out just walking and saying hello to each other. It was an event I will never forget, and I even did manage to walk to work that weekend and slept at the hospital in the Endoscopy Procedure Room! It was quite memorable and exciting.

Received via email, December 21, 2007.

Sun, 02/05/2023 - 19:57


Arlington, Massachusetts

Providence Journal blizzard book, 2022.
The Providence Journal's blizzard book contains all the reporting on the storm from the Journal and the Evening Bulletin, from its start on February 6 through February 19. The book was published in both soft and hardcover, and even today a large percentage of Rhode Island households (headed by persons of a certain age), have a copy. (April 28, 2022).

I was a fifth year student at RISD that year and was working on finishing up my degree. I was living in Fox Point on Ives Street at the time. I had been hearing on the radio about the storm, but didn't think anything of it. A snow storm in New England is not a big deal, but I do remember the weather forecaster mentioning that two storms were combining into one and he thought it would be a big one. It started to snow as I was walking back from classes. By the time I got back home, normally a twenty minute walk that took two hours because of the worsening conditions, it was snowing like crazy and it didn't stop for two days.

There was so much snow that all you could see of the cars parked on the street were their antennas, everything else was completely buried. A neighbor's dog got lost in the storm and ended up staying with us for a week, until he could get back to his owner. We built a snow house in the back yard that was two stories tall. I had a set of cross country skis and explored the city. Took lots of pictures of 195 and 95 with all the stuck traffic. The payloaders the National Guard were using to clear out the city were big enough to comfortably fit ten people in them—the [buckets] were ten feet high. On the Brown campus, people built the most amazing snow sculptures, including a huge sphinx with the head of George Washington (I have a picture someplace in my house). Since school was canceled and the city came to a standstill for two weeks, we stayed home and played lots of bridge, baked bread when our bread ran out, and generally had a good time with some friends.

We were lucky. We had just gotten an oil delivery the day before, had just gone to the grocery store, and did not lose our electricity. One friend lost his car during the blizzard and never found it again. My car was in a parking lot around the corner and I didn't see it again until March. Finally after two weeks, the National Guard got to our street. They would plow out the street until they found a stuck car, they would then tow the car away, and then plow some more. That is why it took over two weeks to clear the snow from the streets. There was so much snow dumped into the Providence River from the bridge, that it flooded. All in all a very memorable event. I still have a ProJo book they published a couple of months later about the storm with lots of pictures.

Received via email, July 25, 2010.

Thu, 04/28/2022 - 18:21


Bristol, Rhode Island

I remember getting dismissed from school (Guiteras [Elementary School, 35 Washington Street, Bristol]) early and we all went outside to wait for the bus. After an hour or so all other children were picked up by either parents or their buses, but not us. Still outside, but now getting cold, some of us turned to go back inside to get warm. When we attempted to we found that the teachers and the aids have locked the doors and left the school. Here we were, ten or so of us left outside in the cold with no bus. (We later found out that our bus broke down around the corner). We, the ten brave ones, led by the older kids, started trekking the 1.5 mile or so walk home. We all remember the snow barely covering our feet when we left. By the time we got to Adams Drug the snow was almost to our knees. It was a fun walk with everyone, but we were all a little scared and yes, very cold, but we continued. The older kids kept us all moving. After the 1.5 mile walk home most kids went into Adams Drug store to get warm. I decided to continue since my house was about 200 feet away. I remember turning the corner and looking towards my house, but I could not see it, but I just walked in the direction of where I thought my house was. As I started getting closer I remember the sound of snow blowers and shovels and then my neighbor appeared and asked where was I coming from. He helped me get to my house, where my parents were anxiously waiting for me to get home. I remember entering the house, and my father grabbed my chin and pulled a four-inch icicle from my face. I never thought that fire place would feel so good. I think I sat on the stove for four hours...

Received via email, January 8, 2015.

Top 10 RI snow storms as of 2022
Rhode Island's top ten snow storms as of January 2022. (WPRI, January 29, 2022).

Thu, 04/28/2022 - 18:11


Scituate, Rhode Island

37 years ago, today:

Day One
Carrying Route 28—Elmgrove Avenue—Sessions Street—Freeman Parkway

The snow is packing on the roads and I've only seen one plow truck all day. I finish the route, though, and start back to the office, but people are already abandoning their cars on Lloyd Avenue, the hill at Moses Brown. I put the tire chains on the '67 VW bus and make it to 201 Meeting Street. I figure I'll wait until the rush hour is over to start for home.

Vehicles trapped in snow, 1978
Trapped vehicles on Providence's East Side. (Alfredo Esparza, February 1978).

At 5pm we lock up the office and Dave Kenny says he will ride with me to the bus for Gaspee Point. We each take a key to the office. We get to Veteran's Square and things are now at a stand-still, so Dave walks to Exchange Place to catch his bus (he made the last bus to Warwick). I get as far as the railroad overpass and can see that things have completely stopped at the rotary in front of the State House. I leave the VW bus under the railroad bridge and, taking a blanket I had, head back to the shelter of the P.O. and Meeting street. Climbing college hill, the snow is now over my knees and by the time I get to Olive Street the drifts are chest deep. I let myself into the office and turn up the heat, then call my wife in Scituate to tell her I won't make it home tonight. I ask her to tell my brother that if he is out plowing with Butchy on the East Side to let me know and I'd try to connect with them. McDonald's is still open on Angell Street and I go get some "fast food."

I make myself a bed of clean Number 1 sacks and put out the lights. At midnight the phone rings and I hurry down to the workroom floor and answer it, maybe it is my brother. No, it is a woman from Everett Avenue complaining that she didn't get any mail and that it took her five hours to get home from Quonset. I stand there in my underwear and listen to her complain, apologize, and go back to my makeshift bed.

The storm rages outside and the Brown University students are hooting and hollering having a great time.

A few seconds of 8mm film from the Rhode Island Historical Society WJAR Collection:

Day Two
I'm awake at 5am I wash and dress as the phone begins to ring with people calling to say they can't make it to work. I have a little fun with them by replying, "Well I'm from Scituate and I'm here," without revealing that I had spent the night. I find an orange, make coffee, and there are a few oatmeal cereal samples around, so I have breakfast of sorts. A Brown University security guard has been on patrol all night and is cold and wet; Brown has reduced steam output at its plant to conserve fuel, dropping the temp in their buildings to 55. I let him into the lobby and he dries his gear on the radiators, thanking me for the hospitality. The Main Office calls and orders me to NOT let anyone into the building, but I consider my guest a special case. I get our snow shovel and work my way around from the side door to the front and shovel out the collection box and the driveway. During the night the students created an eight-foot snow ball, rolling it down Meeting Street hill, and it is now sitting across of our office. Also someone has stolen our flag during the night.

By 11am, Ralph A., the station manager, walks from Wayland Square, where he spent the night at a friend's, and we start to think about lunch and how we are going to get home. The Brown security guard tells us we can get a meal at the cafeteria in Andrews Hall, across from the P.O. later in the afternoon. We think it will be a "free-bie" but find it is $5 for a small portion of mediocre chicken supper, but better than nothing. That night I return to my pile of Number 1 sacks and Ralph sleeps in a chair in his office. Thus ends day two.

Day Three
We awaken to a bright, clear, cobalt blue sky and a day that promises to be full of sunshine as people emerge from forced hibernation. More oatmeal samples and coffee to start the day, and Ralph calls his brother at the Providence Police Station. Billy is a detective with the Juvenile Division and says if we can get to the station on Fountain Street he can get us a ride to their mother's house in the Manton section of the city. We start out shortly after 9am and walk in places or tracks of others to the bus tunnel off Thayer Street. We find the tunnel full of abandoned cars and a bus, but make our way to the bottom of College Hill, and I go check on my VW bus, which is OK except for a flat tire. I put a note under the windshield wiper hoping to avoid a towing that I'm sure would happen eventually, if I don't get back to move it.

At Police Headquarters things are as normal as they can be, and we wait for a car to take us up Atwells Avenue which is open one car wide of rutted snow. When we get to Valley Street I get out and start toward Olneyville Square. The square is a mess of abandoned cars and buses, with a track from National Guard vehicles meandering through it. A jeep passes me but doesn't bother to stop or ask me my business, nor does it offer the ride I had hoped for. The warmth of the sun has softened the track and it makes walking difficult as I travel west on Plainfield Street.

When I get to the foot of Neutaconkanut Hill, at Duxbury Street, I am surprised to see the road is plowed down to bare pavement and almost gutter to gutter wide! Easy walking now and the state truck passes me several times as he continues to push back the snow little by little. This guy should have gotten a medal for his efforts! At the Thornton cross road with Atwood Avenue I catch a short ride up the hill with my oilman and then back afoot to Route 116 and Waterman Drive in Scituate, all on bare pavement. My gang is glad to see me and I'm up for a sandwich and a nap, it is about 2:00 in the afternoon and I've traveled about fifteen miles. So ends day three.

Fred, a former Providence postal carrier, posted these accounts on Facebook on February 6, 7, and 8, 2015. They are reprinted here with his permission.

Wed, 02/09/2022 - 21:47