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.
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.