Blizzard of 1978 by
(11 Stories)

Prompted By Snowy Days

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Some of our friends here are classmates, so they may have already shared their stories…

In the Spring of 1978, I was a student at Harvard Business School, commuting to the campus in Boston (right – not Cambridge!) from our house in Billerica, Massachusetts. On this Monday, there was a serious snow storm forecast. This storm turned out to be the Perfect Storm of the book, where two storms joined and stoped over Massachusetts Bay. It brought hurricane-force winds and tons of snow.

I drove into class as usual on Monday morning. On our break between classes mid-morning, I went out to my car and listened to the updated forecast on the radio – no cells phone then, never mind smart phones! It had gotten much worse, and the snow started falling as I was out in the car. I made my decision, went back inside and told my classmates that I was going home, and set out. The snow came down so hard and fast that the normal 35- to 40-minute drive to Billerica took four hours. During the drive, I could not call my wife to update her on my plan and progress, unless I stopped at a pay phone, which didn’t seem prudent!

It snowed all night. When we went to let the dog out upon arising in the morning, the storm door out of the kitchen, at the top of a 5-step stoop, was snowed-in to its top! Solid white!! I was able to muscle the door out just enough to make an open wedge just big enough to stand in. Then I took the snow shovel and, started over my head, dig a hole to the bottom of the stoop. This took a hour of frozen work. The dog then (gratefully?) went down to the ground, looked up at About ten feet of snow, and relieved himself.

Monday, as the snow continued, the town first sent a pick-up truck to plow our streets. It made one pass and disappeared. It continued to snow all day. The town then sent a dump truck with a plow. It literally dropped its transmission on the road right in front of our house. The next day the town sent a front-end loader, which took most of the day to clear a path so they could remove the dump truck.

Tuesday morning, after the snow had stopped, we learned that Billerica had received a full four feet of snow – the most of any town in Eastern Mass. The Governor declared a total state of emergency, which closed Harvard University for the first time since its founding in 1636! Emergency services were delivering prescriptions and supplies to emergency cases as the area gradually plowed out. Many houses in beach towns were blown into the ocean, and a number of fatalities occurred. There was no place to put all of the snow, so much was dumped in the ocean.

Digging out four feet of snow off our double driveway looked impossible, but all of the men in the neighborhood ganged-up with a couple of men who had big snow blowers and we dug everybody out as a team. That took two full days. By Thursday, the emergency was loosened so you could take essential trips, but only within your own town’s borders. On Friday, limited travel was opened up. That evening, I was able to drive on almost empty roads to Maine (which got almost no snow!) for my weekend Navy Reserve drill.

How’s that for a whopper of a snow story?

Oh – the pile of snow on our front yard from plowing the corner intersection was so high it didn’t melt away until MAY!




Profile photo of Joe Worth Joe Worth

Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Joe, this story really brings that blizzard to life, with your amazing details, as well as that featured image of the highway. Four hours to Billerica (glad you decided to leave school before your second class)! Snow up to the top of your kitchen door! Shoveling out an opening for your dog by digging over your head! Then a full two days to dig out the driveway!

    You might want to check out Jonathan’s story, as well as the first 3 paragraphs of Betsy’s (which is on page 2 of this website) for other perspectives on the blizzard of ’78.

  2. Marian says:

    OMG, Joe, that’s a dramatic snow story, even for Massachusetts. Despite the four-hour drive, I’m glad you made the decision to go home. And the snow not melting till May? Yeow, makes me glad I live in California now.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    That is indeed a whopper of a snow story, Joe. We had some bad snow storms in Chicago in 78, but nothing close to what you experienced. Great image of the cars trying to exit, or more likely abandoned.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    As Suzy mentions, I, too was living in the Boston area during that storm, Joe. In fact, my husband was in grad school at Harvard, but we lived far west in Acton and I worked in Waltham. At noon we didn’t have one flake of snow yet, so I waited until around 2pm to start my drive – big mistake! You can read about my drive home (we lived in a condominium complex called Nagog Woods at that time; almost in Littleton, so parked outside, but didn’t have to shovel any of the outside spaces – just get the snow off our own cars, and no pets to worry about). We weren’t going anywhere, so didn’t worry about it for days.

    Amazing details about digging out the little alcove for your poor dog, the trials of getting your street plowed and the group efforts of neighbors going door to door, digging everyone out. That’s what neighbors are for!

  5. Joe, I was in Dorchester during those days. Will never forget it! I am glad you weren’t one of the ones who had to abandon your vehicle on 128, as thousands did.

  6. Powerful dame, that Mother Nature!
    It was bad in New York too, and to the delight of students (and teachers too I must confess!) schools were closed for 3 or 4 days!

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