Feb 6, 1978 - Feb 7, 1978

The Blizzard of '78

U.S. National Archives

The Blizzard of '78 hit New England like a ton of bricks. In a region where inclement weather is a regular occurrence, this storm still stands out in the minds of locals as the most memorable, and most destructive storm in living memory.

On February 6, 1978, no one was alarmed as snow started to fall around 7:13 am. New Englanders had already had a rough winter; a previous storm had dumped 21 inches of snow on Massachusetts just 2 weeks earlier. Residents did not pay attention to forecasters when they said another storm was on the way.

Satellite Image of the Storm, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979-, 1978-02-08, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
A satellite image shows the storm as it was bearing down on the New England coast.
House Split in Half by Storm Damage in Scituate, Massachusetts, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 6/16/1979- (Most Recent), 1978-02, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives

Over the next 32 hours, four feet of snow and hurricane force winds wreaked havoc in New England. Massachusetts and its coastal towns were some of the hardest hit areas.

Damage in Brant Rock, MA, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979-, 1978-02-12, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
Wall of Sandbags next to damaged houses and debris near beach in Gunrock, MA, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England., 1978-02-15, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
Two men survey the damage to homes and seawalls at Gun Rock Beach in Hull, MA. Sandbags were set up in an attempt to stop any further damage from the high tides.

On Massachusetts' South Shore, many coastal homes were built only feet from the ocean. The proximity to sea level lead to the destruction of thousands of homes, piers and boardwalks.

Partially collapsed pier with boardwalk shops, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979-, 1978-02-12, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
Shattered Pier in Scituate, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979-, 1978-02, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
View of damaged house, debris, and wall of sandbags seen from beach after the Blizzard of 1978, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England., 1978-02-15, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
View of damaged house, debris, and wall of sandbags seen from beach after the Blizzard of 1978, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England., 1978-02-15, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
This picture, taken in Scituate, Massachusetts, shows a completely destroyed sea wall. Wave surges caused by the blizzard's hurricane force winds decimated homes and seawalls all over the South Shore.

Homes were not the only pieces of property to be damaged by the storm. Countless cars and boats were buried by snow, and for those along the coast, swallowed up by the sea and shore.

Car buried on beach in Scituate, MA, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979-, 1978-02, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
Cars Covered in Snow in Front of House from Blizzard of 1978 New England, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979-, 1978-02-10, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
Needham Route 128, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 6/16/1979-, 1978-02, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
This image, one of the most iconic from the Blizzard of '78, shows cars buried in snow on Route 128 in Needham, MA. The majority of New Englanders did not anticipate the magnitude of the storm and therefore decided to go into work or school on February 6. The lack of preparedness and the sudden onslaught of heavy snow and winds caused nearly 3,000 cars and 500 trucks to be abandoned on the roads. The National Guard would be called in to help dig out cars once the storm had subsided.
Army truck parked by damaged pavilion at Revere Beach, MA, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979, 1978-02-10, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
Tank in town, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979-, 1978-02, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives

United States National Guard trucks and tanks are seen here assisting with the post-blizzard clean up.

Snow Removal on Ash Street in Brockton, MA, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979-, 1978-02-13, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives

Once the storm had passed, it took six days for National Guard troops to clear the roads. In Massachusetts, Governor Michael Dukakis declared a state of emergency and all roads were closed, except for emergency travel. Governor Ella T. Grasso of Connecticut did the same.

Front Loader Loading Snow into a Dump Truck during Cleanup Efforts, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979-, 1978-02-13, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives

Front loaders were used to load massive piles of snow into dump trucks during the 6 day cleanup effort

A Bulldozer Clears Away Rocks that were Swept Ashore by the Blizzard, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979-, 1978-02, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives
Bulldozers were used to clear rocks that had been swept ashore and over the streets by the blizzard.
Pamphlet Describing Cleanup Efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England. 6/14/1979-, 1978-02-18, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers greatly contributed to the cleanup efforts after the blizzard. To the left is an image of the report by the Corps describing the actions taken and the communities aided.

Chunks of Snow on Beach from the Blizzard of 1978, Department of Defense. Department of the Army. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. North Atlantic Division. U.S. Army Engineer District, New England, 1978-02-16, From the collection of: U.S. National Archives

Nearly 10,000 people were forced from their homes. Approximately 100 people were killed and 4,500 injured as a result of the storm. The Blizzard of '78 caused nearly $1 billion in damage.

Credits: Story

Curator — Christina DeBenedictis

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not represent the views of the institutions whose collections include the featured works or of Google Arts & Culture.
Google apps