Sunday, January 08, 2017

'78 Blizzard

I dreamed last night about the Blizzard of '78 that shut down Boston for a week. It's anniversary will be Feb. 5-8.

Boston had already been hit with at least a foot of snow. We were still digging out when this new storm rushed up the coast. A Canadian front stopped it and kept it off shore picking up more and more water to turn into more and more snow.

During 33 hours a good 27 inches were dumped on the region.

Snow alone would have been bad, but there were hurricane winds leaving drifts up to the second story of some buildings.

Polaroid Credit Union, where I was Public Relations Director, closed early. The T couldn't go beyond Northeastern because the tracks were above ground. I walked by the Museum, Longwood and Brigham Circle stops before making it home. At the time I had a Scottish suede coat with a thick wool lining, weighing 34 pounds. It kept me warm.

I shared a house with Bill, Susan, my daughter Llara and our German Shepherd Nikki. They were already home. Bill worked at Harvard Medical across the street and Susan worked at Simmons, only a couple of blocks away. My daughter had had no school because of the previous storm.

We had just bought a house on Wigglesworth St. named for a Harvard specialist in syphyllis during the 1800s. A handyman's nightmare would be an understatement as we tried to turn the three flats into one house and undo the damage that had been done.

We were lucky.

People were stuck in their cars on 128, some dying.  A little boy froze to death a few feet from his house. These were tragedies that were sobering against our comfort.

We had electricity. Because we were located near several major hospitals, the electrics were underground.

We had food, heat, light.

Our normal lives were rushed: we worked full time in demanding jobs, two of us were taking evening courses, I was a single mother but Susan and Bill shared with parenting responsibilities.

Weekends were  spent in stripping paint, knocking down walls. The four of us and Nikki lived in the middle flat of two rooms while we worked on the third floor. The first floor was storage.

Suddenly, we no longer controlled by the clock as we stuffed too much into each day.

We couldn't leave the house.

Even Nikki couldn't go out back to go to the toilet. The doors were solid snow. She looked at us strangely when we put down papers but need overcame training.

We worked on the house, we caught up on school work, we read, we played countless games of gin rummy. Despite the howling winds (some clocked at 100 mph+), we were having a wonderful time.

Governor Dukasis closed down the area for the week so locals and the National Guard could dig out the roads.

We had pizza and wine with neighbors.

When one of the local grocery stores opened, the men checked on the older neighbors on what they needed. They walked on the carless streets.

Susan did have to go into work. There had been a flu outbreak at her school, and the nurses couldn't get into work. She was one of the few staff close enough to get there on foot.

Without cars, without trams with the deep, deep snow, there was a silence, a peace never heard before.

Slowly the city came back to life, but Llara's school was cancelled for another week. Susan, Bill and I were all going back to work. We walked to North Station and put my daughter on a train that was running to Reading, where she would stay with her father. It was her first trip alone. What a relief when I heard they connected safely.

The sea attacked the coastline. Motif No. 1 in Rockport which had been painted by hundreds of artists was washed away.

Houses were destroyed.

My father's boat the Grand Slam, a 38-foot cabin cruiser he had lovingly built, was swept out to the sea, even though it had been dry docked for the winter inland.

Slowly, life returned to normal. Motif No. 1 has been rebuilt. My dad decided not to rebuild his boat. The snow melted. Businesses reopened.

We went back to work and school.

Mother nature had won only temporarily but she had left us with a lesson, she will always win if she wants to.


Maria said...

I remember it! I remember the cars stuck on 128 and the flooding and washing away of houses in Revere(?) and other places. I also remember two men trying to walk through an open space on the other side of the street, and the snow up to their waists. I also remember digging out for days and the pile of snow at the end of the driveway I played on and that didn't melt until April. I also remember walking with my parents up Hyde Park Ave to Edward's Food Warehouse for food, and all the other people walking along the center of the street because there were no cars. What I don't remember were the deaths, though I imagine there must have been some, especially from carbon monoxide in the snowed-in cars.

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