February weather -- 02/09/08

The Blizzard of '78 struck New England thirty years ago this week. It was a fierce storm, one that proved to be even stronger than forecasters had predicted. One problem, however, is that New England weather had always been difficult to predict accurately and so, when the storm didn't begin early in the morning, people scoffed at the forecast and went off to work. Then the storm struck -- with snow falling at the rate of one to two inches an hour (and which continued to fall at that rate until almost evening of the next day!) and winds picked up until it was a full-fledged blizzard. Factories and offices closed early and sent workers home -- and thousands of automobiles went forth on snow covered streets and highways -- and cars began to get stuck -- and traffic jams developed -- and some people ran out of gas -- and others despaired of ever escaping from the traffic jams and began to leave their cars in search of shelter.-- and now, with all of the cars stuck on the highways, it became impossible for the snow to be plowed. Interstate route 95 was closed through Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Thousands upon thousands of people were stranded, strangers taking refuge in restaurants and department stores. (Quahog.org has collected tales of the blizzard from a number of Rhode Islanders.)

I was still living in upstate New York in those days -- where we got hit by both Blizzards of '78. Yes, there were two. In late January a fierce blizzard struck Ohio and the Great Lakes area... and that storm dumped a foot or two of snow on Binghamton... and then a few days later we had another heavy winter storm... and then we were hit by the western edge of the New England blizzard. As I recall, we didn't have genuine blizzard conditions for more than a few hours, just vast amounts of snow... and by the time the February storm hit, we were running out of places to put the snow.

Nancy was living in the NY suburbs but working in Manhattan... The storm was heavy enough that commuter train service was stopped. Nancy was stuck in the city. Her father also worked in the city so they got together for dinner and then spent the night along with dozens of other stranded commuters in the office building where her father worked. The New York City public school system almost never closes because of snow storms, but it closed for the Blizzard of '78. In fact, to show you how unusual that was, New York City did not close schools again because of snow until the Blizzard of '96 -- eighteen years later!

We didn't have any blizzard conditions this week. However, we did have a variety of weather conditions. This photograph was taken around eight o'clock Wednesday morning. Fog. Thick fog that lasted at least until noon.
The grey clouds on Thursday were all up in the sky rather than hugging the ground. (This was taken in the afternoon, about quarter to three.)
Friday brought us blue skies and sunshine -- this picture was taken late in the afternoon -- but the morning had started with "mixed" precipitation (part rain, part snow, part sleet), and although we didn't accumulate any snow here, I heard that driving had been very sloppy just a few miles further inland.
Had a frosty start to the day today. This was my car a little before nine this morning -- all windows were coated with frost. The morning was bright... but then the sky clouded over and the afternoon brought light rain which occasionally changed to light snow (but no accumulation).

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