Is Connecticut in for another Blizzard of ’78? For those old enough to remember, there has been nothing like it since. The blizzard shut down the state of Connecticut and much of New England – roads, businesses, schools, just about everything. The legendary storm is not only vivid in memories – it has been the subject of a documentary on Connecticut Public Television, and has its own website, Blizzardof78.org, the work of amateur historian Matt Bowling.
The website recalls that “in Connecticut, Governor Ella Grasso was trying to drive from the Governor’s Mansion to the state storm center in downtown Hartford. She didn’t quite make it. Forced to abandon her car and walk the remaining blocks to the state armory, Grasso was not slow in taking the storm seriously. Thanks to (Massachusetts Governor Michael) Dukakis and Grasso, both state and National Guard troops would soon be on their way.”
Recalled former WTNH-TV newscaster Kenn Venit, “By Monday afternoon if you weren’t home, you weren’t going home.” More than two feet blanketed the state, with drifts as much as eight times that height.
Gov. Grasso shut down the state for three days (including the interstate highways), and President Jimmy Carter declared Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts federal disaster areas, recalled The Hartford Courant in a retrospective published a year ago. A contingent of 547 soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, flew in to help National Guard crews clean up the mess and help the region slowly re-start daily routines that had been abruptly halted.
Snow fell at a rate of 4 inches an hour at times during the storm, which lasted for 36 hours, according to published reports. The unusual duration of the 1978 Nor’easter was caused by a Canadian high pressure system, which forced the storm to loop east and then back toward the north. Thunder, lightning and hail was seen in the blizzard as it blanketed the Northeast with over three feet of snow, and the shoreline was battered by high tides and hurricane force winds.
Two years ago, in early February 2013, a sizable blizzard rolled into New England which threatened to usurp the Blizzard of ’78’s place in the recent record books. Despite heavy, sustained snowfall, it didn’t.
Videos from CPTV and NBC News (with reports from John Chancellor, David Brinkley, Brian Ross and Robert Hager) highlight the Blizzard of ’78 in Connecticut.