The New England Approach to Snowstorms: The Blizzard of 1978 and Nemo

On February 7, 1978, a blizzard dumped 27.1 inches of snow on Boston and equivalent amounts on other New England communities. New Englanders refer to that storm as the "Blizzard of '78." Since 1978, the storm has been the benchmark by which New Englanders measure all other snow storms. The "Blizzard of Blizzard1978 '78" left an indelible impression in the minds of New Englanders. Although a February 2005 storm brought 27.5 inches of snow, which surpassed the Blizzard of '78's accumulation by nearly a half an inch, the "Blizzard of '78" has remained the standard for snowfall.

The staying power of the '78 storm can be attributed to how it surprised and crippled the region. In 1978, regional weather forecasters had a reputation for inaccuracy. New Englanders listened with great skepticism to the predictions of possible 2-foot accumulations. When the storm failed to arrive on time, many people left their homes to go to work and run errands. When the storm arrived, it stranded many New Englanders at their jobs, on highways, and at home. It took Yankees more than a week to dig out.

The Blizzard of 1978 dropped an all-time record 27 inches of snow on Boston. Here, residents of Farragut Road in South Boston are digging out their cars from snowdrifts. (AP)

Since 1978, New Englanders look upon snow predictions with greater care. A big reason for their caution stems from frequent reminders of the infamous storm. Weather forecasters compare impending nor'easters with how they will stack-up against the "Blizzard of '78" and local newscasts provide follow-up segments with visual reminders of how the '78 storm paralyzed the region.

Today, nor'easter Nemo has many New Englanders reminiscing again about the "Blizzard of '78." Nemo threatens to replace the Blizzard's benchmark for regional snow fall by several inches; Boston and coastal New England are told to expect as much as 34 inches of snow, while other areas may receive 1-2 feet. Although Nemo promises to rival the famous blizzard's snowfall, it seems doubtful that it will mimic the severity of '78. The lessons learned 35 years ago have most New Englanders preparing for the worst. Even Yankees like myself, born after the historic storm, have taken its lessons to heart. This morning I went grocery shopping, did my laundry,checked the batteries in my emergency lantern, and bought a shovel to dig out my car. Tonight, I plan to prepare meals that my partner and I can eat cold if necessary. What are you doing to prepare for the "historic, crippling storm ahead?"