Remembering February 5, 1978

If you were alive in New England in 1978, you remember today.

We’ve had big blizzards since. But nothing compares to the storm that struck 40 years ago today.

Snow, snow and more snow smothered the region. High winds and high tides caused flooding. It was a chaotic mess.

People abandoned their cars on I-95 — or stayed in them, hoping for rescue that never came. Governor Ella Grasso shut down the state. My friends who were still at Brown University took sled runs — out of 2nd floor dorm windows.

I was just starting my journalism career. My neighbor — Greens Farms Elementary School principal Jack Ready — was in charge of the town’s emergency shelter, located in the gym.

Around midnight, he called me to help. A police car picked me up. I spent the night fixing cots, preparing supplies, doing whatever I could.

The next morning, I walked — down the center of the barely plowed Post Road, because cars were not moving — to my new job in Brooks Corner: sports editor of the Westport News.

There was a paper to put out, and hardly anyone around to do it.

We did it.

If you’ve got memories of the ’78 blizzard, click “Comments” below.

And if you were around even earlier — for the 1930s-era blizzard, shown in the photos below — we’d really like to hear your story.

(Hat tip: Westport Historical Society)

27 responses to “Remembering February 5, 1978

  1. Ahhh!! February 6, 1978, while there was a blizzard going on and the entire town was shut down, there was one place open, The New Englander Motel and it’s restaurant. That is where my date and I headed for our first date. Lucky for me I had a four wheel drive vehicle. So while everyone looks back on that storm and all the angst it caused, I can look back on this day 40 years ago and remember it was the best date in my lifetime. The date that night was with my wife Sue, my wife, (lucky for me) for 39 plus years. We will celebrate our 40th anniversary in November 2018. There may have been a blizzard going on that night, but for me there was a full moon, the stars were shining and the memory of that night is as fresh as if it was yesterday, today!!

  2. Raymond Abramson

    Karen and I got married on the 12th, a few days later. Looked like the wedding might be postponed for a while but we didn’t end up having to change it. A few members of our wedding party were snowed in and couldn’t make it home for the wedding! I had just moved up to Burlington VT and drove home on the 10th iirc, there was just a dusting up north!. When I got back down here, there were huge piles of snow everywhere!!!

  3. Jonathan Maddock, Staples '73, FRBB Alumnus

    It was my 1st winter out of college, but still living at home with my parents in Westport. When I heard the dire forecast, I put chains on the AMC Pacer, drove to Vermont, and stayed at the vacation home that my dad, Larry Maddock, and his cousin, Bob Marks, had built. For the better part of two weeks I skied at Stratton Mountain, experiencing powder skiing for the fist time. Wonderful to be young and irresponsible.

  4. I had just moved in to my new basement apartment that morning and was in the process of trying to fill our waterbed. Needless to say, we could not sleep on it as the water was freezing cold! My boyfriend said it took him over 2 hours to drive from downtown Westport to our apartment in Bridgeport. I remember being told not to drive anywhere unless it was an emergency, so we walked to the corner store which was totally sold out of bread, milk etc…Unforgettable 🙂

  5. I had been back east visiting family in Westport. I believe I was aboard the last plane to lift off from LGA back to (relatively) warm and snow-free San Francisco. Thank god I made it!

  6. I was living in Westchester County then, and was unemployed. My sons were on a vacation with their father, so I drove up to Vermont and had a wonderful time skiing for a week. I moved to Westport in 1983.

  7. I lived up in Black Rock in Bridgeport with my boyfriend, Joe Marcino while working at Dameons in Westport with him. We’ll be also be married 40 years on 8/12/18!

  8. I was a senior at Staples….I had a 1967 Jeep with a flat head 4 cylinder and a fisher plow. I had a plow route of 25 driveways … the time I finished the route I had to start all over again. Snapped a pin in the stick shift and it would flop around, but I could still shift if I held it with my knee. Was up for 24 hours straight…
    Best part was coming home from school and finding checks in the mailbox.

    I remember we had a picture of my brother cross country skiing on I-95 (which was shut down). It was taken from the bridge on the Sherwood Island connector…

  9. A ‘little’ snow did not stop the Bostonian in me from driving from Westport on I-95 to work at my new job in Fairfield only to learn that the road had been closed, but not blocked, and the office was not open. I got back home safely.

  10. David Harrison

    ‘77-‘78 was the school year of my sabbatical leave—multi-month stints at General Foods, Remington Arms (a DuPont Company), IBM and Xerox.

    In February, I was enjoying my time at IBM. When Ella Grasso closed Connecticut highways, I could not drive to my assigned IBM office in White Plains. New Yorkers faced no such prohibitions.

    When I finally returned to the office—how many days later I do not remember— you cam imagine the ribbing I took from the hearty IBMers! But, I had had great times playing in the snow with my four and two year old sons.

  11. I was working at a recording studio in the Brill Building (better known as Tin Pan Alley, 1619 Broadway). In a bit of irony, Pheobe Snow was the artist. Due to the weather and Ms. Snow’s state of mind, I don’t think we ever put a machine into record. I ended up sleeping on a couch as Broadway was filled with snow and nothing was moving. For those that might be interested, the studio was “SoundMixers.”

  12. Linda (Pomerantz) Novis

    (Just a quick shout-out here of congrats & love to RB & Joe Marcino-from
    (A toast to all the great jazz music -great memories at Dameon’s and to you- both of whom put up with all the amazing characters in that place!.:-)
    I Also remember the Blizzard of ’78..(mostly my car troubles with driving my mom’s old ’67
    Buick LeSabre- getting stuck on snowy Westonroads ,en route to Westport!..:-)

  13. Barbara Sherburne '67

    I was a schoolteacher in Monroe Elementary School and Masuk High School when the blizzard hit. Thank God my roommate had a boyfriend living in the house as well. Without his shoveling skills, I’m not sure when we would have gotten out. I have some pretty good pictures, but they are not on the computer. I could mail them to you if you’d be interested in them, Dan. I’m glad you brought this up, February 5, 1978. Only four years later on February 5, 1982, I made a phone call to a George Arndt in the Pittsburgh area, and found out he was my brother. It’s a long story, but in May 1986, all seven siblings and our mom were reunited for the first time, 36 years ago today!

  14. Cross country skiing down Easton Rd!

  15. I was in my 5th year teaching at Coleytown Jr H S. Living on N Pasture, I bundled up and walked —yes, center of the road!—down North, across Post Rd to Waldbaum’s. Honestly do not remember if we really need staples or if I just wanted to trailblaze.

    And I did walk home.

  16. Stephanie Ross

    We had lived in our house since June. The house was on the Duck Pond at Saugatuck Ave. and Duck Pond Road. The pond was frozen solid from the past few days of freezing temperatures. There was some talk about possible flooding but being landlubbers and former city dwellers we had no idea what that meant. None of our neighbors were home. We heard that the high tide was going to be around 10PM. We were down in our basement looking for seepage-none. All of sudden we heard a loud crack and the sound of rushing water. We ran up to the first floor and saw that the pond water had broken through the pond ice and was surrounding our house. It filled our garage and basement with 4 feet of water within 15 minutes, covering our cars up to their hoods and in the basement the boiler motor. I called the police who told me that the worst was over, and they would send a truck to get us out. We thought it was too dangerous to be in a house where the water was close to the circuit breakers and where there was no heat, with two young children. We each threw a set of clothes and necessary sundries into a bag and went to a high spot next to the driveway where the very high Civil Defence rescue truck picked us up and took us to the shelter at Greens Farms School. Despite the fact that the roads were closed our good friends Bob and Lois came and took us to their home. Having to evacuate one’s home is devastating. One never forgets what it feels like and tries to help others who are experiencing similar isses as best as one is able. Many thanks to our first responders and our friends!

  17. Funny thing about memories of big weather events of our youth – often turns out they weren’t the “snowiest blizzard” after all. I remember the ‘78 blizzard quite well as “the” major snow event of my youth, but truth be told we got less than 20 inches of snow (17.5 in Central Park). Compare that to the snowfall totals for the snowstorm that we had just 2 years ago on January 24-25, where we got around 28 inches of snow – and yet we all think of the ‘78 storm as the big one!

  18. Roberta Tager

    Imagine this; My husband was out of state taking medical board exam…I was up on our hill with 3 small children. Vincent Rizzolo was in the process of finishing our basement… he drove over…looked up at our house…parked his truck, took out his shovel and started his snow removal. When he came up I thanked him profusely and he responded…”if not for my shoveling, I would not be able to work today. That was Vincent of .Norwalk…great person who did great work 💙💕💥💥💥.

    Sent from my iPhone Bobbi


  19. Bobbi Essagof

    I was a senior in high school on Long Island. School was closed for a week and we walked on all the major roads as there wasn’t a car in sight anywhere! Funny how my memory was NO SCHOOL!!

  20. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Lost power for what seemed like forever. Looked outside and the main power cable was torn off the house. Lived by the fireplace. Westport always had great public works/highway department and they rose to the occasion as always- In Cincinnati where I am now, however 3 inches is Armageddon.

  21. Nancy Powers Conklin

    My parents were around in the 1930s but I never heard them talk about that particular blizzard. Now, in February of 1978, on the 6th, my husband and I were trying to get to JFK airport for a flight to the Bahamas. We were the last flight out of JFK before they closed the airport for at least two days. It was so cold in the Bahamas that we were unable to even swim. We really felt like we were missing all the “fun” back in CT!

  22. Mary Cookman Schmerker SHS '58

    I remember my dad talking about the 1930’s era Blizzard. I have no idea why I think it was 1936 but I do remember him talking about it and he claimed that he and his friend Eli Raymond drove all the way from Compo to Cockoene Island. I think that it was that same storm, before my parents met or were dating that caused my mother’s mother to walk from their Charcoal Hill home to the Saugatuck Congregational church to play the organ for Sunday services. (The tale did not include whether or not the services were held that Sunday.)