Blizzard Of ’78 Anniversary: Forecasting Guidance Was ‘Primitive’ 35 Years Ago
BOSTON (CBS) – The statistics compiled during the Blizzard of 1978 only partially tell the story.
27.1 inches of snow fell in Boston in a storm that lasted 32 hours and 40 minutes.
There were 92 mile an hour wind gusts reported in Chatham. Tides were at least 15 feet above normal levels.
54 people died in New England, more than half of them in Massachusetts.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mary Blake reports
While the blizzard paralyzed Massachusetts for six days, there are lighter recollections.
“I lost to Ed King that September in the primary, ” former Governor Mike Dukakis recalls.
“Bill Bulger used to say it was because I forced husbands and wives to stay in the house together for a week, and they got so mad at each other they took it out on me,” chuckles Dukakis.
Photos: Blizzard of 1978
When asked about lessons learned from the Blizzard of ’78, Dukakis says looking forward, we need to address climate change.
“We’d better be taking that very, very seriously, and acting on it, and at the same time, we have to get ready for more severe storms, much more severe flooding and we happen to be very vulnerable,” says Dukakis.
When asked about whether we’re better prepared now than we were in 1978, WBZ-TV meteorologist Barry Burbank says we’ve got more guidance now.
“We have almost too much guidance,” says Burbank.
” It’s overwhelming. Back then, it was primitive. We only had a couple of computer models to base our forecasts on and maybe that was better.”
He adds, “But I think the forecasts have improved over the years and I think we can be more confident a little farther out, but there are always going to be cases which are impossible to forecast, even in this day and age.”
MDC Communications Director Michael Goldman says the Blizzard of ’78 really impacted New England’s psyche.
“There was a time in Massachusetts when a weather forecaster who believed that, five days down the road, there might be a miniscule amount of snow, maybe, didn’t start a panic for milk and bread and water,” says Goldman.
“People psychologically to this day are trapped by that storm, and are afraid of being caught flat,” he adds.
On a different level, though, Goldman says the Blizzard of ’78 brought out the best in New Englanders.
He says he is most proud of the work he did during those six days and, in the years since the Blizzard, even meeting with Presidents at the White House doesn’t compare.
“Thousands of policemen, firemen, and city workers shoveled snow, took people out of their houses, saved lives, got people to the hospital and worked 17 or 18 hours a day,” Goldman said.
“It was one of those moments where the common wealth of talents came together to produce a massive common good.”