February 6, 2003

BLIZZARD OF '78 - Blizzard revisited: Hull couple give a day-by-day account of dealing with disaster

Margie and Gil Peters of Hull recall that finding firewood to heat their home was a big concern during the Blizzard of '78.

By Gil and Margie Peters

When the snow started to fall, Gil Peters was at work in Boston as a reporter for United Press  international. His wife, Margie, was at home in Hull, where she had just seen their son, Shawn, off to school. Little did the Peterses know that they, like tens of thousands of other South Shore residents, were to become survivors of one of the most devastating storms ever to hit the region. At the time, they were sharing their home on K Street with another family, Les and Nancy Sims and their daughter, Jennifer. The following is an account written for The Patriot Ledger by Gil and Margie Peters about what they remember on the 25th anniversary of the Blizzard of '78.

HULL - The inhabitants of Hull became isolated from the rest of the South Shore for much of the storm and its immediate aftermath. Looking back, our tasks were simple but necessary: stay put, keep warm and keep shoveling. But there were some pretty frantic and scary moments.

Monday, Feb. 6

The morning started normally enough. Nancy and I kissed our husbands goodbye and walked our kids to the bus stop at the corner of K Street and Central Avenue. Watching the morning news, Nancy jumped up and insisted that we immediately go shopping to prepare for a substantial snowstorm expected later that afternoon.
It seemed as if they were giving food away at the Purity Supreme on Route 3A. People and wagons clogged the aisles and everybody had that same ''deer-caught-in-the-headlights'' look in their eyes. We'd just had two feet of snow the week before. Now, people said, we could get another foot. Or more.
We bought 15 bags of staples: milk, toilet paper and candles. Lots of candles.
The phone was ringing when I raced into the kitchen with an armload of bundles. It was the Jacobs School secretary. The snow had arrived ahead of schedule, and the ocean seemed to be coming in hard and strong, so school was closing early. Our son, Shawn, 6, and Nancy and Les' daughter, Jennifer, 7, would be dropped off in half an hour.
We didn't walk home from the school bus stop. We flew. The east wind was strong enough to lift us and our children off our feet. We picked up our children and used them as ballast as the gusts pushed us up our street.
Around 2:30 p.m., Les called from his office in Lexington to say he was heading home. It was snowing hard, so it might take him a couple of hours, he said. He finally walked in the door after 7 with tales of dodging dead cars all along Route 128 and of an ocean wave cresting over the hood of his car as he drove past Jake's Restaurant on the bay.

I was oblivious to the gathering storm as I busied myself at work. Margie had called several times through the afternoon with storm updates from the home front, which I chose to ignore. I was even blasé enough to believe I could go from my downtown office and run an errand in Brighton before driving my Volkswagen Beetle home. By the time I left Brighton, it was 6:30 and the snow was flying sideways.

When Les walked in, he found us in our first minutes without electricity and heat. The room was illuminated with the candles Nancy and I purchased that morning.
We were making a feeble attempt at starting a fire in the living room fireplace, rolling up sheets of newspaper to stoke the sputtering flames. Les, a former Marine, swung into action, fixing our flagging fire and issuing orders like a drill sergeant: ''We'll set up base camp here. You, get blankets! You, masking tape! You, transistor radio! From what I've seen out there, the electricity's gonna be out for a good couple of hours.''

The short version of my five-hour trek home was that I tried three different routes out of Quincy Center. There were no cell phones then, so I was forced to call Margie from an outdoor pay phone with a progress report and headed south on Route 3A. A short time later, I came to a sliding halt at the end of a half-mile queue of cars unable to make the grade past the Mister (now Dunkin') Donut in East Weymouth. I summed up the hopelessness of the situation, made a U-turn back to Quincy Center, called home again and mushed up Route 53. This time, the blockage was behind the Fore River Shipyard, where a bus was sprawled across the roadway.

We were encamped in the living room. Heavy blankets over the windows and archway sealed the room and kept it cozy. By 9 p.m., the kids were asleep, curled up on a mattress in the corner. The last call from Gil was more than an hour ago. I was scared. The transistor radio reported that our town was flooded: ocean and bay had indeed met and become one. The Howard Johnson's restaurant along the Paragon Park strip was a pile of rubble. It appeared that no one was getting into Hull tonight.

I was determined to get home. After a third call home, I embarked on a wild ride up Furnace Brook Parkway to the top of the Southeast Expressway, followed by a harrowing, blinding drive down Route 3 south. Another hour later I plowed down Route 228, paddle-wheeled through receding waters on the Weir River Bridge and made an amphibious landing in front of my house at 11:20 p.m. Mine must have been the last vehicle entering town that night.

Tuesday, Feb. 7

This was a day for taking stock and listening to the lone radio station audible on the transistor, WBZ.
We had food and a working gas stove, thank God. What we lacked was sufficient firewood.
My one keen recollection of that worrisome day was my pre-dawn forage onto the porch for wood in the still-driving snow. I dug out an armload of wood and turned toward the back door, only to have the wind slam it shut in my face. Since no one else was awake, I had no choice but to trudge in my sneakers through waist-deep snow around to the front door and ring the bell to be let in.

I made pancakes for breakfast, turned on the oven to heat the kitchen and looked out the window in the dim morning light. It was still snowing! The 4-foot-high back fence had been buried. And a prairie of white extended from the side of our house and across the street. There was not a car to be seen. The drifts up to the bay were more than 5 feet high and growing.
I suddenly felt helpless. All I could do was keep flipping pancakes and keep the kids from flipping out.
And so, after playing a thousand games of Candy Land and Sorry, Nancy and I gave in and taught Shawn and Jennifer how to play Monopoly.

The rest of the morning was spent in planning sessions, such as: ''Should we drain the pipes so they don't freeze?'' and ''When we run out of firewood, which furniture should we burn first?'' We were feeling a little alone and a little more afraid.
Yet, when it finally stopped snowing and blowing in the early afternoon, I somehow felt sad. I can't explain it. While the blizzard isolated us, it also insulated us, and the forced togetherness felt so good, so safe.

Shoveling. Shoveling. Shoveling. Thank God it was the guys out there and not me. I was inside warming up food for our neighbors who lived in modern, post-Korean War bungalows with state-of-the-art electric appliances.
A friend living two streets away on the ocean side called and said he was coming over now that the snow had stopped. He never made it. He said Nantasket Avenue was a rolling river of knee-deep slush, sand and seawater. Could the storm have been worse than we thought?

Under a finally blue sky, Les and I began shoveling. The reports said 22 to 30 inches of snow had fallen, so where did these 6-foot mountains come from?
As we dug toward the street, we saw our neighbors for the first time since the storm had started. They told their own stories of hardship, along with second- and third-hand news and misinformation.
They told us of locals being evacuated from their homes, some by boat, and that up to 700 people were sheltered in the Memorial School just around the corner. One neighbor reported that tidewaters had heavily damaged the Gunrock section of town, along the Cohasset border. Another reported hearing that Hull was or was going to be declared a federal disaster area, that the National Guard either had arrived or was heading to town, and that we already were or were about to be ruled under martial law. Like carrier pigeons, we delivered every word we heard back to our shut-ins by the fire.

So, the worst was over and we really got out lucky. Our home was intact and we were still in it. To celebrate, I decided to whip up a batch of pizza. The kids helped me make the crust, and a few hours later we were eating ''disaster pizza'' in our oven-warm kitchen.
Our friend on the beach side called saying the beach was littered with lobster, crabs and all kinds of clams and that he was preparing a mid-winter clambake in his fireplace.
Our firewood supply was nearly exhausted, but that night we snuggled by the fire, sang silly camp songs and for a while didn't care if the heat and lights ever came on.

Wednesday, Feb. 8

Les and I had dug out my Volkswagen and piloted it across slushy Nantasket Avenue to raid the woodshed of friends who were stranded in Antigua because of the blizzard.
The task was formidable, since the shed was buried under the heavy snow. Working steadily, we eventually stuffed that yellow Bug with 100 pieces of wood.

The electricity had now been out for 40-plus hours. The kids hadn't been out in days. What was taking the guys so long getting firewood? Nerves were frayed and tempers were short.
Adding to the stress was the presence of several neighbors who were taking refuge in our kitchen. One couple was in the middle of a clearly ongoing domestic argument.
Where were the guys?

Les and I came back with the firewood to a less-than-rousing reception. Our wives could not believe it had taken us three hours to drive two blocks. ''You think it's so easy going out there?'' I asked. ''Why don't you try walking to the beach and see for yourselves.''
The girls gladly took off like a shot, leaving us with the kids to unload our bounty. Somewhere in this process, a log gouged a rip in the car's roof liner, leaving me with a constant reminder of that day for years afterwards.

Beach Avenue was - gone. There were the houses and the sand and hunks of asphalt, but no road. There were heaving masses of concrete rubble where 2-foot high sea walls had stood since before my childhood.
The side streets along Manomet and Samoset avenues were flooded with what looked like chunky applesauce, a mix of snow, ice and seawater.
Outside the Bermaken Hotel on Revere Street, a car was perfectly parallel parked, except for the fact it upside-down.
The porch roof of a house on Beach Avenue and V Street had collapsed, taking out the entire porch.
The word ''disaster'' suddenly became all too real.

Aftermath Memories Thursday, Feb. 9 - Monday, Feb. 13

Les and I were shoveling (what else) around 1 p.m. Thursday when we heard screams from inside, followed by the rest of the family at the door, shouting: ''It's on, it's on! We've got lights!'' And heat. Finally, after 65 hours.
The next day, I was invited, in my capacity as a UPI reporter, to tour the town in an Army truck with U.S. Sen. Ed Brooke, who had been flown in by helicopter to survey the damage.
The Kenberma section was a series of ponds. Cars were submerged in seawater everywhere. And reports of damage at Gunrock had been understated. Two houses had been swept off their foundations and right into Strait's Pond across the road. Many homes left standing were bludgeoned beyond repair. Senator Brooke called the scene a ''war-torn area.''

The National Guard had indeed arrived and brought with them a curfew. No one was to be out after 9 p.m. We obeyed that curfew until our friends, the ones with the deep, rich tans due to their enforced extended stay in Antigua, came home. We shared our ''war stories'' and they told us how difficult it was being stuck in paradise.
In July 1978, the Peterses moved to Los Angeles, where Margie, now 55, worked as a writer for television sitcoms, including ''The Facts of Life.'' They moved back to Hull in 1993 and now live on H Street and are actively involved in the town's No Place For Hate program. Gil Peters, 56, is a drug and alcohol counselor at Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain. Les Sims lives in Las Vegas. His wife, Nancy, died of cancer in 1999.

Copyright 2003 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Thursday, February 06, 2003

February 5, 2003

BLIZZARD OF '78: Museum assembles a display of devastation; More than 60 people donate items for blizzard exbibit

The Patriot Ledger

HULL - In the tradition of remembering the great storms of modern history, the Hull Lifesaving Museum will be filled with photos and anecdotes from the Blizzard of '78.

The museum, founded in the memory of legendary lifesaver Joshua James, considered the father of the Coast Guard, will open an exhibit Saturday to mark the 25th anniversary of the blizzard.

The museum's educator, Victoria Stevens, was only 3 when the paralyzing storm hit. Having gone through the multitude of photographs and newspaper clippings donated to the museum for the exhibit, she can understand why the blizzard left an indelible mark on people's memories.

''You see what you think is a big storm, like the one we had two weeks ago where we had 2 feet of water on the streets and in basements, and when you see what happened in '78, you say, 'My God, that was a storm to remember,''' Stevens said.

Two weeks ago, the museum held an open house and invited residents to bring photographs, newspaper clippings, diary entries, videotapes, home movies, slides and any other memorabilia they wanted to make available for use in the exhibit.

The exhibit, which will run until June, will include items brought in by more than 60 people.

Stevens said she has never encountered so much feeling while putting together an exhibit.

''The range of emotions that people have when they remember and tell their stories is amazing. Some people who lived in (Hull's) hills really didn't have the destruction and talked about the block parties and how much fun they had. Other people were losing their homes, and it was a real tragedy.''

The exhibit will open at 1 p.m. Saturday with a lecture and slide presentation by Christopher Haraden of Hull, who recently published ''Storm of the Century: The Great Northeast Blizzard of '78.''

A book signing will follow his presentation. Light refreshments will be served.

The museum's website, www.bostonharborheritage.org, has photos and stories from the exhibit, plus links to related sites.

A site created by Bruce E. Simons of Braintree has an enormous amount of blizzard information, including photos of the devastation in Hull and elsewhere, personal remembrances, and descriptions of the havoc the storm wrought in other states.

Simons' site, www.hullnantasket.homestead.com, has been operational for nearly two years,

The exhibit will be open during the museum's regular hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Admission is $2 for adults and $1.50 for seniors. People younger than 18 are admitted free.

Stevens said the museum will host several lectures during the exhibit's run. They will be announced at a later date.

L.E. Campenella may be reached at lcampenella@ledger.com.

Copyright 2003 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Ferbruary 4, 2003

BLIZZARD OF '78: Not just any old storm; School cooks reminisce about 10 days of feeding 
blizzard refugees. Joanne Fallon, left, and Lillian Willis look through a book that tells of the
Blizzard of '78's impact on Hull.                                   
By L.E. CAMPENELLA                                                                       
The Patriot Ledger                                                                       
HULL - When the telephone rang at 5:30 on the morning of Feb. 7, 1978,  Hull Memorial Middle
School head cook Lillian Willis didn't think much of it.                          
Willis and her husband, Richard, had gone to sleep the night before after hurricane-force winds
and 2 inches of snow per hour knocked out the electricity.                         
After 50 years in Hull, Willis shrugged it off. After all, losing power in a rough storm was nothing new.  Nestled on H Street, nearly a     mile from the ocean and protected from Hingham Bay's waves, Willis  was jolted out of sleep by the urgent voice of Deputy Fire Chief Walter Haley.    
''He yelled over the line and asked if I was the one who had the keys to the walk-in refrigerator at the school,'' Willis recalled. ''He        said, 'Get over here now or we're going to rip the doors off. We need milk for these kids.'''                              
Willis bowed her head against the skin-stinging snow and walked the three blocks to the school, where she had worked for 12 years.                                               
What normally was a five-minute walk took four times that long, and the sound of an oversized National Guard snowplow barely          visible over the 6- and 7-foot snowdrifts took Willis by surprise. 
  ''I knew then this wasn't just any old storm.''                                          
Arriving at the school, Willis was greeted by dozens of firefighters and police, and residents whose homes had been flooded,               knocked down or washed away.                     
Wet socks, shirts and coats were drying above the gas-fueled heaters in the school's kitchen.       
Joanne Fallon, Willis' ''right-hand gal'' in the kitchen for seven years, arrived shortly afterward from her home across the street from    the school.                               
Without television or batteries for a radio, Fallon, too, was unaware of the severity of  the storm damage until she saw the people        gathered in the school.                        
The two friends immediately began the first 36-hour leg of a 10-day tour of duty, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to more than        1,400 families and Army and emergency personnel who holed up in the school.
''We started with Campbell's soup,'' Willis said. ''It's the best thing for when you're cold and miserable.''                                                                                                
After that first meal, the two women surveyed what they had at hand: a variety of canned  vegetables and soup, pasta, tuna, a few       eggs, fresh fruit, a limited amount of bread, frozen chicken and most important, coffee.                                               
''We had to have coffee 24 hours a day,'' Fallon said. ''You can't have enough coffee.'' 
Seeing the cafeteria quickly filling with wet, tired, distraught and hungry families, they knew what they had wasn't going to last for      long.                                   
''It wasn't hordes at first, but the people just kept coming. It never stopped,'' Fallon said. ''At that time we only served lunch to about     200 or 300 kids (daily); we didn't  serve breakfast back then. We were serving meals for 700 and 800. We knew we had to get more       food.''                                                                             
There were special needs that needed to be met. Babies needed milk, diabetics needed orange juice or other sugar-laden items,        and one family was kosher.                      
A call went out to the handful of local citizens-band radio operators with their 4-wheel-drive vehicles.                                                                                                   
''We stripped all the other schools bare of whatever they had'' - even the coffee in the teachers' rooms,  Willis said.                                                            
Paper plates and cups were taken, but until they arrived, volunteers washed dishes to keep the food lines moving.                                                              
Working with what they had until other supplies were brought in, Willis and Fallon didn't stop to eat for two days.                                                                                                                       
''There was too much to do and too many people,'' Willis said.                           
Fallon, whose house did not have electricity or heat, said she was just glad it was still standing.                                                                                                        
After two days, Willis and Fallon took a break when volunteers arrived. One of them, cafeteria worker Mary MacNamara, walked         nearly two miles to help.                        
Willis and Fallon said their legs were swollen from all the standing they had done.      
''I don't know what went first, my voice or my legs,'' Willis said.                      
They napped for six or seven hours and, for the next eight days, continued serving the multitudes now living in classrooms and            corridors of the three-story school.             
Supplies came from in town and elsewhere. A Hingham bakery donated loads of Syrian bread.  Solo Market (now Riddle's                   Supermart) in Hull donated all types of meat, milk and bread. Another Hingham store donated all of its breakfast supplies.                             
After four days, Willis' shoes fell apart.                                               
''I held them together with elastics for a time,'' she said, but Fallon brought her to a room where donated  clothing had been                gathered for the people who had taken refuge in the school.                                                                                                                                     
Willis put on a different pair of shoes and went back to work.                           
Since 1978, both women have retired from the school's cafeteria, but the memories of  those 10 days remain vivid.                                                              
Willis and Fallon said because they were so busy getting supplies and serving meals, they  really didn't  witness much of the                destruction that the storm brought on their neighbors. 
''It's all like a fog,'' Fallon said. ''It's taken 25 years for us to find out what happened.''                                                                              
L.E. Campenella may be reached at lcampenella@ledger.com.                                
Copyright 2003 The Patriot Ledger                                                        
Transmitted Tuesday, February 04, 2003                                                   

February 1, 2003

BLIZZARD OF MEMORIES: Life-changing event brought fear, fun and a sense of self-sufficiency to survivors
The Patriot Ledger

The news was crowded with world events on Feb. 6, 1978, the morning the snow started falling. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was visiting President Carter in Washington for the first round of secret negotiations that would lead to the Camp David Accords for peace with Israel.
The United States and its Western European allies were worried about a buildup of Soviet forces in Eastern Europe. The Defense Department reported that America's all-volunteer military was costing billions more than the Vietnam-era draft.
But those headlines were soon pushed aside as New England and the South Shore were hit by the worst blizzard the region had ever seen - ''the real perfect storm,'' as veteran WCVB Channel 5 weatherman Harvey Leonard puts it.
It snowed for 36 hours. When the skies cleared and the hurricane gusts and pounding waves finally subsided two days later, Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut lay paralyzed under as much as 40 inches of snow.
The storm left at least 54 people dead across New England, including 29 in Massachusetts and five South Shore residents. Losses amounted to $1 billion statewide. Thousands of South Shore homes were destroyed or damaged.
Thousands of cars were abandoned in highway snow drifts. Schools and stores were closed for a week or more. The National Guard patrolled devastated areas.
Twenty-five years later, the Blizzard of '78 still holds its place as a life-changing event. For anyone who endured it, it's the ordeal they're telling their grandchildren about, and the emergency by which forecasters, residents and elected officials have measured all others since.
''Everybody I know remembers that blizzard the way they remember the Kennedy assassination,'' said Richard Cordingley of Weymouth, one of the commuters who was stranded on Route 128.
The blizzard of '78 changed the way the Massachusetts state government handles large-scale emergencies. It prompted the federal government to start buying out homeowners along the most disaster-prone shorelines, in an effort to minimize the damage from future storms.
It reshaped the shoreline from Hull to Cape Cod. And it permanently altered the way men and women of all ages react to the hint of a foreboding forecast.
Since '78, residents now rush to supermarkets as they never did before, to stock up on milk, bread, candles, batteries and other ''just in case'' supplies. For those who shivered and emptied their pantry shelves, that blizzard proved that you can never be sure just how bad things may turn out to be.

Monday: Warnings
Things still didn't look so ominous as Monday morning dawned. Most people weren't worried about having to manage anything much more difficult than the Jan. 20 snow.
Weymouth Civil Defense director Robert Deakin was among the few. He'd already called the town's selectmen at 7 a.m., to ask for permission to issue an emergency alert.
Selectmen Chairman William Barry Jr. was skeptical. ''I looked outside, and it's just cloudy,'' he told Deakin.
But Deakin persisted, and Barry now says he's glad he gave the go-ahead to Deakin, who died in 1986.
''Bob was right on the money,'' he said.
A few flakes were falling by the time Cordingley took the Southeast Expressway to his job as an electrician for the Boston Housing Authority. Across town, 24-year-old Mary Kenney was in her Weymouthport home, waiting out the final few days of her first pregnancy while her husband went to work in Boston. In Hull, Paul and Francine Townsend went about their usual household routine on Beach Avenue. The 30-year-olds had weathered past storms, and figured they would this time, too.
By noon, the National Weather Service issued a warning for coastal flooding, and advised against travelling on the roads. Leonard, then the recently-arrived WHDH Channel 7 weatherman, had been giving increasingly more serious forecasts since the previous Saturday, as had other Boston meteorologists. At midday Monday Leonard went on the air to tell his viewers that an all-out blizzard was on the way.
By 4 that afternoon, it was upon them. Increasingly heavy snow was falling inland. North and south of Boston, winds of 60 miles an hour and more were whipping tidal surges 10 to 30 feet over sea walls.
Around 8 p.m., Gov. Michael Dukakis declared a state of emergency from an impromptu setting - a studio at Boston radio station WHDH-FM, where he was on the air for his regular monthly appearance with talk-show host David Brudnoy.
''I can't remember who called in to tell me what was happening,'' Dukakis recalled. ''But we were able to get things moving that night.''
Following a disaster playbook prepared by his public safety secretary, Charles Barry, Dukakis also called out the National Guard.
Soon after Dukakis announced his order, a high tide reached its peak at 8:30 p.m. Driven by hurricane-force winds, the fierce surges crashed into houses along the shoreline. At exposed points such as Peggotty Beach in Scituate, the waves knocked homes off their foundations, tossed boats ashore and snapped utility poles like sticks.
In Hull, the water was rolling over sea walls and into nearby homes. Some of the Townsends' neighbors were already leaving. Paul's pregnant sister, who lived across town, also decided to leave. But the Townsends stayed. Their big frame house sat on a slight rise, so they were able to keep the water out by shoveling banks of snow.
There and elsewhere, police and firefighters helped thousands make their way to schools, churches and veterans' posts that had opened their doors in dozens of communities. In Scituate, meanwhile, two evacuees didn't make it to safety.
At Lighthouse Point, firefighters steered a boat through the water on Jericho Road to rescue Frances Lanzikos, her 5-year-old daughter Amy, and Edward and Alice Hart.
As the boat moved away, the waves broke through a sea wall and spun the boat around, spilling its passengers over the side. Firefighters pulled Frances and Alice back aboard, but couldn't hold on to Amy and Ed. Both drowned.
Miles away on Route 128, Cordingley had been trapped in his car for hours, along with a young stranger named Anna. Cordingley had left work in Boston about 4 that afternoon, and took a roundabout path from the Massachusetts Turnpike to avoid an accident on the Expressway. By 5 p.m., vehicles were at a crawl. Hundreds sat abandoned in the breakdown lanes. Cordingley could barely see the tail lights ahead of his station wagon.
Around 7 p.m., when the snow was falling at 2 inches an hour, he saw Anna standing by her stalled car. He offered her a ride home to Randolph, but the storm had brought all traffic to a standstill. Low on gas, with nothing to eat except cough drops, they were among the passengers stranded in some 5,000 cars and trucks that jammed the lanes along Routes 128 and 138 and Interstate 95. Cordingley kept himself and Anna warm by running his engine for a few minutes every hour.
Meanwhile, in Weymouthport, Mary Kenney sat in a chilly, dark house. She hadn't heard from her husband, and spray from nearby Fore River was cascading across the roof. There was a power outage and she did not have a battery-powered radio, ''so I had no clue that there was a blizzard,'' she said.

Tuesday: Emergency
As the sun rose Tuesday and the snow kept falling from dark gray skies, residents and local officials tried to survey the damage. Parts of Hull, Scituate and Marshfield were devastated. Whole towns had lost power. Except for National Guard jeeps and trucks and emergency vehicles, the streets were eerily quiet. The only other sound was the occasional whine of snowmobiles, which were pressed into service here and there to deliver medicine, shuttle patients to and from treatment and get hospital nurses to work.
Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut called the White House that morning, to ask President Carter to declare a federal emergency and dispatch U.S. troops and equipment for cleanup and snow removal.
Dukakis banned private driving, and urged everyone to ride the MBTA lines if they had to travel. He spoke on pooled TV broadcasts three times that day and the next, dressed every time in his trademark turtleneck sweaters.
At 10:30 a.m., surges from the second high tide of the storm overflowed battered sea walls, flooding more houses and streets, sending more people to shelters and friends' homes. Hours earlier, Hull firefighters had to plunge into the icy flood waters to battle a pre-dawn house blaze - first to connect their hoses to submerged hydrants, then to carry on their shoulders the trapped, terrified tenants to safety.
The Townsends lost power in their house, and their water pipes were frozen. They brought Francine's parents from next door, and invited friends and neighbors whose homes were no longer safe. By the next day they were sheltering three dozen people. Francine got her first good look at the damage that day, and she says the scene is as vivid now as it was then. ''It's the closest I will ever experience to wartime,'' she said.
All that day the waves smashed more houses in Hull, Scituate and Marshfield. On Route 128, Cordingley and Anna abandoned his car and hiked a mile to a Howard Johnson's. They got there around noon, jammed into the restaurant with dozens of other stranded commuters.
Cordingley bought handfuls of candy bars for him and Anna. That night the manager treated everyone to hamburgers, the first meal Cordingley had had since lunch so long ago, the day before.

Wednesday: Postcard skies
Residents, refugees and exhausted emergency crews awoke to a quiet seacoast and partly-cloudy, sunlit skies that cast a postcard glow on the devastation. Sections of Hull and Scituate were deserted. From the shoreline to Sharon, highways were eerily empty - their intersections blocked by National Guard troops with rifles. In every town, the scrape of sleds and toboggans mixed in the crisp air with the chug of front-end loaders and the whine of chain saws and snowmobiles.
Stores, gas stations, schools and post offices were closed. Some communities set curfews, in part to squelch a minor wave of looting.
Away from the battered coast, people found themselves enjoying the holiday that nature had so violently created. ''People were out on the major streets with children on sleds,'' former Quincy Mayor Arthur Tobin recalled. ''Families were out walking arm in arm. It was like a picture out of the 18th century.''
For all of those moments, the cleanup and recovery had barely begun.
Dukakis made a helicopter inspection that afternoon of the South Shore's coastal damage and he says the scene is still a vivid memory. ''I'll never forget flying over, and it was as if somebody had taken those houses and crushed them like matchboxes,'' he said. ''I've never seen anything like it.''
The storm's dangers weren't done, either. In Hanson, 15-year-old Donna Lee Porter was electrocuted when she stepped on a snow-covered, 8,000-volt live wire as she walked with friends from a shopping center.
In Norwood that morning, a snowplow operator made a grim discovery. As he cleared snow from an I-95 access road, he found two women sitting dead in their car.
Marie Jennings and Claire Young were both from Canton. Jennings had taken Young to her cancer treatment at Pondville Hospital in Norfolk early Monday afternoon, and got stuck in a snowdrift on the access road on the way home. They didn't know that snow had clogged the car's tail pipe, and died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Cordingley was hitching rides home by that time, first to Randolph, where he said farewell to Anna, then home to Weymouth with an off-duty police officer.
''You're home early,'' his wife joked, before she gave him a relieved hug. Cordingley never heard from Anna again after they parted paths.
In Hull, the Townsends and their guests settled into a communal life filled with impromptu pleasures and frictions.
In Weymouthport Mary Kenney's maternity emergency was just beginning. Her contractions started that morning. Her husband had finally reached home, and they called 911 early that afternoon. With all the roads impassable or closed, it looked like a helicopter was their only option. One of the town's front-end loaders began clearing a nearby basketball court. When it became clear the court wasn't wide enough for a landing, a neighbor pulled Kenney part of the way up Fort Point Road on a toboggan, to a minivan.
The van didn't get far on the snow-packed street. As her contractions intensified, she and her husband walked down to the beach, to a waiting police cruiser. With no space to turn around, the officer backed his car a half-mile up the street to the Route 3A intersection, where an ambulance was waiting.
Kenney was scheduled for delivery at a Boston hospital, but that was too far if it was even possible. Instead, the ambulance took her on a bumpy, half-hour trip to South Shore Hospital in Weymouth. Her son Kristopher was born 80 minutes after she arrived. For all her cold, anxious hours, Kenney has happy memories of the blizzard that was such a nightmare for her neighbors and so many others.

Thursday: ''Back to normal''
Kenney and everyone else spent the next few weeks patching their lives and homes back together.
Most area stores and gas stations reopened that day, despite a shortage of milk, bread and other staples. Dukakis lifted a Boston-area travel ban Feb. 12. South Shore towns eased their travel bans over the next couple of days.
Mail deliveries resumed on Feb. 13, a week after the snow started falling. Most schools reopened a week later, though students didn't return to a few, including Scituate, until the end of the month.
Recovery took a lot longer in Hull. The Townsends' platoon of guests stayed on for two weeks. Dukakis later gave them a state proclamation for their hospitality.
The day after the storm, their household feasted on hundreds of lobsters and clams that had been blown onto the beach. But life in the shattered town was hard. Some residents couldn't reoccupy their homes for three months.
For Townsend, one of the few bright spots was the arrival of hundreds of shiny, new 1978-model cars to streets and driveways across the town early that spring. ''We had to buy new ones,'' she said. ''All our old ones were ruined.''
The blizzard turned the Townsends and everyone else who lived through it into winter-war veterans. Some never rebuilt their seaside homes. Others did, though they still get a case of nerves if the weather looks threatening enough.
Many more who've grown into adulthood and retirement confess to having fond memories from those days - not for the blizzard itself, but for the camaraderie and unselfishness it inspired among people who had been near-strangers to each other.
''Neighbors got to know neighbors,'' Cordingley said, with a wistful tinge. ''People would come up on sleds, bringing milk. It was like time stopped.''  Then, he said, ''it went back to normal.''

1. Labor Day Hurricane, Florida, 1935.
2. Tornado Super Outbreak, Midwest and South, 1974.
3. Winter Superstorm, Eastern U.S., 1993.
4. Galveston Hurricane, Texas, 1900.
5. Great New England Hurricane, 1938.
6. Hurricane Camille, Gulf of Mexico, 1969.
7. Tri-State Tornado, Midwest, 1925.
8. Great Appalachian Storm, South, 1950.
9. Ash Wednesday Storm, Eastern U.S., 1962.
10. Hurricanes Agnes and Andrew, 1972 and 1992.
Honorable mention: New England Blizzard, 1978.

Source: The Weather Channel

Lane Lambert may be reached at llambert@ledger.com.
Copyright 2003 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Saturday, February 01, 2003

The Boston Herald American - February 12, 1978
On the page you will find copies of stories from 1978 as well as from the 25th anniversary of the Blizzard
Blizzard of 78 media page
This page was last updated on: March 29, 2007
The Patriot Ledger - 25th Anniversary series
February 3, 2003

BLIZZARD OF '78: Panic buying comes with storm; People don't want to go without

With word of a storm approaching, people flock to the Capitol Supermarket in Weymouth Landing on Feb. 5, 1978, to stock up on food and supplies. But no one imagined that the storm would be a fierce blizzard that would paralyze the area for days. 

The Patriot Ledger

We've all seen it happen, and some of us have been a part of the supermarket and hardware store raids when forecasters predict an accumulation of more than six inches of snow. Generally, the crowds of people who flock to area stores are orderly and more or less polite as they grab for bread, milk, eggs, cheese, water, batteries, flashlights and shovels.

But there are always the nervy ones who push and shove, cutting in front of shoppers to grab for the last item on a shelf or to reach the checkout line faster.

Blaming the Blizzard of '78 for this phenomenon is probably a stretch, but there is a generation of Massachusetts residents who say they are never going to get trapped again without food, water or batteries.

Grocers and shop owners say a surge in business at hardware stores and local markets in the face of dire weather isn't anything new. This is New England, after all, and the hurricane of 1938 was remembered by that generation much like the blizzard that struck 25 years ago this week is remembered today.

That storm battered the coast, closed major highways for days, left entire towns without power and stranded tens of thousands of people in their homes without food, water or batteries. Among them were people who say they will never be unprepared again.

''For several years I was one of those people,'' said Hull resident Joanne Fallon, admitting that the storm traumatized her into flocking to the local grocery to stock up.

With the passage of time she said she has become less inclined to race to a grocery store, but there's one thing she will always have ready: ''I have a whole drawer full of batteries. I have a hand-cranked radio - you need the communications. I'll never be without batteries again.''

Boston University anthropology Professor Charles Lindholm said panics and panic buying are often started by one person.

''It's a kind of mob mentality, there's a kind of contagion effect,'' Lindholm said. ''When they see one person panic other people panic. When they see people begin to behave in this excessive way they start to think, 'Maybe I might be left out in the cold.' It escalates from there.''

Store owner Ray Riddle said in his experience people aren't as hellish as scenes of people fighting over a loaf of bread shown on television.

''Before the storm they do buy everything,'' Riddle said with a chuckle. ''We do really well before and after a storm.''

Riddle, who now owns Riddle's Supermart in Hull, owned several convenience stores in Scituate and another in Hingham in 1978.

One convenience store in the Sand Hills section of Scituate was completely washed out by the 1978 storm and didn't open until long after the tides receded.

In Hingham, the Little Comfort Convenience Store operated with what stock they had because an employee who lived nearby was able to walk to the store and keep it open.

''We got a milk delivery the day after the storm. We sold about 200 gallons in two hours,'' Riddle said.

While he has never seen people fighting over an item, Riddle said he has seen some odd purchasing in the face of a major storm.

''The first thing to go is ice cream,'' he said.

Bob Curry, owner of Curry Hardware in Quincy, said he slept and ate in his store for four days during the blizzard 25 years ago. ''We were open from sunrise to sunset; neighbors brought food. It's amazing how nice people were during that storm,'' Curry said.

After more than 30 years in the business, Curry said he still is puzzled to this day over the hundreds of shovels he sells before and after a winter storm.

''Every winter when we have the first sign of snow, we have a run on salt and snow shovels,'' Curry said. ''Some people I know bought one the year before, and I ask, 'What did you do with the shovel you bought last year?'''

One woman, Curry said, told him she threw her's out because her garage is too small to store it.

In '78, Curry said, the situation was different.

''People were literally stealing shovels,'' Curry said. ''People would shovel out an area, stick the shovel in the snow, go in the house to warm up, and they'd come back out and it was gone.''

The shortage of shovels in the area sent Curry on a road trip to Connecticut to fill a truck with thousands of shovels.

The roads were closed at that time by the National Guard, but Curry said he was able to get around.

''If I got stopped, I told them I was delivering them to the city so they could shovel out.''

Copyright 2003 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Monday, February 03, 2003


Blizzard of memories: TV weathermen recall how historic 1978 storm forever changed way storms are covered
By Dean Johnson / Boston Herald
Monday, February 3, 2003

The Blizzard of '78 dumped more than two feet of snow on Boston in less than 33 hours and nearly twice that in some suburbs. The Feb. 6 storm took the lives of 54 New Englanders, destroyed 340 homes and caused nearly $1 billion in losses.

It also forever altered the way TV meteorologists approach their work.

``It left the old school meteorologists in the dust and changed everything - the way people shop before a storm, who they believe for forecasts, everything.'' said Todd Gross, WHDH (Ch. 7) chief meterologist and a local radio weatherman when the storm broke.

``Did I realize beforehand it would become an epic and truly historic storm? No,'' said WCVB's (Ch. 5) Harvey Leonard, who was toiling for Channel 7 then. ``Did I know there would be coastal devastation to that extent that there was? No. It certainly exceeded my expectations. But I was very convinced even by Friday that it was going to be a major storm. I saw enough from the computers to know by the weekend that we were in for a classic nor'easter.''

Most meteorologists in the Boston area knew that. The computer-driven weather-tracking systems, though primitive by today's standards, had given them the big picture days ahead of time.

But if local forecasters knew a big storm was coming, how did an estimated 4,000 people still end up stranded in their vehicles?

``You didn't want to be crying wolf,'' said Bruce Schwoegler, a weatherman for WBZ (Ch. 4) then. ``There was plenty of evidence of a big storm, but the question of how much snow really wasn't evident until Monday.''

Schwoegler's colleague, Don Kent, first predicted at 11 a.m. that day that there would be ``terrible damage'' from high tides. By suppertime, Schwoegler decided it was time to stop being conservative and announced, ``This could be the biggest snowstorm we've ever had.''

The only real surprise to the local weather crew was the extensive tidal damage. ``That's something that I hadn't previously seen in winter storms,'' Gross said, ``and wasn't on top of as much as I should have been. Somebody like Don, who was more familiar with the New England coast, would have been better at predicting that.''

There was a reason why the coastal damage caught everyone by surprise. ``Back then, the computers treated the ocean like a slab of concrete,'' Schwoegler said. ``You could predict major coastal damage while looking at it,'' he said, ``but huge waves and big seas all depend on when the storm reaches its peak intensity and when high tide is, and you just couldn't call those things back then two to three days ahead of time without being premature.''

Still, talk to these meteorologists who worked the blizzard, and they'll tell you their computer models were fairly accurate.

``In my opinion, this is one of the first important storms that occurred during the more modern use of satellites and computers,'' Kent said.

``And they did a pretty good job. . . . The storm didn't sneak up on anyone,'' he said. ``We started mentioning the chance of a storm on Friday.

We'd be better prepared if that same storm struck today (see sidebar). Instead of three computer models to work with, meteorologists now have a dozen, and they churn out daily updates twice as often as they did in 1978.

``There's no question that while far from perfect, our field has grown a lot since 1978,'' Leonard said. ``The computer models we use to guide us, the software and hardware available to us, has improved so much over the years.'' There's still some guesswork involved. There are still situations when weatherpeople have to go with their gut instincts.

But ``in this day and age,'' Gross stressed, ``nobody should be stuck in their cars and unable to be rescued'' unless they just ignore a lot of good advice.

The Blizzard of '78 wasn't just a once-in-a-lifetime storm, Schwoegler said. ``It could be 300 years before we see another storm like that.''
Boston Herald & Metro West Daily News
Devastation stopped city but not photographers

By Azell Murphy Cavaan / Boston Herald
Monday, February 3, 2003

As raging tides tossed homes about like toys, Boston Herald photographers battled the Blizzard of '78, shooting unforgettable images that won them a Pulitzer Prize.

``Forty-one years in the business and that's the hardest story I ever covered,'' said retired chief photographer Kevin Cole, who shot 13 of the 18 prize-winning photographs. ``It was almost impossible to work because you simply couldn't move.''

The storm had left thousands of commuters stranded along Route 128. But Cole, who was at home in Manomet when the storm started, found a way to shoot the blizzard and get the pictures to the Herald.

He spotted a man at a gas station and offered him money for his truck.

The man accepted the offer, and Cole headed for the Hyannis airport, where he bribed a flight instructor to fly him and his pictures back to the paper in Boston.

The two men climbed into a small two-seater, found a clear runway and took off.

``The winds were blowing and the waves would come up and grab the plane so you'd think you were going down,'' Cole said.

Soon after they took to the sky, the storm's devastating power became clear.

``The whole coastline was gone. There were houses floating out to sea and houses hanging off cliffs,'' said Cole, who shot pictures of the Minot Light off Scituate engulfed in a massive wave.

Still, Cole pushed his luck and asked the pilot to fly over Route 128 before going to Boston so that he could ``make a few pictures'' of stranded cars.

``We were getting blown all over the place but you never had time to be frightened because you were seeing something amazing,'' he said.

Back in the Herald newsroom, John Landers and Leo Tierney kept the photo desk humming under ``emergency'' conditions (most electrical power lines were down). Photographer Paul Benoit walked 10 miles in the storm to shoot the rescue of a thousand people from the coastal town of Revere.

Landers, now the night picture editor at the Herald, remembers the storm well.

``As the great blizzard began to paralyze the city, I managed to make it into work from my home in Milton by 5 p.m. that Monday. . . . Little did I know I wouldn't go back home for five days,'' he said. ``I will never forget the bravery exhibited by our photographers as well as they began to cover this major story. The city had stopped, but our photographers did not.''

Photographers like Bob Howard, Ted Gartland and Gene Dixon shot scenes around Boston.

``When you got people like that, it's a team,'' said Cole.

The quiet before the storm: Before '78 blizzard hit, it was just another Monday

by Christopher Cox / Boston Herald
Monday, February 3, 2003

On Feb. 6 and 7, 1978, Massachusetts was hammered by its worst storm in 200 years. This week, the Herald looks back at the Blizzard of '78, which caused $1 billion in damage, killed 29 people and ignited a spirit of compassion and heroism as the state's residents battled the elements together. Part 1 of 5

``Here we go again.''

When winter-weary Bostonians read the Boston Herald American headline on Feb. 6, 1978, the forecast was for snow, not unlike the Jan. 20 storm that had dropped 21 inches on the city.

Deja vu all over.

That Monday's front pages were no relief. Congress was still arguing about handing back the Panama Canal. A Camp David summit between President Carter and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had failed to bring peace to the Middle East. Vietnam and Cambodia were embroiled in a nasty border war.

But the sports pages were an oasis of good news. In his final season, John Havlicek had dropped in 10 points to help the East to a 133-125 victory in the NBA All-Star game. Gregg Sheppard had slipped in a goal with just two seconds remaining, giving the Bruins a 3-3 tie with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The weather? The National Weather Service prediction for Greater Boston called for snow, ``possibly heavy at times.''

No big deal. . . it was winter, after all, and this was New England. Snow happened.

In Marlboro, software engineer Eric Werme put his cat, Rachel, outside and then drove to Digital Equipment Corp. headquarters in Maynard for a morning meeting. In Revere, contractor Al Clough left his seafront home and headed for a building site.

Adam Rosenbaum left the Arlington Heights house he shared with his brother and headed out Route 2, bound for Westboro and his windowless office at the headquarters of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

``I'd heard some forecasts,'' said Rosenbaum, ``but I didn't pay much attention to them. That's just the type of guy I am.''

In Boston, the deputy director of central services for the Metropolitan District Commission, Brian Kerins, was trying to get a handle on the agency's heavy equipment.

There was talk of ``a moderate-sized storm,'' said Kerins, almost a repeat of the Jan. 20 blow, which had put some MDC trucks out of service.

At City Hall, Boston's commissioner for public works, Joseph F. Casazza, wondered where his plows would put the coming snow: ``There were still big piles around the city. You can't make it all disappear.''

Gov. Michael S. Dukakis planned to end a regular workday with his monthly appearance on WHDH-AM's ``David Brudnoy Show,'' where he fielded calls for two hours.

At Boston University, hockey coach Jack Parker was awaiting the decision on whether to cancel the Beanpot semi-finals, scheduled for that evening. The Boston Garden promised to be rocking, especially for the nightcap game, which pitted the Terriers against Boston College.

In Gloucester, skipper Frank Quirk probably stopped off for breakfast at Destino's Sub Shop, then headed for Cape Anne Marina, where he docked his 49-foot boat, the Can Do. There might be a job running a pilot out to a freighter or a tanker bound for a North Shore port; if the weather turned ugly he'd want to keep an eye on the steel-hulled Can Do, or assist the Coast Guard.

Down in Scituate, harbormaster Elmer Pooler had a healthy respect for the forecast. Winter storms were always heavier than their summer counterparts. Cold wind cut to the bone; someone tossed overboard would be gone in just a few minutes.

``You pay more attention,'' said Pooler, who had been through every storm since the devastating Hurricane of 1938. ``But you only can do so much to get ready for stuff like this.''

That morning, John Carroll, then commissioner of the commonwealth's Department of Public Works, was at the State House, trying to get money from the House Ways and Means Committee to cover the cleanup of the Jan. 20 storm.

``It was a cold, miserable day,'' recalled Carroll, now town manager of Norwood. ``I remember looking out the window and Rep. John J. Finnegan, the committee chairman, said, `You're asking for $5 million; it looks like you'll be asking for more shortly.'

``We all laughed.''

But down the slope from Beacon Hill, then WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) meteorologist Harvey Leonard wasn't smiling. He'd been talking about the possibility of a major storm since the previous Thursday evening.

Sunday was his day off, but Leonard had driven in from his Framingham home, arriving around midnight, and slept at the station. Some weathermen were predicting just 4-8 inches of snow, but Leonard believed Boston ``was going to get creamed.'' He said as much during weather inserts on Monday morning.

``I remember saying at 7:25 a.m., If you're hearing anywhere that this will not happen, throw that information in the garbage,'' said Leonard, now with WCVB-TV (Ch. 5). ``We are going to get it and and get it big time.''

Outside, there wasn't a flake in the Boston sky.

Timing is everything

Without snow in the air, most Bostonians headed off to work or school that bleak midwinter Monday.

``There was no reason for people not to go, at least from looking out the window,'' said Werme, the software engineer.

When his meeting in Maynard was rescheduled for the afternoon, Werme wasn't concerned. The avid skier had snow tires on his VW Rabbit and was used to driving in snowy conditions.

By noon a light, steady snow had settled on Boston. The MDC's Brian Kerins was getting ominous feedback from the Massachusetts Civil Defense Agency in Framingham: This was going to be an unusual storm.

John Carroll, then commissioner of the state Department of Public Works, had received even more troubling news. Just after 11 a.m., about 15 minutes after snow began falling in the Dedham area, DPW worker Ronald G. Thompson, 38, of Mansfield, was struck and killed by an out-of-control car while repairing potholes on Route 128.

Up in Gloucester, an eerie calm prevailed. Frank Quirk was having an early lunch at the Cape Ann Marina when he got a call from the Coast Guard to check reports of a 682-foot Greek oil tanker, Global Hope, dragging its anchor in Salem Harbor. Quirk quickly got his boat, the Can Do, underway.

``He was that type of guy,'' said marina employee Gard Estes. ``He didn't have to know you. But if you got in trouble he'd help you.''

Quirk reported the Global Hope had enough anchor chain to weather the storm. The Can Do returned to Gloucester around 3 p.m., according to Estes.

By that time, the situation in Boston had unraveled.

``It was almost like somebody opened the sky up,'' Kerins recalled.

With gale-force winds whipping up and snow falling at the rate of an inch an hour, downtown offices began to empty.

At 3 p.m., a northbound tractor-trailer jackknifed on the Southeast Expressway near Columbia Road in Dorchester, straddling the guardrail and blocking traffic in both directions. With snowplows sitting in gridlock, the highway was soon lost.

Casazza, Boston's public works commissioner, declared a snow emergency at 4 p.m.

Another big rig lost control on Route 128 near Route 138 in Canton, snarling traffic on the ring road back to Needham.

Said Carroll: ``We were gone, dead in the water right away.''

The Boston University hockey team didn't mind the mounting storm. By mid-afternoon, Coach Parker had received word that the Beanpot tourney would be played that night. The team ate a hearty pregame meal and boarded a chartered bus for the Garden to face arch-rival Boston College.

Out in Westboro, Adam Rosenbaum had worked a full day in his basement office at the Massachusetts Division of Wildlife and Fisheries, peering through a microscope at insects. Upstairs, he found a near-empty building.

``Nobody came down to tell me everybody had been sent home,'' Rosenbaum said.

He tramped out to his snow-covered Dodge Coronet. Route 9 was blanketed by at least 8 inches of snow.

``I thought this was going to be a bad drive,'' Rosenbaum said. `It turned out be a very short drive.''

Within a quarter-mile he was snowbound.

(GARY HIGGINS/The Patriot Ledger)
Stranded took refuge wherever they could                                  
by Christopher Cox  / Boston Herald                                                     
Tuesday, February 4, 2003                                                                                                                             
On Feb. 6 and 7, 1978, Massachusetts was hammered by the worst storm in 200 years. This week, the Herald looks back at the Blizzard of '78, which caused $1 billion in damage, killed 29 people and ignited a spirit of compassion and heroism as the state's residents battled the elements together.                                                                 
Part 2 of 5                                                               
It didn't look good to Adam Rosenbaum - marooned in his car on Route 9 while the Blizzard of '78 raged outside - but he wasn't about to hit the panic button.                                                             
He took a sleeping bag from the trunk of his Dodge Coronet and ran the car engine 15 minutes every hour to keep warm. He also gave shelter to two women who had run their gas tanks dry. "I figured we'd get a lot of snow,'' said Rosenbaum, then 24, ``but the next day I'd be someplace else.''                                         
The Arlington resident didn't realize that someplace would be an emergency shelter inside a Southboro prep school, where he would spend the next three days.                                                                                                                      
About the same time snow was piling up against Rosenbaum's car, Eric Werme was bombing along Interstate 495 bound for Marlboro. He'd finally left Maynard around 5:45 p.m. and found he had the highway to himself. Visibility was nearly zero, the road was buried beneath a half-foot of    snow and abandoned cars littered the exit ramps.                          
Werme kept his foot on the gas and his VW Rabbit schussing between the guardrails. Somehow, he made it back to his apartment where his cat, Rachel, who'd been out all day, crawled from beneath the porch and gaven him a dirty look.                                                         
``I really, really wanted to get back and catch Bruce Schwoegler on TV,''  recalled Werme, now 52 and living in Boscawen, N.H. ``I'm a weather freak.''                                                                  
While TV meteorologists were using Magic Markers and greaseboards to convey the magnitude of the historic storm, the Boston University Terriers concentrated on their impending Beanpot faceoff with Boston College.      
``There was nothing but focus on that,'' said BU hockey coach Jack Parker.
Despite the inclement weather, 11,666 hockey fanatics thronged the Garden. Even as Harvard edged Northeastern, 4-3 in overtime, the storm outside increased its ferocity. Winds up to 79 mph drove the snow sideways.       
Logan International Airport closed at 7:15 p.m. The state police reported 15 minutes later that southbound traffic on Route 128 was at a standstill from Dedham to Woburn, while northbound traffic inched along at one foot per minute.                                                               
The Neponset River flooded the Southeast Expressway in Milton while high tides inundated Rumney Marsh in Saugus, prompting the Boston & Maine Railroad to suspend North Shore service.                                  
When the Terriers and Eagles took the ice for their 9 p.m. tilt, however, few fans left the Garden. Both schools had good teams; BU would beat BC later in the season for the national title.            

It was about midnight when the final horn sounded on BU's resounding 12-5 victory. By that time, Rosenbaum and his two companions on Route 9 had just been bailed out by a trio of snowmobilers, while 1,200 motorists rescued along Route 128 huddled in St. Bartholomew's Church in Needham.   
When he emerged from the Garden, Parker was shocked by the Siberian scene on the street outside.                                                    
``In reality, there was no reality until we came out of the building,''  Parker said. ``That's when reality hit. There was nothing to prepare us for that.''                                                                               
The storm had buried Causeway Street and crippled the MBTA. Hundreds of stranded spectators would spend the night at the Garden, living a sports fan's dream: free hot dogs and a chance to sleep and shower in the players' dressing rooms.                                                  
The Terriers' bus labored through the drifts, stopping to pick up BU fans until the aisle was jam-packed. Everyone was happy. The team had crushed BC and the blizzard would cancel Tuesday classes.                         
Team captain Jack Callahan approached Parker with a request: Players wanted to go to the Dugout, a popular Commonwealth Avenue bar, instead of unloading equipment at the BU rink.                     
``I've never promoted drinking,'' said Parker. ``I thought about it and told them I'd stop the bus at Marsh Chapel. Anyone who wanted to go to church could. It happened to be right across street from the Dugout.      
``Everybody got off the bus except me, the equipment manager and the trainer. Everybody went to church, I guess.''                             

Best of intentions drew Gloucester boat crew to its doom

By Christopher Cox
Thursday, February 6, 2003

On Feb. 6 and 7, 1978, Massachusetts was hammered by the worst storm in 200 years. This week, the Herald looks back at the Blizzard of '78, which caused $1 billion in damage, killed 29 people and ignited a spirit of compassion and heroism as the state's residents battled the elements together.

Part 4 of 5

``He was like a hero all the time,'' said Frank E. Quirk III, 44, of his namesake father. ``There are so many stories of how he helped people.''

There were the pair of Mariner's Medals, awarded for saving two people from drowning in Gloucester Harbor and a daring 1977 rescue operation of the crew of the Chester A. Poling, a 281-foot coastal tanker that split up in heavy weather off Cape Ann.

There were the countless times the Korean War vet towed a disabled boat to port, free of charge. Just throw me a fish next time, he'd say.

So when a monumental blizzard blanketed New England, no one who knew Frank Quirk was surprised that the 49-year-old father of three was down at Cape Ann Marina, ready to lend a hand with his pilot boat, the Can Do.

And trouble was brewing. The Global Hope, a 682-foot Greek oil tanker to which Quirk had ferried a harbor pilot the previous day, made a frantic 5 p.m. call. The ship, loaded with 259,000 gallons of fuel oil, reported it had struck a ledge off Beverly and its engine room was taking on water.

At the marina, Quirk was joined by four local friends, all experienced boaters: the marina's business manager, Don Wilkinson, 36, of Rockport; fisherman Kenneth Fuller, 34, of Rockport; Norman Curley, 35, a Gloucester electrician; and Charles Bucko, 29, of Gloucester, recently with the Coast Guard.

A 41-foot Coast Guard patrol boat sent to aid Global Hope was quickly beaten back to Gloucester by the rough seas. A second USCG boat, a 44-footer, radioed at 7:30 p.m. that it had lost its radar and depth finder and could not establish its position.

``I'm going to go,'' Quirk told marina vice president Louis Linquata. ``They're in trouble.''

In a matter of minutes, Quirk and the four men shoved off in the steel-hulled, 49-foot Can Do.

``Frank was a great sailor,'' said Linquata. ``He'd been in and out of that type of weather many times. His boat was built like a tank. It could do anything.''

Quirk radioed Salem Harbormaster Warren Andrews: ``If you get a chance, I'd appreciate if you'd call my wife and advise that I won't be in touch for a while.''

As the Can Do steamed into the teeth of the storm, the Coast Guard boat, which by then had also hit an underwater obstacle, somehow limped into Beverly.

At 11 p.m., Quirk contacted Andrews, reporting that his boat's radar and antenna had been swept overboard. The Can Do was sailing blind. Linquata, who'd been monitoring the drama, hopped into his Jeep and frantically raced for Magnolia, hoping to spot the boat off the coast.

In response to a midnight May Day from Bucko that the Can Do might have struck the Gloucester breakwater, the Coast Guard dispatched the 41-footer again. Quirk protested the decision, not wanting to jeopardize more lives. The patrol boat couldn't pick up Quirk's vessel on radar.

Soon, an enormous wave shattered Can Do's windshield, bloodying Quirk and shorting out his remaining electronics. His son believes Quirk finally anchored his crippled boat between Magnolia and Eastern Point, hoping to ride out the mountainous, 25-foot seas.

In a faint 3:30 a.m. broadcast by walkie-talkie, Quirk told Andrews his crew was in the aft cabin trying to keep warm, and that he would soon join them. It was the last message from the Can Do.

``At the end,'' said Linquata, ``we knew what was happening.''