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The Great Blizzards of 1978

After searching the web for material on a topic that has been so re-presented over the decades, the one piece that stands out as the most comprehensive and entertaining is one authored by our own NWS office in Taunton.  A few additional informational links and some historically interesting images of actual station reports are added here for your reading pleasure.

Hyannismarecords197802_1Hubbardstonmarecords197802 The definitive presentation on the New England Blizzard of 1978:
The NWS Taunton Slide Show - 43 frames of newspaper clippings, upper air charts, surface charts, visible satellite, forecasting information and trivia

Above right, click to enlarge individual station original recording sheets for Hubbardston and Hyannis for February 1978.

Below, surface map, 500mb and precipitation plots from February 6 and 7, 1978:


Wwlpblizzard781 Blizzard Inland Photos and Web Presentations:

WWLP - The Blizzard of 1978 - Springfield area coverage

Ric Werme's The Blizzard of '78 - Central MA photos

Ric Werme's comprehensive storm ADDENDUM - includes a quote from New England meteorologist Bob Copeland and snowfall statistics



What is a storm surge ?

Inland concerns were with snow depth and driving winds, but coastal areas face a different set of issues with a storm of this magnitude. Coastal flooding and beach erosion were experienced along the eastern seaboard from New Jersey to Maine.

Storm surge is the natural elevation of the sea due to the influence of wind and atmospheric pressure near the coast. Coastal flooding results from storm surge and surge statistics define the 100-year floodplain. Storm surge is also important in changing the shape of the shoreline. An elevated sea combined with storm waves results in erosion of frontal dunes and coastal bluffs. Single storm events can cause tens of feet of dunes to erode (e.g. February 1978 Blizzard and October 1991 "Perfect" Storm). In general, such dune erosion is seasonal and most loss from storms is replaced in a year. A storm with a 10- to 100-year recurrence interval may permanently change the location and elevation of the frontal dune and permanently shift the beach profile inland. After significant storms, coastal floodplain boundaries along Maine beaches are likely to have moved inland permanently. Prioritization for remapping flood hazard areas along beaches should consider the age of the map relative to the timing of significant storms. 

Source: Maine.gov Maine Geologic Survey

The Blizzard of 1978 is listed in a USGS document Summary of Significant Flood events in the United States, Puerto Rico  and the Virgin Islands, 1970 Through 1989
"The first significant flood of 1978 resulted from the February 6 and 7 "Blizzard of 1978."  This storm formed in the Carolinas and moved northward along the Atlantic seaboard. The storm produced record amounts of snow and hurricane-force winds.  Record tidal flooding occurred from Boston, Massachusetts, northward to Portland, Maine (fig. 11).  Total economic losses from the storm, including damages directly caused by the storm and costs of snow removal, approached $1 billion (Platt and McMullen, 1978)." Source: USGS article
For those interested in pursuing additional info on erosion from the blizzard of 1978, tracking down
Blizzard of 1978 Net Effect on Shoreline Change, a 70 page document prepared by the Strafford Rockingham Regional Council might prove interesting.

Kocinuccellini_1 Supplemental reading material:

Kocin and Uccellini - A Snowfall Impact Scale Derived from Northeast Storm Snowfall Distributions

Kocin and Uccellini Supplement

Kocin and Uccellini - The Interaction of Jet Streak Circulations During Heavy Snow Events ALong the East Coast of the United States

Comparison of 1978 to other notable storms of the northeast

NOAA's official 20th anniversary statement

that  just days prior, the country's mid-section was paralysed by their own Great Blizzard ?

From the ToddGross.com 2006 February Trivia:

What date did the media FIRST start reporting on the Great Blizzard of 1978 give or take a day. And the answer is NOT February, but January 26th, 1978, when the Great Ohio Valley Blizzard occurred, and gave us rain, which incidentally washed away our  two feet of snow  from the prior "Great Snowstorm" of 1978, which happened Jan. 20th. You see, there were THREE back to back storms, culminating on Feb. 6-7, 1978!

Ohio850mb850_19780127 "A Great Storm is Upon Michigan" The Great Blizzard of 1978, by William R. Deedler, Weather Historian, National Weather Service Detroit/Pontiac, MI

500 and 850 MB charts for the Ohio Valley Blizzard