35 years ago Today, Blizzard of '78 rocked Southern New England - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

35 years ago Today, Blizzard of '78 rocked Southern New England

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By: Chelsea Priest

cpriest@abc6.com

 

35 years ago today, a whopper storm reached Rhode Island, and when it was all over, it devastated the Northeast. It gave new meaning to "bread and milk" and became forever known as the Blizzard of '78.

People will never forget where they were and how they were affected.

"I remember it was total chaos, I couldn't get home for 4 days."

"It was horrible, just horrible, especially on the highways."

"I made it by the skin of my teeth."

Everyone has vivid memories of the storm that brought Rhode Island to a stand still for almost a week. It started by late Monday morning on February 6th and came down fast, at a rate of 2–3 inches an hour.

ABC 6 Stormtracker Meteorologist Steve Cascione says, "That storm actually almost acted like a hurricane. It had an eye, it stalled South of Block Island for 24 hours, it had hurricane force winds"

With the realization of how fast the snow was coming down, schools and businesses were all let out early, creating grid lock traffic on all the highways.

 An image of 95 Southbound near the state offices exit shows cars on top of each other, buried in snow, and stuck in traffic. Once the cars were stuck, plows couldn't get through.

"My neighbor got stuck, he had to walk all the way from Rhode Island hospital to Seekonk" said Enid Stewart.

Fred Paradise said,"I was on the road trying to get home to my wife and my kids and I could not get home, had to stay at a hotel, the Holiday Inn, except there were no rooms so I had to sleep on the floor with 2–3 hundred people for four days."

"I don't know how I made it up the hill, but I did and just got into the yard and was just so thankful," said Shirley Lillibridge.

Buddy Cianci was the Mayor of Providence at the time, and remembers the chaos of the clean up.

"Cars had to be towed, there were hundreds and hundreds of cars towed, and we set up a place in the Civic Center where you could go claim your car," said Cianci. 

It was Northern Rhode Island that picked up the highest totals from the Blizzard of 78'. Over 4 feet of snow fell in some places, and not only was it high accumulations, the howling wind created snow drifts in some areas over10 feet.

People were using skis, snow mobiles, and sleds to get to the market to get their bread and milk.

Cascione said, "A lot of people got stuck without their milk or bread, stores ran out and couldn't be restocked, that started the panic that holds to this day."

99 people died in the Blizzard of 78' and there was 15 million dollars worth of damage in Rhode island and 500 million dollars in Massachusetts.

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