May 112013

Blizzard of 1978

If you lived in Long Island during the 70s, then you likely remember the February of 1978, when the island, and much of the Northeast was blanketed with the worst storm of the decade. Let’s take a look back at the memorable blizzard of 1978 that brought New York to a standstill.

From the moment 1978 arrived, it was clear that there would be no shortage of snow that year. On January 19th, a storm brought 13-17 inches to the island, depending on where you were located. The precipitation caught meteorologists off guard who failed to predict the severity, leaving local residents woefully unprepared. But this event was really just a precursor of bigger things to come.

Less than two weeks later, a little before dawn on Monday, February 6th, a nor’easter rolled into the tri-state area. This time, the weather forecasters predicted 1-2 feet, and a number of schools in the area decided to close for the day as a precautionary measure. That turned out to be a good move.

As the day progressed, winds kicked upwards of 60-80 mph, leading to whiteout conditions as the snow was falling at a rate of 4″ per hour in some locations. Adding insult to injury, residents along the North shore and Peconic Bay began to experience severe flooding. Across the island and in NYC, streets came to a halt, with countless cars literally buried. The blizzard of 1978 had arrived, and it wouldn’t let up for another full day.

The storm continued to pummel the island until late the following evening, with over 2 feet reported in many areas. Snowdrifts were reported as high as eight feet, leaving the majority of locals stranded, in some cases for days until the local roads could be plowed. School remained closed for the entire week, much to the delight of local kids, who filled the time with sledding, snowball fights and building snow forts. Adults were far less pleased as they waited impatiently to return to work, and some semblance of normalcy.

Where were you during the blizzard of 1978? Were you one of the kids that remembers it as a time of great fun, or were your circumstances more serious? We would love to hear all of your recollections of this memorable storm in our comments section below!

(note: you can check out more pictures of Long Island during the blizzard in our image gallery, under “70s events.”)

  25 Responses to “Blizzard of 1978”

  1. I worked at Bloomingdales , garden city, Long Island and was conveniently bunkered down there for 3 days. It was great fun – I manned the store operator station, taking calls from employees who were unable to get to work. We enjoyed cooking our meals in the kitchen of the Ondine restaurant, slept in the beds in the model rooms in the furniture dept and played “pong” on the only video game that existed. We had a surreal and fun time!!

  2. I remember it well, but also recall the Ice Storm shortly before the two snow storms. Mid-January there was a 4-6 inch snow fall, that was washed away a few days later with warmer temperatures, and heavy winter rain. THEN, the rain stopped, and the temperature dropped 30 degrees into the single digits, turning everything to ice. Saturated tree limbs and power lines were falling. Surreal, and dangerous as hell. Black ice on the roads everywhere.

  3. I was a musician in New York and had a house in Deer Park with three other young guys from about 1976 to 1979. We were on the southside of a very large double schoolyard. Two Elementary schools diagonally on the corners with large playing fields in the middle.When the high winds came they blew the drifts across the schoolyard to the front of our house covering the full picture windows. Drifts were probably about 8 feet at the house. As I remember, we were without power for several days and very grateful for our next-door neighbors who had gas and provided us with warm food and the occasional hot shower.

  4. I remember that storm, i was class mother and had to make calls when school was closed in Three village schools in Stony Brook. Between the week of no school due to snow, it was followed by already scheduled predidents week. What a winter. That was before internet and cell phones. The previous winter there was major ice storms, where i lost my leaders and gutters.

  5. Will never forget the storm, my third son was only 2 months old at the time; because of the severity of the storm, I ran out of formula and had to put him on regular milk (much earlier that was normal). Luckily, we not only had plenty of fresh milk in the house, but with 3 sons, I always kept powdered milk as backup.

    Also, my husband was caught at work and did not get home for almost a week. Of, course my older boys loved it.

  6. We lived in Albertson and remember 2 storms within a very short time. We built an igloo on our front lawn – which you could walk inside – a lot of fun

  7. I was a Member of the local Fire Department and still a senior in High school. Schools were closed here in the Hudson Valley for 3 days . so I spent 36 hours at the Fire station where we used Fire Trucks to get the nurses and doctors who were local to the two local hospitals to work there shifts. We did have a fire call in the middle of the night , I think it was around 2 a.m. and it was snowing so hard couldn’t even see clearly. I was amazed on how many cars were on the road in the middle of a Blizzard so early in the morning. We had Chains on the Fire Engine’s so we could get around. I’ll never forget it. Since we were Volunteers we had no beds, so I slept up on the hose bed on one of the Engines. No pillows or blankets either. But the station was warm.

  8. I was in my very early 20’s when I worked at Great Eastern (I believe) my boss Mr. Simon and Mr. B. were asking if someone could stay and cashier for the crazies that came shopping that day. Sure, I said. Big mistake! Stuck there for 2 days, ate in the snack bar slept in the carpet dept. Me and 6 men. Then my poor dad was finally able to get out of his parking lot to come get me! Along with 2 of my fellow workers! It was crazy!!

  9. I remember the Blizzard of 1978 as a time of fun. Living in Wyandanch and school in Huntington Station having the week off was full of snow time…forts, friends. Our fort was huge we had a long extension and brought the TV to the fort. Great memories as a kid on Long Island.

  10. Remember it well. The kids were young and enjoyed building forts for snowball fights. With about 15 kids on the block there was always someone to play with. My husband is a volunteer fireman on Hicksville. The year he spent 9 days and nights at the firehouse on standby. Very difficult to get fire trucks and ambulances through unplowed streets.The ice storm was the worst..we had no power but thank God we have gas so we could cook and bake.

  11. I was visiting NYC Feb.’78 – actually stayed with my buddy Serge in Park Slope, Brooklyn. We were in the City and got caught at his friends place for 2-3 days.. Thank goodness she had plenty of food, clothes that fit us and power.. After that I decided as great as NY is , I was NOT going to permanently live in any snow zone (my Dad was born in Canada and grew up in the Northern US – I heard the horror stories of bad winter weather. I like to visit snow zones for 1-2 weeks. Then I’m outta there.

  12. Was 20 at the time living in North Babylon. I remember waiting a week to have our street plowed. The most frustrating thing was watching the cars being able to travel on Deer Park Avenue and NOT being able to get my car to it! We only lived 2 houses away!

  13. Lived in valley stream school was closed for a week loved it was 11 at the time. Now i hate it

  14. I was pregnant and my water broke at 4:00 am on the 20th of January . 3 weeks early. We called 911 and they told me to call back when I was in labor!!
    My neighbor called 911 again and before you know it the fire dept., police car and a plow were ready to take me to the hospital. We went by police car to Meadow Brook hospital with a plow guiding the way. All the staff that was not at the hospital were asked to walk to a major intersection closest to their home. The hospital was short staffed and a resident delivered our beautiful baby girl at 10:00 pm that night. What a story to be told every year in her birthday. Prior to her birthday Nassau county had an ice storm. We had no electricity for 3 days. Then on February 6th we were hit with another snow storm worse then the first one. Yes we remember that winter well!!!

  15. My son was born in the middle of the 2 storms on Feb 2..He was 2 months husband took me to Mercy Hospital from Merrick going mph..he was in the NICU but the sent me home on the 4th due to the coming blizzard..he came home on valentines day

  16. After many years The blizzard of Feb 6, 1978 leaves an imprint on our family. My daughter Donna was all set to celebrate her 7th birthday at school with her cupcakes. De sated she could not go to school for days, nor could the family come, it has remain a snow memory for years. This her 45th birthday I have made her a memory snowman quilt!

  17. I remember that winter well I was 21 living in patchogue . I moved with my parents the summer before from north massapeque .we already had a couple of small snow storms that turned to rain a larger storm that was supposed to turn to rain but didn’t we had about 15″ of heavey wet snow then an ice storm then the blizzard. I worked in farmingdale at the time on Allen blvd.we left home at 7am that Monday snow had just started in Patchogue we arrived at work about 7:45.there was about 2″ on the ground. By 10am it was really snowing heavey. We left work at noon already almost a foot had fallen. We made our way towards home at a snails pace , we didn’t get home until 8:30 that night.we accomplished that by driving east on the west bound lanes of sunrise hwy from Lakeland ave to broadway ave then it was blocked off by police we had to take back roads the rest of the way. 38 years have passed I have never again seen it snow so hard for so long over such a large area I was out there for 81/2 hrs and witnessed some amazing snow fall the end I believe Islip airport recorded 31 inches but enormouse drifts was the big problem. I will never forget that experience. Sunrise hi way was one lane for about 4 days.

  18. I’ll never forget that February. I was in 7th grade at the time, and we lived on a corner. With the wind and the repeated plowings, the snow piles on the corner were over six feet high. Cars literally could not see around them to make a turn. I discovered that the easiest way to explore those snow piles was on my belly — in other words, using the principle of snowshoes, I literally swam across them!

    For us, there was also a couple of other unusual benefits. Unlike just about every other severe weather situation on Long Island in those days, we did not lose power for a single minute. (Back in the great ice storm of mid-December 1973, we weren’t so lucky.)

    The same wasn’t true for my school, a small private school. We had the week off like everyone else, but when the next Monday rolled around, we got a phone call: the school still had no power, so we were still out — and that situation didn’t change for the entire week! (It never seemed that LILCO was that prompt to do anything … but one’s always impatient about lost power.)

    On top of that, the next week was our regularly scheduled mid-winter break, so we wound up not going back to school for an entire three weeks! You can imagine how happy we kids were — until we were informed that we had to make up one of the lost weeks at the end of the year …

  19. I remember having alot of fun,my dad was at work for days, now I do snow removal, and couldn’t stand the fact of getting that much snow,

  20. I remember it very well. I was 20 years old and worked with my dad in a father and son soft drink business aka Coca-Cola. Our route was Downtown Brooklyn and we lived in Wantagh. My parents had just purchased their home the summer prior to the storm. We had lived in apartments in Queens up until then.

    I am much older than my three younger sisters and since my mother suffered with bad health issues, I helped to take care of them and the house.

    That morning, my dad woke up and started a fire in our wood burning double-sided fireplace. It was a good move as we had electric heat and the power was out… Brrrrrr! Dad cooked bacon and eggs on a cast iron pan, right in the fireplace. My kid sisters thought it was a winter dream.

    The many large trees on our front and back yards hung low from the weight of the heavy snow collected on the branches. It looked like a postcard. I took several photos of the property, the street, and of course my sisters frolicking on the snow. Sadly the pictures were all destroyed a decade later from a flood. The pictures may be gone, but the memories are forever!


  22. L Was In St. Thomas, V.i. snow bound. Had to basque in the sun for 3 additional days before I could get a plane back home.

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