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.

No matter how old you were, one thing is certain – if you were there, you remember it today.

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? I would love to hear all of your recollections of this memorable storm in our comments section below!

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43 Responses

  1. Nadine Caiati Wahl says:

    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. Billy says:

    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.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I remember the ice storm also !!

    • Terry says:

      Exactly! I remember the ice storm well snapping power lines

    • Bruce says:

      The ICE STORM was the first hit, leaving us without power for two weeks, and we had a six month old in zero temps, so we had to keep the fireplace going, cooking hot dogs and living like cave people. THEN the first snow, followed by the BLIZZARD, then the RAINS came, melting the snow, flooding my first floor so much WABC TV had my seven year old;s photos in the dinghy floating in front of our garage for a couple of days.

    • Suzanne says:

      I remember the ice storm too, because it was Friday the 13th!

    • P Barrett says:

      I’ve never forgotten that ice storm. I was 17 years old, we were without power (seemed like forever) but when the sun came out it was a spectacular shimmering sight to behold!

  3. John Tudder says:

    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. judy koslow shivak says:

    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. Gail Ruber says:

    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. Patty says:

    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. Candace R.Teetsel says:

    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. Teri says:

    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. Pam says:

    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.

    • jakki says:

      I was a young girl of 13 and I had just moved from Tennessee to Wyandanch 2 days prior on February 4th!! Needless to say, I thought the world was coming to an end because I had never seen so much snow!!!!! I didn’t get to start school in my new school for about 12 days!!! and I don’t think I saw entire streets until about July!!!!! The snow drifts were incredible!!!!! This storm is probably the single most memorable event that I associate with moving to New York!!!

  10. Mary giardina says:

    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. Tim says:

    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. Jake says:

    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. Raymond Birkenfeld says:

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

  14. Antoinette says:

    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. Anonymous says:

    My son was born in the middle of the 2 storms on Feb 2..He was 2 months premature..my 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. Nancy Haines says:

    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. Larry LoVerde says:

    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 rates.in 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. Brad says:

    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. Anonymous says:

    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. Dazzlin' Don says:

    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!

  21. JAKKI says:

    I WAS 13 YEARS OLD AND HAD JUST MOVED FROM TENNESSEE TO LONG ISLAND, NY ON FEBRUARY 4TH. ON FEBRUARY 6TH IT SNOWED MORE SNOW THEN I HAD EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE!!!! SCHOOL WAS CLOSED FOR 2 WEEKS!!!

  22. Mark says:

    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.

  23. Jim the stud. says:

    I remember it well. I got my girlfriends sister pregnant . It was a big deal because i was 15 at the time and she was 21.

  24. Mary Elizabeth says:

    I remember it well. I was 26 and visiting a former college chum in Stoneybrook, NY. We got snowed in at the house of a friend of his. Thankfully, there were plenty provisions and the company couldn’t have been better. It made me love a good blizzard even more!

  25. Julie says:

    I remember the entire block (10 houses each side) coming together to shovel) only got first houses dug to main rd. And that took 2 days!!!! As a 12 year old I felt the ground start to rumble and heard a loud engine. At the opposite end of the road was a large national guard plow that was 3 times our large plows are now. Lights on and pushing a wall of snow. Seemed like a hero monster. Plow driver and another in vehicle were having a blast watching our eyes. They made it so much fun. Actually made the mounds higher than necessary so we could use our sleighs. Best time ever

  26. Jean wahler says:

    Had a 14 month old son and a 8 ur old daughter ran out of milk hubby stuck at precient for two days got his buddy to bring milk to me driveway was 3 ft of snow poor bob walked thru thigh high snow to give me milk yes I remember it well

  27. Barry says:

    Picking cars up with a 10 yard payloader to clear parking areas in an apt. complex in Pt. Jefferson. Snow piled 20 feet high. Snow drifts over the tops of residences front doors. Thunder snow & lighting.

  28. Gil Hunter says:

    I remember “Bob” at WCBS predicting the storm almost a week before.I worked at Pan Am at Kennedy Airport and by 11am they told everyone to go home. Driving on the Belt Pkwy and then Southern State I could not believe the amount of clueless people spinning out on the road and was like “bumper cars” on my way home to No. Hempstead.Stopped off to get pizza in Uniondale and that almost cost us a lot of trouble- I had 3 inches on snow on the hood of my car in 15 minutes!. We had a burst of the heaviest snow ever seen by me and I have been in several storms in Lake Tahoe at 6500-8,000feet and yes they were BAD – but this 1978 storm was “genetically different”-like a hurricane with snow… as it was at sea level with it dumping over 6 inches in about 90 minutes at 1:30-3pm on that Monday. On way home from pizza I had the pedal to the metal as the snow was so deep already and piling up on Oak street that ran north on the west side of the Hofstra University Campus. I was literally plowing snow another mile running like mad -gunning the car and my snow tires on my Crown Vic and made it home half way into the driveway- could not dig the car out for 5 days. I still have pictures of me holding onto gas pumps on Clinton Avenue while the wind was gusting abou 80mph. I will never forget that storm- it was a remarkable experience!!

  29. Dylan Keenan says:

    I lived in Speonk on Montauk Hwy. 12 yrs old attending Westhampton Beach Junior High. I remember the big drifts. Friends from Oyster Bay came out to the East End to help on unbury us.

  30. Hank Kalbach says:

    We lived in Setauket. We heard about the impending storm the day before (Sunday). We went to the store and bought essentials – enough to sustain our family of 6 for a week. On Monday morning, I went to work at 6am, packed some records so I could work at home. By 10 am, the snow was starting to accumulate so I drove home. My son and I spent 2 days shoveling the snow off our driveway. In June, we moved to Atlanta.

  31. Jimbo says:

    Winter of 78 was crazy in general. Besides the big blizzard there were ice storms and lots of snow storms. I was a college student at SJU in Jamaica Queens. At that time they RARELY closed for snow storms. This was no exception. So for at least 2 days I could not get there while they were open. Could not get there from East Northport. Strange that they were “open” as most students and many faculty and staff couldn’t get there either! LOL.

  32. Dora Pap says:

    I remember oh too well, My parents had a diner and was the only one open, my dad picked up all the employeess so we could stay open. We tried to get home and our streets we blocked with 3 feet of snow. We tried to get back to the diner and we got caught in a 6 foot drift on Hempstead turnpike, where it dips for the Meadow brook parkway. Yes and I, a girl dug us out, so my dad would not have a heart attack …….. finally got back to the diner at 4 am, slept a couple of hours and went back to work ….. Yes I remember it very well lol you think

  33. Anthony Lojo says:

    My dad took my brother, my cousin, and me ice skating on a pond on the west side of Rte. 231 @ Sunrise Highway in North Babylon. It was a Sunday afternoon, Two weeks before my 15th birthday. We all were hearing about the impending snowstorm but at 4:00pm the sky was still clear. I commented to my father that it didn’t look as if we would get any snow and he said you’d be surprised how quickly the weather can change. We lived in Brentwood at the time and after dropping my cousin off at his house on Van Street we went home (Stahley Street). My mom said “don’t count on school being closed tomorrow so go to bed by 9:30pm” which we did. When we got out of bed the next morning, our entire world was blanketed with 24 inches of snow and it was still coming down heavy. The Drifts piled up to the elementary school roof and the roads were impassable. Not only did we not have school, but schools were closed for a full week which ran directly into our Winter Break. 16 days of snowball fights, snow forts, shoveling, skitching (remember that ?) and neighbors coming together through it all. Best memories. I’ll take those days any time.

  34. Radar Don says:

    I was staying in the Bayshore Inn while going to a factory school for the USAF foduring most of Jan and half of Feb. I was there for both snow events and the ice storm. The rooms opened to the outside and I remember one morning opening the door and there was a wall of snow at least to the roof in front of me. Since the rooms didn’t come with snow shovels I had to break out the hard way. We spent the whole day digging out the parking lot by hand. The inn was filled with electrical crews from surrounding states. Just to make things interesting, I had to PCS move from Fl to Ms as soon as I got back south and my son was born in Tx at the end of Jan. He was almost 3 months old when I met him. Yes, I have many memories of that time. I live in upstate NY now and that kind of winter is fairly normal these days.

  35. Alan Burg says:

    I was a 15 y/o kid living In Melville during the blizzard,we had no school for more than a week, we had to walk from Melville to wyandanch with a toboggan to get groceries, the walls of snow on the side of the road towered over us, and I will never forget how peaceful it was, the walls acted like sound buffers.

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