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Crazy Facts About the Blizzard of ’78

Written by Ls Cohen  |  03. February 2020

The forecasters got this one right. While 1970s era weather reporting was becoming more and more of an exact science, people’s notorious distrust of weathermen contributed to some of the mayhem that occured after the storm began. (Weathermen got it wrong a couple weeks previously when they missed a huge snow storm, predicting rain instead.)

 

When the snow began to fall on Monday February 6, 1978, some braved the commute to work thinking this was another busted forecast. They were wrong.

 

Luckily the confidence of meteorologists in their predictions of 1-2 feet of snow led to school closures and some businesses to close, while others found themselves trapped when the storm broke and in came a squall of almost 2 inches of snow per hour at its height, along with gusting winds. The storm paralysed Long Island for days.

 

We’ve had snowpocalypses and snowmaggedons since then but this blizzard looms large in the memories of those who lived through it. Below we list some crazy facts about the Blizzard of ‘78.

 

  • 15 foot snow drifts were reported
  • Mastic Beach Fire Department delivered two women in labor to the hospital during the storm
  • The FIre Island National Seashore lost two four-wheel drive vehicles that were washed out to sea when they got stuck on the beach
  • The storm was estimated to be 1,500-2,000 miles in diameter
  • On February 8, 1978 Newsday reported 3 people died on Long Island, all of apparent heart attacks
  • Newsday also reported that 3,000 cars were abandoned across Long Island, 11 houses collapsed, and  2,000 motorists had to be put up in rescue centers, including fire departments, schools, hospitals, office buildings, and even gas stations and restaurants.
  • A real worry for many homeowners at the time was if their heating oil would run out before they could get another delivery
  • Snow accumulation of 26 inches was reported in Ronkonkoma, 24 in Riverhead, and 23 in Plainview
  • Long Island MacArthur Airport recorded 25.9 inches of snow
  • Winds were recorded on Long Island to reach up to 80MPH
  • It caused more than $520 million (US$2 billion in 2018 terms) in damage in total across the Northeast
  • It snowed for 33 hours
  • There were reports of thundersnow on Long Island - lightning and thunder accompanying the snowfall
  • The storm originally formed off the coast of South Carolina
  • It had been preceded by a surprise blizzard in January that dumped up to 18 inches of snow in some places
  • There are video clips on YouTube that show people out in the snow after the storm in Ronkonkoma and Massapequa.
  • Local skiers volunteered to dig out the the facility at the Farmingville Ski Bowl at Bald Hill so they could enjoy some local skiing after the storm
 

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