34 Years Ago – Blizzard of ’78

Without a question the Blizzard of ’78 was the biggest snowstorm of the second half of the 20th century in Connecticut. Old timers may argue that the February 1934 blizzard was worse.

The storm that began before daybreak on February 6, 1978 started to rage by late morning. Though the snowfall totals weren’t record breaking the storm’s impact was likely only topped by the March 1888 monster storm that dropped 40″+ of snow in part of the state.

I would argue that the October snowstorm of 2011 entered into the pantheon of snowstorms with historic impact – something that people will remember for a generation or two. It’s not the totals that separate the men from the boys it’s the impact.

The beast of a storm dropped 2 feet of snow in New Haven, about 20″ around Hartford, while eastern Connecticut had 20″-30″ of snow. What made the snow incredible was the wild drifts that developed thanks to winds gusting to nearly 60 mph during the height of the storm. It was the wind that turned what would have been a big snowstorm into a big paralyzing storm.

Besides the drifts that reached roofs (particularly eastern Connecticut) the coastal flooding was on par with hurricanes. The 1978 storm produced coastal flooding and storm surge worse on par with the 1992 nor’easter and Irene. In fact my mom was rescued by the Fairfield fire department on Fairfield Beach Road when the water started coming up during the height of the storm!

The drifts coupled with stranded cars as far as the eye could see on some highways shut down the state. Here are the observations from Bridgeport (translated into METAR by Weather Underground) for 2/6/78.

METAR KBDR 060800Z 05013KT 5SM -SN OVC017 M06/M12 A3021 RMK SLP230 T10611117

METAR KBDR 060900Z 05012KT 4SM -SN BKN017 OVC030 M06/M12 A3019 RMK SLP224 T10611122

METAR KBDR 061000Z 05017KT 6SM -SN OVC025 M06/M12 A3015 RMK SLP210 T10561122

METAR KBDR 061100Z 05016KT 10SM BKN/// OVC/// M06/M12 A//// RMK SLP203 T10561117

METAR KBDR 061200Z 05015G23KT 5SM -SN FG OVC028 M05/M10 A3010 RMK SLP193 60000 T10501100

METAR KBDR 061300Z 05021KT 1SM -SN FG OVC/// M05/M08 A//// RMK SLP176 P0002 T10501078

METAR KBDR 061400Z 05020G28KT 1SM -SN FG OVC006 M05/M07 A3002 RMK SLP166 P0001 T10501067

METAR KBDR 061500Z 04021KT 3/8SM SN FG OVC/// M05/M06 A//// RMK SLP146 P0004 T10501061

METAR KBDR 061600Z 04022G30KT 1/2SM SN FG OVC003 M04/M06 A2991 RMK SLP129 P0003 T10441056

METAR KBDR 061700Z 03021G31KT 1/2SM SN -BLSN OVC002 M04/M06 A2982 RMK SLP098 P0005 T10441056

METAR KBDR 061800Z 04020G32KT 1/8SM +SN -BLSN OVC002 M04/M05 A2973 RMK SLP068 P0010 60020 T10391050

METAR KBDR 061900Z 04023G32KT 1/8SM +SN -BLSN OVC002 M04/M04 A2965 RMK SLP041 P0012 T10391044

METAR KBDR 062000Z 05026G37KT 1/8SM +SN -BLSN OVC002 M04/M04 A2961 RMK SLP027 P0009 T10391039

METAR KBDR 062100Z 05026G44KT 1/8SM +SN -BLSN OVC002 M04/M04 A2956 RMK SLP010 P0012 T10391039

METAR KBDR 062200Z 05036G48KT 1/8SM +SN -BLSN OVC002 M04/M04 A2951 RMK SLP993 P0007 T10391039

METAR KBDR 062300Z 03036G47KT 1/8SM +SN -BLSN OVC002 M04/M04 A2948 RMK SLP983 P0008 T10391039

METAR KBDR 070000Z 03032G48KT 3/8SM SN -BLSN OVC002 M04/M04 A2944 RMK SLP970 P0006 60051 T10441044

METAR KBDR 070100Z 02032G41KT 3/8SM SN -BLSN OVC001 M04/M04 A2936 RMK SLP942 P0005 T10441044

METAR KBDR 070200Z 03034G45KT 1/2SM SN -BLSN OVC001 M05/M05 A2932 RMK SLP929 P0007 T10501050

METAR KBDR 070300Z 03028G36KT 1/2SM SN -BLSN OVC002 M04/M04 A2930 RMK SLP922 P0004 T10441044

METAR KBDR 070400Z 04028KT 1SM -SN -BLSN OVC/// M03/M03 A//// RMK SLP919 P0002 T10331033

Some of the totals from coop stations:

22″ Storrs
12″ Bridgeport
24″ Thompson (30″ OTG)
16.9″ BDL (21″ OTG)
18.5″ Middletown (23″ OTG)
17.2″ Groton
20.1″ Haddam
24″ Norfolk
23.8″ Hamden


4 thoughts on “34 Years Ago – Blizzard of ’78

  1. There are stories of UConn students jumping out second- and third-story windows into snow drifts during that storm. Unbelievable.

  2. The October Snowstorm barely cracked the top 45 NESIS events (prelim ranking right now) but locally here in CT it certainly goes down as a generational event….

    • Not surprised. The NESIS scale is population and amount weighted. The impact of events is excluded. Some storms could barely be a blip on the NESIS scale and be paralyzing for a given state if the impacts are isolated enough. I think the NESIS scale is sort of silly if you ask me. Good post, though… thanks for sharing the link!

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