37 Years Between Historic Blizzards


We’re supposed to get a blizzard of “historic proportions” starting tomorrow. I was a sophomore at Providence College when, not even two months after a tragic dorm fire that eventually claimed the lives of ten young women, the Blizzard of ’78 hit us hard. Two and a half feet of snow stopped traffic, stranded hundreds, and made for an extra, unexpected vacation for us.

But I’m not 20 years old anymore, and now I think about what we have on hand for an emergency: batteries, candles, food that doesn’t need to be cooked. An elderly father-in-law, a sister living alone. Weather like this can be treacherous! So be safe and stay home if possible. Read a book. Drink wine and tea. Eat chocolate. Play a game with your kids (or, as I’m learning is more the case with my peers, grandkids). Make love. Then eat again!

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Two Blizzards


KENNEDY PLAZA BLIZZARD

Traffic snarls around Kennedy Plaza in downtown Providence, R.I., on the afternoon of February 6, 1978, the first day of the 1978 blizzard. The 24-hour storm that pounded the Northeast crippled Rhode Island for more than a week, cutting off power, closing the airport and straining state resources. (AP Photo/The Providence Journal, Richard Benjamin)

I was a sophomore at Providence College, and this blizzard came just two months after a devastating fire on campus that eventually claimed the lives of ten young women. We were rehearsing the musical “Candide,” and it was the first year I was an active participant in behind-the-scenes action. By the time rehearsal had ended and we stepped outside, we knew this was no ordinary snowstorm. Fortunately, the liquor store around the corner accepted personal checks (no ATMs). Two of my friends and I walked up Smith Street to the Stop and Shop supermarket, because we’d learned that they, too, accepted checks. After buying as much junk food as we could, we then had to carry two brown bags each, full of chips, cookies, and M&Ms, two miles back down Smith Street to the college. Oh, and the elevators were out. We lived on the fifth floor of McVinney Hall. But as was the case so many times that year, I lived in my own little world and was oblivious to what was going on around me.

These days we’re connected all the time. The meteorologists started talking about a potential blizzard last Monday, so there was plenty of time to prepare. And we’re adults now, so our focus is different. Snow began falling Friday morning – a fine, light snow that didn’t look threatening at all.  The snow continued, getting heavier and denser by afternoon. By the time it ended on Saturday, my little town had two feet of snow. No power outages here, thankfully, but we may have lost a few shrubs and I don’t like so much snow on the roof. High winds (up to 60mph gusts) Friday night brought down a lot of branches. Other communities weren’t so lucky, and the loss of power in such cold weather means a hardship we’re not accustomed to experiencing. These are things we think about as adults, I suppose. Still, walking around the neighborhood yesterday felt ethereal: peaceful, white, pristine.

stop sign  photo by Martha Reynolds
stop sign photo by Martha Reynolds

It’s what we expect in winter. We’re New Englanders!