Seacoast residents' Blizzard of '78 stories

Return to Table of Contents

Seacoast Sunday, February 3, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of the Seacoast Sunday and Seacoast Online.]

Charles Pierson, Barrington

At the time of this storm, I was a police officer for the town of Hampton. Because of the storm emergency, there were a lot of police officers and firefighters and public works personnel involved in various operations during this multiday blizzard. I was tasked to evacuate as many people as I could that were stranded in cottages at the southern end of Ocean Boulevard. There was no way to take a police cruiser in and out of there due to the very deep snow. As a result, it was decided to use a large school bus.

Driving that bus was Hampton resident Betty Hart. The driving conditions were absolutely horrible; there was deep snow, winds that were actually making a screaming sound as they passed between buildings, and the combined snow and wind made for big snowdrifts and white-out driving conditions on a constant basis.

At our destination, I went up the street and went from cottage to cottage and escorted the people to the waiting school bus that would take them to the evacuation shelter set up at the Hampton Academy Junior High School.

During this Blizzard of '78, there were heroic acts performed by the police, firefighters, Department of Public Works, National Guard and Red Cross, along with a very heroic action by Betty Hart for her part in the rescue of a large number of people from a "hurricane of snow."

Kathy Cardin, Hampton

At the time of the storm, I was a student at the University of New Hampshire, renting a second-floor apartment on Route 1A, North Beach in Hampton. Our landlords lived on the first floor. We were helping to bale water out of their apartment when a wave crashed through their front window. I wasn't going to stick around much longer to see what would come next. The National Guard came by in boats to evacuate.

As we (my boyfriend, now husband) were leaving, I watched my Toyota floating down Kings Highway with the horn going off! We were taken by bus to Hampton Academy. From there, a volunteer took us on his Skidoo to a local hotel to wait out the storm. The next day, we returned only to find out we missed a great spaghetti dinner the landlords had cooked up in our second-floor apartment for the other tenants brave enough to stay behind! Shoot, we should have stayed!

Norman Hill, Newmarket

Our son Scott was attending New England School of Art and Design in Boston. We would pick him up on Fridays after class and return him on Sunday with enough food to last him the week.

On (Wednesday), the storm subsided. I decided I would head for Arlington, leave my car there and see if any transportation was available. I found buses were running into Boston. I was able to reach Harvard Square and catch the T. I got off the T at Essex Street and walked to Storrow Drive.

While walking down the middle of the street, I spotted a lone person walking. This person had his head bowed nearly to his chest, no hat on and looked very forlorn. I recognized him immediately, it was my son Scott. He said, "Dad, you don't know how happy I am to see you. All I have had to eat for two days was oatmeal without milk."

Karey Gosselin, Newfields

I was a first-year nurse working at the Parker Hill Medical Center in Roxbury in Boston during the blizzard. I worked in the operating room and decided to stay. I knew I could spend the night with a friend who had an apartment nearby. We were going to have a blizzard party that night. I was 22 years old. It was the first time I saw lightning with a blizzard. The next morning, I opened the door. I literally had to crawl out and crawled to work a block away.

It was a teaching hospital. We were put up in a residence hall and they fed us. In the off time, we'd take the cafeteria trays and slide down Parker Hill onto Huntington Avenue. We'd go out to restaurants and bars. No one had money; all the banks were closed. They let you buy on credit. I've never seen so many people walking. I met the neatest people, we'd help other people out, people were very helpful. At the end of it, I went home after five days on the back of a National Guard Jeep truck. My 1967 American Motors Ambassador had died.

Dottee Todd, Hampton

We had recently moved to Hampton Beach on Haverhill Street, right on the oceanfront. I was alone, my husband was stranded in Boston. A tenant on the third floor opened the storm door on the front and the panel flew out. The National Guard came up the stairs and asked if wanted to leave. I said no, as long as I had electricity and heat. We never lost heat and electricity. Water never came near the house. The snow drifted in front of the house next door. The wind was bad. I'm still there on Haverhill Street.

Jerry and Debbie Goldfarb, Portsmouth

We were living in the Cleveland Circle area of Boston when the storm hit. It was a year before we moved to Portsmouth to open "Goldi's Deli" in 1979.

The day after the storm was beautiful. The sun was blinding against the mountains of snow. We awoke to find our cars completely buried! All we owned was a mini, collapsible shovel for emergencies. But there was no place to go once we dug out, which took two more days.

The streets of Boston turned into pedestrian malls as there were no cars on the street except for emergency vehicles. People who only days before were hurrying off to work or school were this day out walking or cross-country skiing or pulling their kids on sleds through vehicle-free roads to and from the few grocery stores that were able to open.

Richard Maxfield, Portsmouth

I was working at Boston University's Mugar Library in 1978. As the storm strengthened during the morning of Feb. 5, the library staff was sent home. Some friends and I walked down Commonwealth Avenue to TGI Friday's and ate lunch as we watched people struggling along the sidewalks in the wind-driven snow.

After lunch, I walked home to Cambridge across the Mass. Ave. bridge, along the sidewalk where the snow was blown away. It wasn't an easy walk, but even as I braved the wind and snow, I knew that it was an adventure. The next day, the BU staff found out that the school had shut down for the rest of the week. I was one of the fortunate ones whose home never lost power or heat. The Red Line on the T continued to run, and I found myself going into Boston to have "blizzard parties" at various friends' apartments.

I know a lot of people suffered during the blizzard and its aftermath, but for me, it remains a unique, and happy, memory.

Ginny, no last name given, Hampton

I was working in Amesbury, Mass., in a little store called Liberty Market. I couldn't leave because the weather was so bad. It was a good thing, because the highway department workers would stop in to warm up near the old heater stove that was in there, and get a hot coffee, sandwich or some munchies.

Well, it was love at first sight, for both my husband of 29 years and myself. He walked through the door and at the time had a full head of hair and a face full of hair as well, with the bluest eyes like sea water. The snow was frozen completely on his facial hair. I just looked at him and smiled. not knowing who he even was. (He has told me numerous times that the smile is what blew him away.) He stayed awhile to warm up and we got to talking. Since there was no way for me to get home, he offered to drive me there. I took up the offer and needless to say, we were married on Sept. 22, 1979, and still going strong.

The Blizzard of '78 was the best thing that happened to me back then.

Gary Dozier, Hampton Falls

As the blizzard approached, I was working at my desk at a magazine publishing house in Boston. As the day progressed and the storm worsened, our boss offered the offices as a place to stay overnight for anyone who wanted. There was at least one pizza house nearby, TV in the offices, couches and comfortable floors on which to sack out, so we had nearly all the comforts of home right there.

At the time, I lived at Lindsay Lodges at Odiorne Point on Rye Beach. I lived in a tiny studio apartment in the basement of one of the cottages. My bathroom window, a cellar window, faced the seawall that was about 50 feet away. I had several thousands of dollars in electronic computing devices and peripherals in my room.

I called the manager of Lindsay Lodges ... and heard the horrible news that the seawall had been breached, and ocean water had filled up the septic tank and had begun to overflow into the toilet and tub.

I had to take a bus from Boston to Portsmouth, take a cab from downtown to a car rental agency, rent a car, arm myself with a lantern flashlight and drive to Odiorne Point to make an assessment of the damages.

When I got to my place, I was aware of the water line and the odorous indication that sewage was now a part of my apartment. Not only had water filled up almost 27 inches in the room, but seawater and sewage had also coated the walls, the floor and everything in its path. I had NO insurance. I was devastated. My losses exceeded $25,000.

Elaine Webb, Rye

The full moon and hide tide took out seawalls. The National Guard patrolled the beach to keep homes from being looted. I remember seeing the open walls of homes. I lived on South Road, we were fine, but the surge came over and went right into garages. It was remarkable. People had warnings, people who had lived there for a long time said they never saw anything quite like that. The water came halfway up South Road, it left a big slush pile. Thirty years ago, there were not so many homes along the ocean. It's a little scary now.

Susan Emery, Kittery Point, Maine

About 4:30 p.m., I left work in Manchester and headed toward Keene State College to a master's degree evening class. I stopped for a minute to say hello to my parents in Peterborough, then proceeded. Upon arrival, I was surprised to see a sign on the door that class had been canceled. So, I headed home to Concord on Route 9. After about 10 miles, I noticed that plows were whipping by and heavy snow was falling, but I saw no other cars. So, when I got to Route 123, I decided to get off the highway and head to a friend's house in Hancock, because as a seasoned New England driver, I felt safe even in snow as long as I could drive slowly. The next morning when I looked out the window, I realized what I had driven through! No, I did not attempt to drive back to Manchester to work that morning!

Tom Morris, Exeter

I was stranded in Cambridge, Mass., thanks to the state of emergency and the Massachusetts National Guard. Along with my ex-wife and a couple of friends, we walked from the Arlington/Cambridge line to the Ground Round on Mass. Avenue. We all commented on how strange it was to walk in the road on Mass. Ave. at 4 p.m. on a weekday. We weren't the only ones. Everyone we met on the way was in a festive mood. It was a good shared time.

Return to Table of Contents