Blizzard of ’78 Journal Excerpts

In February 1978, I was living with my parents in an apartment off Mammoth Road in Dracut. We and the neighbors rode out the historic blizzard as best as we could. We monitored events on the radio and TV. I kept a journal in those days and made notes about the storm. Below are excerpts as well as a few watercolored drawings I made of scenes outside my bedroom window—the heavy equipment operators plowing the parking lot. — PM


2/7/78 Still snowing, blowing, growing drifts, flowing shapes like beach dunes, gusts of wicked whipping wind against the window with each speckling spray . . . .

2/7 3.50 p.m. Still snowing hard—more than 24 hours of snow now. Near 2 feet. The drifts in back of the apartments are a good 8 feet high.

2/7 Governor orders state of emergency thru tomorrow. Massachusetts has been declared a federal disaster zone. Army equipment and troops are coming to help. Records show that in February, 1717, 10 to 20 feet of snow fell. People tunneled between houses.

2/8 Second day of the state of emergency—no cars allowed on the roads east of Worcester unless they are fire-police-health-snow removal vehicles—only emergency services workers can try to get to their workplaces. If the runways at Logan Airport get cleared today, then the federal army units from Fort Bragg, N.C., will land C-130 transport planes full of bulldozers, front-end loaders, and men. From Buffalo, N.Y., 75 pieces of snow-fighting equipment are being sent to Providence, R.I.  . . . .

2/8 Officials estimate that there are 2,000 cars stuck and abandoned on Route 128, and thousands more on other roadways. People stranded in Boston will have to spend a third night there, some of them sleeping in the showrooms of bedroom furniture stores—28 people died in storm-related situations, mostly from heart attacks—last night the army units from Fort Devens formed a convoy to get to Boston but there are so many abandoned cars on Route 2 that the trucks were blocked—The Governor will take a helicopter tour of the storm scene today—about 100 looters have been arrested, with bail set at $100,000—the National Guard has arrest power . . . the weather forecast for the rest of the week calls for clear skies . . . .

2/8 Ocean water 3 feet deep between the houses on the coast, in an alley a fire fighter carries a boy out piggyback, chunks of ice floating in the salt water flooding the streets—army trucks, amphibious ducks rescuing people from flooded houses—one guy said he got good service because the duck came to his door—after 2 days the phones are ringing in search of missing people—2 ships aground in Salem Harbor, Plum Island under water yesterday . . . 2 feet of snow in the Monadnock region of N.H., New Jersey boardwalk torn up—a blizzard is a hurricane with snow—stay home, stay off the streets is the message on TV . . . .

MassMoments Remembers the Blizzard of ’78 and So Do I…

On this day – February 7, 1978 – we awoke to many inches that later became feet of snow that had accumulated overnight. The snow continued falling throughout the day. Roads and highways were clogged with stranded cars and trucks locked-in by the snow and other vehicles. Governor Dukakis banned any but emergency travel. For days the Commonwealth was in turmoil from battered shoreline to gridlocked interstates with loss of life and loss of property. But for some it was a quiet, winter wonderland. Here’s the story of the Blizzard of ’78 as remembered  by MassMoments:

On This Day...

      …in 1978, the storm of the century paralyzed the entire state of Massachusetts. The Blizzard of ’78 dropped between two and four feet of snow on the Bay State in the space of 32 hours. Ferocious winds created drifts as high as 15 feet. Along the coast, flood tides forced 10,000 people into emergency shelters. Inland, over 3,000 cars and 500 trucks were immobilized along an eight-mile stretch of Route 128. By the time it subsided, the storm had taken 29 Massachusetts lives, destroyed 11,000 homes, and caused more than one billion dollars in damage. The Blizzard of ’78 is also remembered for many acts of kindness, cooperation, and courage.
Read more here at
I remember the Blizzard of ’78 as a challenge to dig out and feel reconnected to the world around us. The snow reached the house window sills. The boys  – Billy and Teddy - were 7 and 9 and they join in the shoveling although they really enjoyed more the flopping atop hugh snow mounds. A kind neighbor – the late Charlie Gerrard – with his snow blower worked from the end of the driveway and miraculously the driveway and the cars were clear. The thought of my Mother’s homemade fish chowder lured us into Lowell – we walked down the middle of Andover Street from the Baptist church atop the hill to Burnham Road. No cars, no sounds – just the beauty of nature and a bit of huffing and puffing along the way. The boys ended up staying with Nana and Papa through the weekend watching the city’s front end loader pile the snow into mountains at the end of their driveway. They later climbed up and slid down as only little boys can do! My brother Bill – defying the Dukakis ban – ran us back up the hill to North Tewksbury in Ag’s mustang. Bill was finally able to get to the hospital and the office. We never lost our power – which was a blessing as I learned in later years when the power did fail. One lasting effect of the blizzard was our decison to give up our breezeway and add another stall to the garage – a decision we’ve never regretted. For me 1978 was a memorable year but not just for the blizzard. That summer brought a congresssional campaign that I joined and my life was then set on a different course.
Some personal photos from the Blizzard of ’78. The first two are of our driveway and home on Fiske Street the second of Burnham Road in Lowell.

Proposed pre-Broadway production tax credit a no no by Marjorie Arons Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

I can remember the day when many, if not most, major Broadway shows opened in Boston for a test run.  West Side Story and South Pacific are just two that spring immediately to mind. (Others opened in Philadelphia or Hartford.) Now some legislators want to offer $3 million in tax credits for plays and musicals that come here before Broadway or national tour, and it seems like a really dumb idea.

We’ve been providing special tax credits for film producers to shoot here, and the strategy doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Mass. Inc’s Commonwealth Magazine says  the film tax credit “is all cloak and dagger. Movie producers come to Massachusetts, shoot their films, and receive tax credits equal to 25 percent of whatever they spend. There is no application process, no job-creation requirements, and no disclosure of who is receiving what.”

According to the magazine,  ”the state issued $165 million in film tax credits over the previous three years, which attracted $676 million in spending and generated the equivalent of 3,177 full-time jobs. Only 1,876 people worked directly on films, and they were paid a total of $429 million. Massachusetts residents held roughly 40 percent of the jobs but received only 18 percent of the wages. Nonresidents pocketed the bulk of the money, with $177 million going to just 37 out-of-state actors, directors, and producers.”

As Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby analyzed the figures, the film credit in 2010 generated five cents of net revenue for every buck in credits. (In 2009, it was 12 cents for each dollar in subsidies.)    The handful of jobs created, he said, cost taxpayers more than $142,000 apiece.

Worse, the film producers can decide not to use the tax credits themselves and sell them off to make money. Some producers have been caught claiming fraudulent expenditures. Before they clean up the film credit mess, they want to do the same thing for pre-Broadway productions?  That’s nuts!  At least some life science incentives stipulate specific numbers of jobs to be created.

During the era when many Broadway shows opened here, we lacked a healthy local theatre scene.  Nowadays theatre thrives, what with the Huntington, American Repertory Theatre, Merrimack Theatre, the Speak Easy Stage, New Rep, Lyric Stage and more. If pre-Broadway shows want to open in Boston, the more the merrier.  But they should do so in the open marketplace, because they know Boston audiences are discriminating and love theatre.

Optimally the state should review all our tax incentives, from energy to film to life sciences, to see if we’re getting bang for the buck. If we’re not, given the constraints of state budgeting, the credits should be dumped.  In the meantime,  the legislature should turn thumbs down to the additional $3 million in pre-Broadway tax credits proposed.

I welcome your comments in the section below.

The market price of on-street parking

Market Street in Lowell; February 2011

Harvard economist Edward Glaeser, one of the foremost urban thinkers in America today, has a provocative op-ed in the Globe. In “Best deal in town: on-street parking“, Glaeser examines the economics of urban parking. He contends that the because real estate is so valuable, the true cost of a parking space is quite expensive, but with municipal meters charging just $1 per hour for curbside parking, the entire community is subsidizing the select few who snag one of these spaces. He further observes that when you factor in the time spent hunting for curbside parking and the congestion and pollution it causes, curbside parking should be made more expensive than off-street parking. He doesn’t advocate eliminating curbside parking; he wants to let the free market price it. The added revenue, he contends, could fund improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists and other non-car drivers.

While Glaeser’s proposal is completely logical and even desirable, I laugh when I think of the debate that would ensue on the floor of the city council if something like this were ever proposed. One former councilor actually made the elimination of all downtown parking meters the centerpiece of his council tenure. Still, when you consider the traffic congestion that paralyzes the downtown at every evening rush hour, the thought of lessening the number of cars parked curbside starts making more sense in very practical terms. I doubt we’ll be having this debate anytime soon in Lowell, but it’s still good to get people thinking about it.