The Blizzard of ’78

Here’s an account of the Blizzard of 1978 that I wrote on its 15th anniversary in 1993.  In February 1978, I was a sophomore at Providence College which is where I experienced that historic event.  In the days before cameras were ubiquitous, all most of us have are our memories.  Here are mine:

As dormitory residents at Providence College, none of us paid much attention to weather forecasts.  Since the classrooms, the gym and the cafeteria were only a few yards away, snow had never been a problem.  Until February of 1978, that is.

The snow, which started falling by mid-morning, was a welcome sight to most.  Six weeks earlier, a tragic dormitory fire had killed ten of our classmates and the heavy flakes falling outside the classrooms seemed to lighten the somber mood of those on campus.  By noon, however, we were in the middle of a major storm.  My roommates and I walked off campus and soon were pushing cars through the drifts, helping commuters make their way home.  It snowed all that day, through the night, and for most of the next day.  By the time it stopped, nearly 4 feet of snow had fallen on the city of Providence.  Nothing – not even snowplows – could move for days.  We spent our time trudging though the neighborhoods adjacent to the college, offering snow shoveling services.  There were many takers.

Soon we had plenty of money but nowhere to spend it.  The shelves of the local stores were all empty.  Unfortunately, so was our cafeteria.  Friday, lunch consisted of baked beans, canned peaches, crackers and water.  Later that afternoon, Rhode Island National Guard helicopters loaded with food were landing in the parking lot, resupplying the college as if it were an isolated military outpost.

Sunday afternoon, the exciting yet erratic Providence College basketball team was scheduled to play North Carolina, the number one team in the country.  Green Airport finally opened, allowing the visitor’s plane to land, and word went out that admission was free for anyone who could make it to the downtown Civic Center.  Even then, days after the storm, the main road to downtown Providence was open only to snowmobiles and pedestrians.  Everyone on campus walked the three miles to see the game and what a game it was.  Amidst signs reading “Hi Mom, send shovels”, the unranked Friars beat the best team in the country in the final seconds of a nationally televised game.  It was a fitting conclusion to an unforgettable week.

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