Thirty-five years ago this month, the east coast was hit by the blizzard of ’78. In Massachusetts, the storm was responsible for 79 deaths and more than $500 million in damage, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The south shore towns of Hull and Scituate were among the worst-hit areas. The then-44-year-old Governor Michael Dukakis described the devastation on local television this way:
“To see those houses piled like doll houses on their side, to see houses just tipped into the ocean in Hull and Scituate, to see an area in Scituate, North Scituate that I spent weeks in during the summer when I was three or four, looking like a pile of kindling, was almost unbelievable.”
The town of Scituate, Mass. is once again preparing for a monster storm.
Scituate Harbormaster Mark Patterson says commercial fisherman have had time to prepare for the storm, because it was well-forecasted.
“They’ve gone out and double-checked their lines and added some extra gear,” Patterson said. “They’re either pulling their [lobster] traps in or taking them out to deeper water, just trying to keep them out of harm’s way.”
Blizzard of ’78
Patterson was about 13 years old when the blizzard of ’78 struck, but he remembers it well. His family was evacuated from his house, which was completely underwater. They ended up moving after the storm.
Hundreds of homes were destroyed. A 5-year-old girl, Amy Lanzikos, was ripped from her mother’s arms when a rescue boat capsized, and a neighbor, Edward Hart, also drowned in the incident.
“It was a tragedy,” Patterson said.
Patterson says he hopes to avoid that kind of loss of life this time around. He says many people have already evacuated and boarded up their homes. But he acknowledges that there is only so much you can do to protect yourself from Mother Nature.
“This is part of life in New England,” Patterson said. “I guess in California, they have earthquakes and in other areas they have tornadoes and here we get nor’easters.”
- Mark Patterson, harbormaster in Scituate, Mass.