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It started snowing in the early morning of February 6, 1978, in Connecticut and across the entire area from New York City up through New England. Thirty hours later there were over two feet of snow in some places, including on the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs. The famous Blizzard of 1978 is still one for the record books, with the cost for damage over $25 million statewide and the deaths of six people including four men who had heart attacks from shoveling snow. Governor Ella Grasso shut down the state for three days, hundreds of cars were abandoned on state roads and thousands of people sought refuge in emergency shelters. President Jimmy Carter declared Connecticut and the other New England states a disaster area and federal troops were called in to help the state recover from shoulder high snow drifts and blocked roadways.
On the UConn campus it was more of a party atmosphere, with students having snowball fights, sledding down Horsebarn Hill, and enjoying a couple of days of no classes. Twenty students were treated at the University Health Services for snow related injuries, including one who broke his foot jumping from the upper story of a dormitory into a pile of snow below. There were reports of other students doing the same thing, except they did so with no clothes on (see the article “‘Skin’ Diving Becomes Winter Sport,” from the Connecticut Daily Campus of February 8, 1978). University Facilities was busy with round-the-clock plowing and shoveling, and classes finally resumed on February 9.
I was a resident of Russell C in the Frats that year. I remember walking outside and the wind almost knocking me flat it was blowing so strong. So this is a blizzard, I thought. It was by far the worse snowstorm I have ever seen and that’s after years of living in upstate NY. The snow and wind were absolutely sideways – very hard to walk outside. Some dorms got stranded with their cooks; lucky them! We weren’t, so a plan was made to find the kitchen keys and start making sandwiches for residents. But of course, being young – we made the most of it! I remember people jumping from the windows out in the drifts. Guys trekked out and came back to campus hauling kegs. Remember the drinking age at the time was 18. Non-stop party and playing in the snow!
Mike, Barry and I were living out at 25 Edgewater Dr. on Lake Coventry. We were seniors, me in my final semester, and working in the kitchen of Crawford C in South Campus. It had been snowing all day and as my housemates and I were heading back to the lake early that evening we stuffed our bags with food and piled into Mike’s 1968 Dodge Polara. The three of us were joined by two girls working in Crawford B who lived a few doors down the road. Heading out, we made slow time in that rear wheel ark. We stopped at Allie John’s Package Store in Eagleville. Allie was a sweet guy with a good size knot on the side of his head. We picked up a few cases of Bud, a quart of Southern Comfort and some packs of Marlboro Reds for sustenance.
Properly provisioned, we then slogged in that Mopar down RT 275 and made it to the Lakeview Bar. Unable to drive any further, we had to abandon the car there. The 5 of us post holed home across the lake each of us guys carrying a case of beer and dragging our bags in what was almost a total whiteout.
It was many years ago, but I think that trip from South Campus to Edgewater Dr. took us almost 3 hours.
Across the street lived our local neighborhood suppliers – Kenny, Crash and Connie. They were nice enough to extend us credit for a $10 bag. We were always near broke and scrapping by forever grateful for the many kindnesses extended by others.
The next five days were a great, grand white blur of winter party. Twenty one years old, with all my buddies, bonfires and Electric Light Orchestra.
Thankfully, no one got hurt. And, inexplicably, without warning, I am now a grandfather.
Thank you for that great reminiscence of your experience as a UConn student during the Blizzard of 1978. We here in the UConn Archives love hearing about student experiences of events on campus and the state.
I was in Morgan House up in the Towers at the time. Our cook Phil could not make it in and being the kitchen coordinator I ended up with the responsibility of providing meals for a dorm of 60+. My assistant coordinator Kate and I came up with menus for all the days Phil was not there. We ate really well. The dorm had an old toboggan and a group of people made several trips to the package store. Great parties. People were jumping out the 3rd floor window into the drift that were about 10’ deep. Fortunately no one got hurt. I was fortunate enough to be able to dig my car out. Drove it around on the few roads that were plowed. Hit the package store a few more times. It’s a time I’ll never forget.
THANK YOU for that great reminiscence of your experience during the Great Blizzard of 1978. We here in the UConn Archives love hearing from alums, and we’re glad you had a great time during the storm.
I was a 21 y/o morning cook at Plainville Conv Hospital, I worked a 36 hour shift over two days including delivering Triage Meals to the Home’s homebound clients on both those days. The second day myself and the Home’s owner’s husband were out in a deVille delivering meals while the State’s roads were officially closed, he was hoping not to get the car stuck and I was hoping not to get stuck in the huge snowbanks I had to hurdle to reach the clients homes. For two days we cared for both our live-in clients and our home bound clients as well as the nursing and Administrative staff of the Home. Good times.
Thank you for that wonderful reminiscence!