Author Topic: The Blizzard of 1978  (Read 813 times)

Offline nfd2004

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The Blizzard of 1978
« on: February 05, 2019, 08:53:50 AM »
 Oh what a difference 41 years makes.

 February 5, 2019 in Connecticut the sun is shinning with temperatures expected to reach the high 50s this afternoon.

 For tomorrow and the next day probably in the high 40s. The birds are singing this morning at the Ole' Homestead in Norwich, Ct. about 100 miles east of NYC.

 But late afternoon back on February 5, 1978 it was NOTHING LIKE THAT. The sky was cloudy and we had NO Idea what we were in for. Weather reports were that we were going to get some snow. And around here they were right as it started to snow about 4:15 pm, as I left my home to go work as an extra firefighter at Engine 3s firehouse. The firehouse we nicknamed "Little House on the Prairie", because of it's location of many single family homes.

 But across the street from that firehouse was the area "regional high school" which included high school students from many of the smaller surrounding towns, plus the students from Norwich. It includes a college like campus setting of many older buildings with classrooms. During the height of The Blizzard of 1978 there would be a fire in one of those buildings that destroyed 22 classrooms.

 I have so much more to add here. It's not exactly "My Younger Buff Years". But it is a few days of "The Blizzard of 1978". Of course I wasn't the only firefighter affected by it. There are thousands of firefighters across the northeast that have stories to tell. Not only firefighters, BUT Everybody else who lived through it.

 If you have some memories of that storm, I hope you join in. There's much more to tell.

 To give those of you who weren't around then, or our friends from outside the northeast U.S.A some idea of what it was like for those THREE DAYS, here is a video that tells the story as the storm came to an end.

 I sure am glad it's nothing like that here today.

 To our more "Senior Friends", Do you remember this ?

    

Nycfire.net

The Blizzard of 1978
« on: February 05, 2019, 08:53:50 AM »

Online grumpy grizzly

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2019, 10:42:56 AM »
If you are a college hockey fan in New England the first 2 Mondays in February are the annual "Beanpot Tournament" with BC, BU, Harvard, and Northeastern. The first week-end, February 6, 11,000 fans jammed the old Boston Garden to see Harvard beat NU and BU crush BC 12-5. Because of this storm and the closing of the city the championship was not played until March 1 when BU beat Harvard 7-1. Most of the 11,000 were probably students, and with the MBTA or the "T" to us oldsters crippled it must have been a long walk home to BC's Chestnut Hill campus.
FAC 20 TASS 68-69 SVN. Hue/PhuBai , Boston Spark from 71-79, Chicago 79-15, Bloomington/Normal 2015- present

Offline nfd2004

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2019, 11:43:28 AM »
If you are a college hockey fan in New England the first 2 Mondays in February are the annual "Beanpot Tournament" with BC, BU, Harvard, and Northeastern. The first week-end, February 6, 11,000 fans jammed the old Boston Garden to see Harvard beat NU and BU crush BC 12-5. Because of this storm and the closing of the city the championship was not played until March 1 when BU beat Harvard 7-1. Most of the 11,000 were probably students, and with the MBTA or the "T" to us oldsters crippled it must have been a long walk home to BC's Chestnut Hill campus.

 Thanks "grump" for that story. Boston was one of the hardest hit areas.

 As the snow started coming down, I reported to work at Engine 3, aka "The Little House on the Prairie". As a young 28 year old firefighter, I would be the junior man, working with a captain and the MPO of the rig, who was the senior man in the department at the time.

 Around 8 pm the snow is coming down very heavy and starting to pile up on the apparatus ramp. I tell the captain I'm going out there to shovel and he says to me that he is going out there too. He tells the senior guy to stay inside and put the coffee on. Of course I tell the captain that I will take care of it but he's really into exercise and wants to do it too. So out there we go and as fast as we try to clear that ramp, the snow is covering it again.

 Later that night we make a run to the local hospital for a fire alarm. We take care of that and when we come back to quarters its about 3 am and the snow is building up there again on the ramp. When we get back in quarters I tell the captain that I'm going out there to shovel. It really needs it.

 The captain then tells me "NO Willy, you go in and put the coffee on for "Elly", that senior MPO. "I'll take care of this".

 "Are you kidding Cap" ? "That's my job, I can do it". He says to me, "No I want to do it". "I want the exercise". I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT. He had me stay in that firehouse while he went out there in a blizzard to shovel that ramp.

 At 7 am it is shift change and I am scheduled to work my regular shift at fire headquarters (now closed and no longer a firehouse) on Chestnut St. But of course before I leave Engine 3, I got to dig out my car to make the short trip of about 2 miles away.

 As the snow keeps coming down, the entire night shift is held over, including the captain of Eng 3 (Captain Ray Brosfski) and the senior guy, MPO Arnie Ellison. We now have extra manning on all the rigs, 4 Engines, 1 Ladder, 1 Rescue/Ambulance type rig.

 The Senior MPO known as "Elly" passed away several years ago. BUT Captain Ray Brosfski, who told me that night to go inside and put the coffee on while "HE" shoveled that ramp is now 96 years old and doing great. I saw him at a firehouse Christmas Party on December 12, 2018, only a few months ago. He is the most senior retired man in the entire department.

 When I saw him I asked him if he remembered that night. Yes he did and today, 41 years later he is still looking just like he did then. I have a picture of him that I took in April, 2017. He still looks the same today at 96 years old. I hope I can get it posted here by one of our members.

 Captain Brosfski, "You Are the BEST".   
« Last Edit: February 05, 2019, 12:42:10 PM by nfd2004 »

Online Signal73

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2019, 11:44:03 AM »
Uncle Willy asked me to post this pic for him



Remember to take it coming in

Offline memory master

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2019, 12:48:44 PM »
Hats off to the Captain. He looks like he did a lot of snow shoveling and hose humping in his time. God Bless him and may he always have a smile on his face.

Offline jks19714

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2019, 05:33:46 PM »
I think we got 18-24 inches of snow in Delaware.  I was the one and only volunteer in State Emergency Management at the time (I work in the power utility, 41 years now) and had just been promoted to deputy operations officer. Meaning that I was the night shift OIC.  There were only seven paid staff in State EM at the time (plus one volunteer, who was also the NBC officer!). All the paid guys worked days of course.

Those were the days.  I met the Governor one night during the blizzard and he was a little surprised to run into a young volunteer (<30) alone in the State EOC, posting the info from the teletypes and NAWAS and answering the phones.   ;D  Fortunately we didn't have any problems that I couldn't handle and I got an attaboy from the governor during the post-event analysis.






Offline nfd2004

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2019, 07:29:40 PM »
 The next day, February 6th, the snow kept coming down as the wind gathered strength. I remember trying to drive in that blizzard the two mile drive to the other firehouse. I didn't see one car on the road. The news on the radio in my car was saying how the schools were all closed and even banks and government offices would be closed for the day. Of course stores and offices would be closed as well.

 At that time, it was a requirement that all city firefighters live within the city border as residents. A city of only about 35 square miles. Myself and another firefighter (a neighbor) probably lived about the farthest away from fire headquarters. Maybe a 7-8 mile distance.

 My brother had just gotten on the job as a Bridgeport Firefighter in August, 1977, so he only had about six months on when the blizzard came. He was also a member of the Army National Guard and there was talk that if the storm kept up, the National Guard would be activated. I think that night they were activated as the snow kept falling.

 It was the first and only time I ever saw U.S. Army equipment operating in this city. They were out there as well doing a GREAT JOB. 

 The year before in 1977, the Buffalo area was hit very hard with a similar blizzard. It was reported that the Buffalo FD had used snow mobiles during that storm. The afternoon of Feb 6th with the snow still coming down very heavy, two guys on the job offered to bring their personnel snowmobiles in. They had a trailer to haul them and the department would supply them with a vehicle to tow them. They didn't live far and they went home to pick them up. Those snowmobiles proved to be life savors.

 That afternoon a report of a heart attack victim comes in. The address is the last house on Fairmont St, two blocks in from West Main St, a major thoroughfare. West Main St was plowed and passable but Fairmont St had not been touched. It was impossible for any fire apparatus or ambulance to get to that house. So a couple of guys ran the entire two blocks in snow about waist high carrying oxygen and medical equipment. When they got there, the victim was conscious and talking but then passed out and went into cardiac arrest right in front of them. So the two guys started CPR.

 The next guy to show up was the guy with the snow mobile. He tied a plastic skid onto the back of the snowmobile and one firefighter rode that skid with the patient doing CPR the entire two blocks to a waiting ambulance on West Main St.

 Later that night a similar situation involving a "Bleeder" with a serious cut and the victim is towed on a skid with a firefighter maintaining a bandage and pressure, while giving oxygen.

 The snowmobile team of Firefighter Tom Kirby (later Retired Chief of Dept) and Firefighter Pete Davis during the blizzard and their snowmobiles were given the nicknames of "Rocky and his Flying Squirrel" named after a couple of cartoon characters. But those guys did a Great Job and they were about to play a very important part as the storm was about to peaked out.

 Most of the city lost electric power as well. Of course the firehouses had generators and gas stoves. But everybody wasn't so lucky. At home sitting in the cold dark house was my wife with no electricity to run our heat, stove, lights or refrigerator. She had company as well. Next to her was an elderly couple who lived in that same duplex house who had no electricity as well. I told them that we could get them to a shelter but they all decided to stay. I don't know how they did it.

 During the storm just as "jks19714" mentions there were many people or organizations that offered help. Of course the area Volunteer Firefighters were out there. In some cases as long as three days. There was a group known then as Civil Defense and those people also came out, very often taking essential workers such as dispatchers, nurses, doctors, etc to their jobs.

 There were trees and wires down with snow still falling and winds of 50-70 mph. For the Norwich Firefighters as well as some surrounding volunteer firefighters the toughest job was yet to come. The city plow trucks, the National Guard, the public utilities, and those snow mobiles would really be appreciated within the next few hours. The toughest challenge was about to come.       

   

Offline mack

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2019, 10:37:17 PM »
Uncle Willy asked me to post this pic for him






FF Ray Brosfske collecting Christmas toys with NFD brothers:

     
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 12:49:03 AM by mack »

Offline 68jk09

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2019, 12:34:14 AM »
For the February 1978 Snow Storm i was in R*2...i was scheduled to work at 0900 following the start of the storm....due to the forecast i left home about 2200 the night before....i was driving my '77 Suburban which even though not 4 Wheel Drive but with a full tank it was good in the snow...i made it to the FH fairly well...by the next morning the snow was very deep...i was driving R*2 & we had chains on the Rig but as had happened in the past the local runs through the streets with snow were ok on the chains but since the Rescue also had some responses for a good distance on highways (which generally had been cleared) the chains did not last that long on pavement....by that evening the second set of chains was wearing out...the good thing was that the '76 Mack had a lot of weight & was pretty good in the streets that had not been able to be properly cleared....there were not too many notable Fires that i went to in the 2 tours but we did cover some ground...one thing that i remember was responding to a woman in labor & since there were very few Ambulances able to navigate after we delivered the baby we transported the child & Mother to the Hosp...all these years later i wonder where this person is now....i will just add that to the list of almost all of those aided that were never known about again...(although it has nothing to do with this Snow Storm there was one Rescue where about 30 yrs later i heard about a 5 yr old i had rescued.... he was in the papers after the rescue & then in the papers again after his arrest for drugs & beating up his Mom)..... speaking of February snow storms i was working in LAD*108 for the start of the February 1969 snow storm which was also a big one...it happened that at the time several Members of the Company were on a ski trip & could not return so those of us available wound up working 48 hrs straight & caught several jobs all the while riding around on an open Rig.....ours was a '63 Seagrave 100' Tiller which had good weight ...there were some LADs that had Tillers with '75 wooden Aerials & overall much less weight & were getting hung up on snow compacted under the side running boards.....although it has nothing to with this i remember after working the (unauthorized) 48 hr tour on my way home i stopped to get a paper & also bought a copy of Motor Trend magazine ....when i got home i slept till the evening ...  that night after reading the magazine i decided to go purchase my Plymouth Road Runner (wish i still had it).

Offline manhattan

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2019, 12:53:28 AM »
This is becoming another extraordinary thread.

Thank you, gentlemen (and you too, Willy!!)

Offline nfd2004

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2019, 09:08:37 AM »

FF Ray Brosfske collecting Christmas toys with NFD brothers:

     
[/quote]



 Thank you very much Joe, "mack" for posting that photo.

 In an Unrelated Story regarding the photo above, Firefighter Edward Romano was one of FOUR Firefighters killed on April 3, 1962 when they responded to a truck on fire that exploded when water was applied.

 Also Firefighters Tom Demauro, who has since passed away, and then Lt Tom LaFreniere were the only surviving crew that day. Although both received serious injures but returned to the job.

 Today, Lt Lafreniere is the SECOND Most Senior Retired Member of the department at 90 years old. Second only to Retired Captain Ray Brosfske.

 A few of the members here had met Retired Lt LaFreniere last April (2018).

 Today whenever Lt LaFreniere talks of that tragic day of April, 1962 he says this:

 "God took care of us that day". "I don't know how or why but he did".

 Lt LaFreniere also received "The Bronze Star" for his combat military service during the Korean War.

 Lt LaFreniere remains a Role Model to the Firefighters of today. Maybe that's why God took care of him that day.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 09:11:49 AM by nfd2004 »

Offline nfd2004

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2019, 12:07:40 PM »
 Thank you Chief "68jk09" for your story. I guess being firefighters, or any other workers who must deal with working during heavy snow storms can be a challenge to all.

 I remember back around 1984 I went out to the L.A. City/County area for a combination vacation and buff trip with my wife. She was okay with the beach or sitting by the pool a couple of days, while I went checking out some firehouses. Actually, "Fire Stations" as they are more commonly called there.

 The most common question that those firefighters had was "How do you do it in the cold and all that snow" ? With the Blizzard of 1978 still fresh in my mind, my answer was just "Somehow - I guess".

 But my question to them was: "How do you deal with those massive brush fires that are larger than the entire city I live in" ? I could NOT relate to that job they do either.

 Of course when I was telling them about my buffing days of NYC that was certainly an interesting topic for them as well. Plus a few stories from the Blizzard of 1978.

 All Being Brother Firefighters, but some with such different stories of THEIR OUR OWN.   
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 12:11:46 PM by nfd2004 »

Offline fdce54

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2019, 02:38:03 PM »
For the February 1978 Snow Storm i was in R*2...i was scheduled to work at 0900 following the start of the storm....due to the forecast i left home about 2200 the night before....i was driving my '77 Suburban which even though not 4 Wheel Drive but with a full tank it was good in the snow...i made it to the FH fairly well...by the next morning the snow was very deep...i was driving R*2 & we had chains on the Rig but as had happened in the past the local runs through the streets with snow were ok on the chains but since the Rescue also had some responses for a good distance on highways (which generally had been cleared) the chains did not last that long on pavement....by that evening the second set of chains was wearing out...the good thing was that the '76 Mack had a lot of weight & was pretty good in the streets that had not been able to be properly cleared....there were not too many notable Fires that i went to in the 2 tours but we did cover some ground...one thing that i remember was responding to a woman in labor & since there were very few Ambulances able to navigate after we delivered the baby we transported the child & Mother to the Hosp...all these years later i wonder where this person is now....i will just add that to the list of almost all of those aided that were never known about again...(although it has nothing to do with this Snow Storm there was one Rescue where about 30 yrs later i heard about a 5 yr old i had rescued.... he was in the papers after the rescue & then in the papers again after his arrest for drugs & beating up his Mom)..... speaking of February snow storms i was working in LAD*108 for the start of the February 1969 snow storm which was also a big one...it happened that at the time several Members of the Company were on a ski trip & could not return so those of us available wound up working 48 hrs straight & caught several jobs all the while riding around on an open Rig.....ours was a '63 Seagrave 100' Tiller which had good weight ...there were some LADs that had Tillers with '75 wooden Aerials & overall much less weight & were getting hung up on snow compacted under the side running boards.....although it has nothing to with this i remember after working the (unauthorized) 48 hr tour on my way home i stopped to get a paper & also bought a copy of Motor Trend magazine ....when i got home i slept till the evening ...  that night after reading the magazine i decided to go purchase my Plymouth Road Runner (wish i still had it).
I wish you still had that Road Runner. You could take Willy, John and I out cruising....lol.

Offline memory master

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2019, 06:43:30 PM »
For the February 1978 Snow Storm i was in R*2...i was scheduled to work at 0900 following the start of the storm....due to the forecast i left home about 2200 the night before....i was driving my '77 Suburban which even though not 4 Wheel Drive but with a full tank it was good in the snow...i made it to the FH fairly well...by the next morning the snow was very deep...i was driving R*2 & we had chains on the Rig but as had happened in the past the local runs through the streets with snow were ok on the chains but since the Rescue also had some responses for a good distance on highways (which generally had been cleared) the chains did not last that long on pavement....by that evening the second set of chains was wearing out...the good thing was that the '76 Mack had a lot of weight & was pretty good in the streets that had not been able to be properly cleared....there were not too many notable Fires that i went to in the 2 tours but we did cover some ground...one thing that i remember was responding to a woman in labor & since there were very few Ambulances able to navigate after we delivered the baby we transported the child & Mother to the Hosp...all these years later i wonder where this person is now....i will just add that to the list of almost all of those aided that were never known about again...(although it has nothing to do with this Snow Storm there was one Rescue where about 30 yrs later i heard about a 5 yr old i had rescued.... he was in the papers after the rescue & then in the papers again after his arrest for drugs & beating up his Mom)..... speaking of February snow storms i was working in LAD*108 for the start of the February 1969 snow storm which was also a big one...it happened that at the time several Members of the Company were on a ski trip & could not return so those of us available wound up working 48 hrs straight & caught several jobs all the while riding around on an open Rig.....ours was a '63 Seagrave 100' Tiller which had good weight ...there were some LADs that had Tillers with '75 wooden Aerials & overall much less weight & were getting hung up on snow compacted under the side running boards.....although it has nothing to with this i remember after working the (unauthorized) 48 hr tour on my way home i stopped to get a paper & also bought a copy of Motor Trend magazine ....when i got home i slept till the evening ...  that night after reading the magazine i decided to go purchase my Plymouth Road Runner (wish i still had it).
I wish you still had that Road Runner. You could take Willy, John and I out cruising....lol.
While listening to 77 WABC AM radio

Offline nfd2004

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Re: The Blizzard of 1978
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2019, 08:59:48 PM »
 As the hours and days went by and the snow kept coming down with winds of 50-70 mph, for some firefighters in the small city of Norwich, Ct., "the Grand Finale" was about to come.

 At this point there wasn't a car on the road. Everybody had stayed home. It was like time had stood still and nothing was open.

 As darkness approached and the snow kept falling, the Norwich Firefighters were doing okay. Everybody was held over and some guys who had come in for the shift once the storm was in progress brought in extra food such as can goods, soups, sauce, bread, pasta, crackers, peanut butter, etc. We were basically all set. In my own case I was much better off than my wife at home, who had no electric power or heat. 

 Every reserve rig and fire department vehicle was now manned. Plus the two snowmobiles.

 Myself and another guy who had only about 2-3 years on the job were now ready. We were sometimes referred to as "The Dynamitic Duo" of Willy D and Jimmy T. Our discussion among the two of us is "Bring it on".

 One of the guys who is working at that "Little House on the Prairie", aka Engine 3, just happens to look out the front window. Directly across the street he looks twice and sees that one of the larger buildings of that high school campus is on fire. He could see fire burning in the windows.

 "The Dynamitic Duo" of Willy D and Jimmy T are about to regret what they just wished for. The dispatcher announces Engine 3 on the scene of a working fire at the Bradlaw Building, 305 Broadway. The building is a 4 story brick, maybe 100 x 250.  I guess Engine 3 puts a ground ladder to the 3rd floor window and stretches a line. The hydrant is buried in the snow but they know it is right across the street from the firehouse.

 Some companies try to get into the road leading to the front of the building but they can't because of the high snow. But as luck would have it, a city plow truck is passing by and they clear a path for a few of the rigs to get into that small roadway.

 The guys on the snow mobiles grab the supply lines and somehow find a nearby hydrant to tie into.

 Fighting the fire involves using 2 1/2" hose lines, hand stretched in waist deep snow to the front door of the building. When they say that "firefighting is a young persons job", they aren't kidding. Those young Dynamitic Duo Guys known as Willy D and Jimmy T are wiped out before they even start fighting that fire.

 When the fire is finally under control and morning is approaching the snow had finally stopped and the sun started to break through the clouds. The Blizzard of 1978 was coming to an end. It was reason for celebration despite picking up all that dirty hose and equipment. An engine and truck remained on the scene but everybody else was back at the firehouse around noon time.

 Now comes the job of cleaning everything up. Around 3 pm the guys who had began the night shift when the snow first started falling were allowed to go home, including myself. I made it home only because I got behind a National Guard Plow Vehicle. In some cases the drifts were so high they were using pay loaders to clear some of the streets.

 That fire in the high school building destroyed 22 classrooms. At the time the building had no sprinklers or standpipe system. Only local pull stations. The cause of the fire was determined to be electrical.

 The days following the Blizzard, life started going back to normal as best it could for the millions of people in the northeast United States who were affected by that blizzard. Power was being restored and the local stores had trouble keeping their shelves full.

 Today (2/6/2019) no snow shovels or snow mobiles in sight with The Blizzard of 1978 now just a distant memory.