Not since 1888 has the Northeast suffered such a winter storm
Buffeted by winds of up to 110 m.p.h., a 42-ft. Coast Guard pilot boat, the Can Do, capsized and sank in Salem Harbor. The captain and the four-man crew were drowned. In nearby Nahant, Melvin Demit, 61, was lighting the furnace in his basement, when a wall of water crashed into his house and engulfed him. In Scituate, a raging sea swept five-year-old Amy Lanzikos to her death just as a rescue boat was bringing her to safety.
This was the scene along the Massachusetts coast last week, as a mammoth blizzardthe worst since 1888slammed the Northeast, dropping from 1 to 4 ft. of snow in the latest blast from a whiter of stormy discontent. Raging from Virginia to Maine, the hurricane-like storm killed at least 56 people, caused an estimated half billion dollars' worth of damage and crippled Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island for five days.
Providence was particularly hard hit. With main roads impassable after the 26-in. snowfall, Governor J. Joseph Garrahy ordered all Rhode Island businesses, except for grocery stores, to close. Not until this week was the state expected to return to normal. By comparison, the blizzard left New York City paralyzed for a mere 24 hours and entirely spared the Midwest, which was still digging out from a late January blizzard, that region's worst in a century.
At first, for the fortunate majority, last week's storm could be taken in good spirits and looked on as a welcome holiday. Cross-country skiers glided through city streets. Fraternity men tossed snowballs at sorority women on Boston's Commonwealth Avenue. Crowds applauded the impromptu performances of jugglers and clowns on Boston Common. At Boston Garden, some 11,000 fans showed up during the storm for college hockey playoffs. Many fans could not get home afterward and, sustained by free coffee and hot dogs, bunked down on the wooden seats.
Then the situation in Boston worsened. Two power blackouts cut off electricity for 100,000 people at the height of the storm. In some working-class neighborhoods, looting broke out. Long lines formed at the few food markets that could open, and shelves were quickly stripped bare of milk, bread, potato chips, ginger alealmost anything edible. Not until two days after the storm, when the major highways were finally cleared, could the city be resupplied with food.