Remembering the Blizzard of ’78: Author to deliver virtual presentation for New Salem Public Library

  • The Blizzard of 1978 destroyed and damaged hundreds of homes along the Massachusetts coast. New York Times best-selling author Michael Tougias, who in 2003 wrote “The Blizzard of ‘78,” plans to deliver a virtual slide presentation for the New Salem Public Library from 7 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 4. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • TOUGIAS

Staff Writer
Published: 2/1/2022 5:18:35 PM

NEW SALEM — The Blizzard of 1978 is practically Northeastern lore, the one by which all others are compared. 

Forty-four years before last weekend’s nor’easter dumped up to 30 inches of snow on the region, the Blizzard of 1978 left as much as 27 inches of snow behind and was responsible for nearly 100 deaths and about 4,500 injuries. It occurred during the only winter New York Times best-selling author Michael Tougias has spent outside of New England, but he exhaustively researched the storm he followed from afar and in 2003 wrote “The Blizzard of ’78,” chronicling the period before the storm, its progression and its devastating effects.

Nearly 20 years after scribing the book, Tougias has been invited to deliver a virtual narrated slide presentation for the New Salem Public Library, which he will do from 7 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 4.

“It really was the worst storm, in terms of blizzards, since 1888, and the big reason was the wind,” he said. “The wind was just incredible and there were so many homes destroyed along the coast, taken off their foundation by the waves.”

The storm lasted from Feb. 5 to Feb. 7.

Tougias, 66, explained he was in Chicago working his first job that winter and, like many, learned about the storm from the news and through word of mouth. He said he wanted to write a book with a lot of photographs to illustrate the calamity the storm caused. The photographs were taken by news outlets, the National Guard and various individuals.

“I was one of those people who thought folks who lived through it were exaggerating until I saw those photographs,” he said.

The Feb. 4 presentation was scheduled after acting Library Director Linda Chatfield read about Tougias’ program on the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners’ online directory of performers.

“The minute I saw that title, I thought, ‘Oh, that sounds really cool,’” she said. “We’re very, very excited about it. We’ve got a lot of people registered already.”

Chatfield said she was living in Connecticut in 1978 and the storm postponed the start of her second semester at Manchester Community College. She also said her daughter couldn’t go to daycare, which was practically across the street.

“It feels like another lifetime,” she said.

Tougias, who grew up in Longmeadow and lives in Mendon, said the presentation will last roughly 45 minutes, with a question-and-answer portion following it. He said he fills the presentation with striking photographs and some light-hearted moments.

In Tougias’ opinion, the most fascinating story from the blizzard involves the Can Do, a private pilot boat whose crew ventured into the unforgiving waters of the Salem Sound to rescue workers on a Greek oil tanker.

“I can’t even imagine what it must have been like at sea during that storm,” he said.

This story inspired two of Tougias’ books — “Ten Hours Until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do,” and its young-adult version, “Into the Blizzard: Heroism at Sea During the Great Blizzard of 1978.” Tougias said the story went largely unheard for years because the inland blizzard overtook it in the news cycle.

To register for the event, contact the New Salem Public Library at 978-544-6334 or n_salem@cwmars.org. The program is sponsored by the New Salem Cultural Council.

More information about Tougias is available at michaeltougias.com.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0162, ext. 262.


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