How hard did Blizzard of '78 hit Seacoast? Here's a look back

·2 min read

The Blizzard of 1978 dropped 15 to 24 inches of snow along the Seacoast of New Hampshire and southern Maine, according to the National Weather Service.

Many residents of Hampton and Rye Beach were evacuated, according to reports, with five feet of water filling their streets.

"In New Hampshire, there was $14 million in damage -- a lot of that along the coast, with tides running 14 feet above normal," one eyewitness report recounted.

The storm ravaged the Seacoast, especially during high tides, with much damage to homes, fish houses, cars and more reported at Hampton Beach and along the entire New Hampshire coast.

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Following the Blizzard of 1978 on Feb. 10, during the third day ofhigher-than-normal tides, waves pound the sea wall in Hampton Beach.
Following the Blizzard of 1978 on Feb. 10, during the third day ofhigher-than-normal tides, waves pound the sea wall in Hampton Beach.

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How did the Blizzard of '78 form?

Cold air to the north in Canada, low pressure to the south and relatively warm ocean air mixed together, according to the NWS, to form “The Blizzard,” which stalled off southern New England for nearly 36 hours.

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The storm first appeared as a "weak extratropical cyclone" off the coast of South Carolina on the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 5, 1978. A Winter Storm Watch was issued at 3 p.m. that afternoon for Maine and New Hampshire, predicting six or more inches of snow, coastal flooding and erosion.

Splintered wreckage littered the parking lot and Ocean Boulevard at North Hampton's public beach following the Blizzard of 1978. These are former fishing shacks used as summer homes and bath houses.
Splintered wreckage littered the parking lot and Ocean Boulevard at North Hampton's public beach following the Blizzard of 1978. These are former fishing shacks used as summer homes and bath houses.

The intensifying storm stalled over the area of Block Island, Rhode Island the next day, Feb. 6. The storm intensified dramatically and quickly. At 7 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 7, a Coastal Evacuation Order was issued for the coast from Portland to Kittery in Maine.

One to three feet of snow fell from Delaware to Maine. The highest accumulation in New England was 27 inches measured in Providence and Boston.

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Why was the Blizzard of '78 so bad

But the snowfall was not the real problem. Most of the damage the storm caused was from the storm's hurricane-force winds. Gusts peaked at 83 mph in Boston and 93 mph on Cape Cod.

The simultaneous astronomical high tide pushed by the high winds created a storm surge, resulting in widespread coastal flooding and severe beach erosion.

The storm left tons of debris, 10- to 15-foot drifts, water-logged cars and flooded homes and businesses along the coast.

Photos to share? Email your Blizzard of 1978 images (with exact location) to news@seacoastonline.com

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Blizzard of '78: Look back at impact on Hampton Beach, New Hampshire