It took days to recover from this nor’easter

Feb 8, 2018 by

Published in the February 8, 2018 edition.

This is the last part of our look back on the Blizzard of ‘78.


WAKEFIELD — While communities just to the east suffered serious damage, Wakefield encountered very few problems during the blizzard.

MLD Manager Bill Wallace announced that the town was “very lucky” that it had few power problems during the 33 hour storm. The main problem came at 4 a.m. Tuesday when downed wires at Salem Street and Montrose Avenue took out a whole circuit. Power was restored by opening up a switch to isolate the program. Part of the area was back on in a relatively short time and the entire section was back by 10 a.m.

Hospitals coping — Both the Melrose-Wakefield Hospital and the New England Memorial Hospital are continuing their normal services. In each case some of the nurses who live at a distance have simply stayed at the hospital since they arrived Monday for normal shifts. Nurses living in Wakefield who work in Melrose are driven to the town line in Greenwood by a Wakefield cruiser and then picked up by a Melrose cruiser.

Volunteers in both Melrose and Stoneham at NEMH have been of great value, aiding in shoveling and helping in other ways as well.

Items in Thursday’s paper noted that the roofs of local schools would be cleared where it was necessary and Fire Chief Walter V. Maloney Jr. again urged hydrant shoveling. The Dolbeare roof where the addition joins the original roof will be cleared whereas the roof over the WHS Fieldhouse does not need to be cleared since it is of heavy structural steel.

Harvard students built a three foot high ski jump on the steps of the Widener Library to stage a “hot dog” style acrobatic ski event on campus.

The Army suggested that its first priority is to clear major commuter arteries, including the Route 128 circumferential highway and the Interstates 95, 195 and 295 in Rhode Island.

UPI New England Sports Editor Gil Peters wrote of his home town of Hull, where he has been marooned in his home without either heat or electricity since Monday. Several homes were swept into the sea and two others were dumped into Strait’s Pond. A Howard Johnson’s was left as rubble after waves went through the town on a peninsula. During the peak of the storm on Monday night and Tuesday afternoon the waters took a town snowplow off into the Atlantic. Right now 1500 of the town’s 10,000 residents were staying at the Memorial School.

Police roundup

A 17 year old Emerson Street youth was arrested for breaking into Wakefield Antiques, 67 Albion Street, as the storm was winding down Tuesday. Wednesday night a 44 year old Broadway man was arrested for driving while intoxicated after a collision on Main Street and was placed in the Alcohol Safety Action Program. A battery and generator were stolen overnight from a car parked in the owner’s Water Street driveway. Over the weekend before the storm six calculators worth $677.80 were stolen in a Foundry Street break at J. R. Carmichael Company. An attempted break at the Wakefield Bowladrome was also on the police log. Cash and 13 packs of cigarettes were taken from the trailer at the Sure Gas Station at Main and North Avenue after the storm.

Financial aid sought

By the end of the week on Friday, February 10, the lead story now had turned toward getting federal aid. On Thursday afternoon Chairman of the Board of Selectman John W. “Wally” Moccia Jr., Town Accountant-Executive Secretary John J. McCarthy, DPW Director Richard C. Boutiette, Civil Defense Director (and former Fire Chief) William P. Hurton, and Research Analyst Mrs. Diane Bogan Carlson met.

Moccia noted that on Thursday morning he received a phone call from Brian McDevitt, representing Congressman Edward J. Markey, inquiring as to what problems Wakefield was facing. Moccia told McDevitt the main problem was money because the two giant snowstorms had blown the appropriation away and help was needed financially from the federal government.

It is now clear that it will be impossible to clear the sidewalks near the elementary schools so it now appears that the only way out is to expand school bus usage.

On Thursday police continued to crack down on private car usage which was still illegal in eastern Massachusetts. A UPI story described Friday as “another day of recovery” and banks were allowed to reopen if employees could reach the bank without using their own cars (in Boston by using the MBTA or in the suburbs if buses were allowed to operate).

Only one runway is available at Logan Airport and also at T. F. Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, as the only traffic allowed is that of military aircraft bringing men and equipment to aid in the cleanup. No commercial flights can be handled at either airport.

All WHS sporting events through the weekend are cancelled but the Middlesex League ADs will meet Monday, February 12, to lay out new dates for the coming week’s games.

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