A CPTV Original Documentary to Premiere Saturday, February 13 at 7:30 p.m., with an Encore Presentation at 9:30 p.m. and on Sunday, February 14 at 4:00 p.m.
For many Connecticut residents, February 6, 1978 started out as just another Monday; but by midday, when a massive snowstorm hit, highways were jammed with abandoned cars and surprised residents. The numbers were staggering . . . 15 to 30 inches of snow; three straight days without automobile, air or rail traffic; wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour; snowdrifts as high as 16 feet. Roads were closed to non-emergency vehicles, and Governor Ella Grasso called in the National Guard. Tune in to Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) on Saturday, February 13 at 7:30 p.m. (with an encore presentation at 9:30 p.m. and on Sunday, February 14 at 4 p.m.) for the premiere of The Blizzard of ‘78, a CPTV original documentary that features interviews with and images from people who experienced the storm’s fury first-hand.
Hear the astonishing stories—ranging from harrowing to heroic, heartwarming to humorous—and discover why experiences like this help earn New Englanders their reputation as resilient and persevering people. See how Mother Nature seized Connecticut for three straight days, causing the closing of schools and businesses; and stranding approximately 5,000 people who were forced to take refuge in shelters after futile efforts to make it home. Watch footage of some of the 1,200 cars towed from state highways and the thousands stuck on secondary roads. View the damage caused to shoreline homes, where families had to be evacuated and flooding was extensive.
According to Ken Venit, who anchored the WTNH-TV newscast in 1978, forecasting was not as scientifically accurate in those days. “When people woke up and didn’t see the snow, they figured the weathercasters got it wrong again,” he said, so people headed off to work and school as usual. “The forecast, with all of its limitations, was only off by five or six hours,” Venit said. “By midday, the snow started coming down at an inch an hour and, in some parts of New England, four inches an hour. By the afternoon if you weren’t home, you weren’t going home.”
Businesses let their employees leave work early, and schools began shutting down, but it was too late. The storm was already in full force.
“These storms slow down, and they develop secondary centers of action, as this storm did,” said Dr. Mel Goldstein, current chief meteorologist at WTNH-TV. “And so folks who were in central Connecticut, in Hartford or eastern Connecticut didn’t see the snow come so early. So folks went off to work, and they went in their cars, and they clogged the roads, and the schools were open, but then they had to close early. But, at that point, by Monday afternoon, the whole state was just shut down by the blizzard.”
Along with the snow and winds, Storm Larry, as the blizzard was known, brought bone-chilling temperatures and poor visibility while producing high tides and hurricane force winds all along the coast of New England.
Hilton Kaderli, longtime weather reporter for WFSB-TV, flew up from his retirement home in Oklahoma to be interviewed for the documentary. “I was a kid who grew up in West Texas, and the only kind of weather events I saw when I was a child growing up that limited visibility were dust storms,” said Kaderli. Hilton was new to the state when storm Larry hit and noted that “one of the most impressive things about that storm was, man, for the first time in my life, I just wasn’t watching some snowflakes drift down. They were blotting out everything around me that I could see.”
Sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and Companions and Homemakers, The Blizzard of ‘78 is filled with local television news footage as well as home movies and photos provided by CPTV viewers. It features interviews with well-known meteorologists, reporters, government officials and Connecticut residents who remember the storm.
“The blizzard of 1978 is a reminder of the importance of being prepared,” said Peter J. Boynton, Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. “I encourage all citizens in the state of Connecticut to tune in. I would also encourage the citizens of the state to take three simple steps that will greatly enhance a citizen’s preparedness in the event of another disaster or crisis: get an emergency preparedness kit, make a plan and be informed.”
For many state residents, the blizzard is etched in memory, an epic snowstorm they vividly recall each time they make a “bread and milk” run in response to a dire weather forecast. The Blizzard of ‘78 promises a fascinating look back at this major weather event and its impact on the state’s residents.
The Blizzard of ’78 also has a companion web site at cpbn.org; keyword: blizzard. Visitors to the site are invited to share their own stories of the devastating winter storm and upload their photos and memories.
The Blizzard of ’78 is produced by CPTV Executive Producer Jennifer Boyd.
CPTV is a media service of the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN, www.cpbn.org). It is a locally and nationally recognized producer and presenter of quality public television programming, including UConn Women's Basketball, original documentaries and educational programming. CPTV has built a reputation as a leader in children’s programming, including playing an historic role in bringing Barney & Friends™, Bob the Builder™ and Thomas & Friends™ to public television. The station offers 11 hours of positive, nurturing children’s programs each weekday, reaching 50,000 to 70,000 households daily. The Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network also includes WNPR, an affiliate of National Public Radio, Public Radio International and American Public Media. WNPR serves over 200,000 listeners in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island with news and information. Its award-winning local programming includes The Faith Middleton Show and Where We Live. Overall, the network brings a broad spectrum of public affairs, entertainment, sports and educational programming to viewers, listeners and readers. For more information, visit www.cptv.org and/or www.wnpr.org.