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Concert of American Music by the BU Chamber Chorus, Saturday, February 8, 8 p.m., Tsai Performance Center
Week of 7 February 2003· Vol. VI, No. 20

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The Blizzard of ’78
A storm of Siberian surrealism

“A scene from Dr. Zhivago.” That’s how Bernard Corbett describes the whiteout conditions on Causeway Street after watching the Beanpot Tournament semifinals 25 years ago.

When Corbett (CAS’83) and his father left Boston Garden the night of February 6, they weren’t sure that they could make it home to Stoneham. The Blizzard of ’78, the worst snowstorm in 200 years, was in full force, and would dump a total of 29 inches of snow on Boston in two days. The flakes had begun falling at noon, and then winds started gusting to 79 miles an hour. The city, with power failures and thousands of citizens stranded in emergency shelters, would be paralyzed for a week. But in a testament to the loyalty -- or lunacy -- of local college hockey fans, more than 11,000 showed up at the Beanpot semifinals.

Corbett, author of The Beanpot: Fifty Years of Thrills, Spills, and Chills (Northeastern Press, 2003) was not yet a BU student when the Mother of all Storms hit, but he was a Terrier fan and a Beanpot veteran, having attended the tournament since 1971. He and his father first dismissed the weather advisories during a day when it actually snowed sideways, and then ignored the Boston Garden management loudspeaker warnings: “Boston is under a state of emergency and anyone taking mass transit should make plans to leave early.”

Most did. But not the Corbetts. “Through flickering lights, a rampant rumor mill, and multiple MBTA announcements, we stayed,” writes Corbett. “Heck, BU was really burying BC; there was no way we wanted to leave. Against common sense, we stayed to the end, worrying about the implications later.”

Once outside after the 12-5 BU victory, he and his father surveyed the surreal Siberian scene. MBTA trains had stopped running. Taxis were nonexistent -- as were most other vehicles, except for snowplows, police cruisers, National Guard trucks, and the occasional car spinning its wheels and fishtailing. Their car was buried in a snowdrift in a small parking lot with several others, and they wondered whether they should try to head north to home, or rejoin the 300 fans spending the entire night in the Garden.

The temptation to stay put was strong. Indeed, the spectators-turned-refugees in the building were treated to free coffee, leftover hot dogs, and popcorn. The Corbetts, however, decided to dig out their car and try to navigate through the nor’easter’s wet, heavy snow and hurricane-force winds. Luckily, “we got on 93 North, tucking behind a snowplow all the way to our exit,” he writes. “It was my mother’s car. When we finally got home, all she wanted to know was, is my car all right?” Motorists on Route 128 weren’t as fortunate: more than 3,000 cars and 500 trucks were abandoned there.

When the Beanpot’s title game was played 23 days later, the news of BU’s 7-1 championship victory over Harvard took a backseat to the destructiveness of the storm: in New England, it claimed 54 lives, destroyed 2,000 homes, and caused $1 billion in damage. --BF

More wild weather

The Blizzard of ’78 stands out as the extreme weather event of recent memory. But 40 years earlier, a hurricane ripped through the region, killing 600 people and leaving 63,000 homeless. William E. Minsinger (MED’78), an orthopedic surgeon, amateur meteorologist, and author of 1938 Hurricane: A Historical and Pictorial Summary, will discuss that perfect storm on Thursday, February 13, at 12:15 p.m., at the Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington St., Boston. Admission is $5, $4 for seniors and students. For more information, call 617-482-6439.


7 February 2003
Boston University
Office of University Relations