Happy 40th Anniversary January 19-20 1978
Happy 40th Anniversary January 19-20 1978
Once upon a time, a time when there was no internet, only 2 models that went out 48 hours, and the long range was just 1 72 hour upper air map, there was a snowstorm! The January 19-21 1978 storm was actually the first of 2 major storms that winter to impact the Northeast in a big way. The more well known storm was the Feb 6-8th storm which is known as the Blizzard of ’78. More on that in a few weeks. Back to this one however which was the first major snowfall for the NYC area since the Lindsay storm of February 1969. Much of the region was in the midst of a snow drought. The prior 7 winters only saw 2 6 inch snow falls in Central Park. In fact nearly 6 years lapsed from 1969-75 where not a single storm produced more than 4 inches. When snow lovers want to complain about the lack of snowfall in the winter, try 8 winters in a row of below average snowfall from 1969-70 though 1976-77.
This storm was actually the 3rd snowfall in 7 days. The first on January 13th produced a 4 to 6 inch snow fall and a major memorable ice storm across Long Island. The second on January 16-17 produced a 4 inch snowfall that went to rain. This system led to the collapse of roof of the Harford Civic Center. Thankfully there were no injuries
What was a standout regarding the January 19-20th storm was the forecast as the snow got underway. The New York City forecast was for rain developing, possibly beginning as snow or sleet. Remember folks this was in a period of history called “pre-cable” when newscasts were on at 6pm and 11pm and that’s it. There was no public access to information unless you had a weather radio (which I did). What followed was a series of weather forecasts that had to be updated every couple of hours. 8pm as the snow continued to fall at an inch an hour, the forecast became 1 to 3 inches. An hour or so later 2 to 4 inches. The magical moment for me (19 years old at the time) was seeing Alan Kasper on WCBS-TV come on at 11pm with the following statement
“Well there are signs that Atlantic City (still snowing at 11pm) is about to lose their low level cold air. Using the 6 hour rule, snow won’t start mixing with rain if at all until 4 or 5 am!”
You have to understand that for budding meteorologists Alan was DA-MAN and a snow lover! Weather in those days got almost no time at all on tv newscasts. The funny thing is that Joe Rao my colleague who I didn’t know at the time (but lived just a few blocks away from me) watched the same show and has the same memory. The next morning, with a foot plus on the ground! The snow drought of one foot snow storms had ended. Little did we know then that this snow would be washed away a week later by another major storm that buried the Ohio Valley, and then 12 days later the Blizzard of ’78 would bury everyone from Delaware to New England.
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