The Recorder – Remembering the Blizzard of ’78: The author will give a virtual presentation for the New Salem Public Library

NEW SALEM – The 1978 Blizzard is practically Northeast lore, the one by which all others are compared.

Forty-four years before last weekend’s northeast dumped up to 30 inches of snow on the region, the 1978 blizzard left up to 27 inches of snow and claimed nearly 100 lives and about 4,500 injured. It happened during the only winter New York Times bestselling author Michael Tougias spent outside New England, but he researched the storm extensively and followed it from afar. and in 2003 wrote “The Blizzard of ’78”, chronicling the period before the storm. , its progression and its devastating effects.

Nearly 20 years after writing the book, Tougias has been asked to present a virtual narrated slide presentation for the New Salem Public Library, which he will do from 7 to 8 p.m. on Friday, February 4.

“It really was the worst storm, in terms of blizzards, since 1888, and the main reason was the wind,” he said. “The wind was just unbelievable and there were so many destroyed houses along the coast, washed away from their foundations by the waves.”

The storm lasted from February 5 to 7.

Tougias, 66, said he was working in Chicago on his first job that winter and, like many, learned about the storm from the news and word of mouth. He said he wanted to write a book with lots of photographs to illustrate the calamity caused by the storm. The photographs were taken by news organizations, the National Guard and various individuals.

“I was one of those people who thought people who went through it were exaggerating until I saw those pictures,” he said.

The Feb. 4 presentation was scheduled after acting library director Linda Chatfield learned of Tougias’ program in the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners’ online performing artist directory.

“As soon as I saw that title, I thought, ‘Oh, that sounds really cool,'” she said. “We are very, very excited about this. We already have a lot of people signed up. »

Chatfield said she was living in Connecticut in 1978 and the storm postponed the start of her second semester at Manchester Community College. She also said her daughter couldn’t go to daycare, which was practically across the street.

“It’s like another life,” she said.

Tougias, who grew up in Longmeadow and lives in Mendon, said the presentation will last around 45 minutes, followed by a Q&A. He said he filled the presentation with striking photographs and lighthearted moments.

In Tougias’ view, the most compelling story of the blizzard concerns the Can Do, a private pilot boat whose crew ventured into the unforgiving waters of the Salem Strait to rescue workers from a Greek oil tanker. .

“I can’t even imagine what it must have been like at sea during that storm,” he said.

This story inspired two of Tougias’ books – “Ten Hours Until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do” and its young adult version, “Into the Blizzard: Heroism at Sea during the Great Blizzard of 1978” . Tougias said the story went largely ignored for years because the domestic blizzard overtook her in the news cycle.

To register for the event, contact the New Salem Public Library at 978-544-6334 or [email protected] The program is sponsored by the New Salem Cultural Council.

More information about Tougias is available at

Contact Domenic Poli at: [email protected] or 413-772-0162, ext. 262.

Lola R. McClure