When Assistant Public Works Director John F. Canavan gathered his plow drivers on the morning of Feb. 6, 1978, Frank Fedeli said his boss scrambled to fit every available truck with plow blades to help clear roads during one of the most prolific blizzards in memory.
“It was like he declared martial law,” said Fedeli, 60, the city’s customer services supervisor. “We worked for something like 19 hours and then got a call back, and if anything the snow seemed to be picking up.”
As the wind-driven snow continued to pile up, Fedeli and drivers were shuffled between using garbage trucks fitted with plow blades to clear the city’s major streets and driving smaller, slower Diamond Reo trucks equipped with plows and sanders to clear side streets, he remembered.
As plowmen continued working for nearly 24 hours, high winds thwarted their efforts as the unusually fine snow blew back into streets, rendering them impassable almost as soon as they were cleared, Fedeli said.
“Normally in a regular snowstorm a good driver will knock off a route in three and a half hours, but it was easily double that, because the ground was very slick and the truck was in low, low gear,” Fedeli said. “And there was almost zero visibility.”
Former area officials and those who experienced the Blizzard of 1978 — 35 years ago last Wednesday — remember the prolonged storm for its nearly two days of continuous, heavy snow which ground life to a halt.
Between the morning of Feb. 6 and the afternoon of Wednesday Feb. 8, the storm dumped 18 inches of snow in Stamford and flooded homes in parts of Shippan and the Cove late Monday. Overnight Monday into Tuesday, about 40 volunteers assisted in evacuating residents of Tupper Lane, Soundview Avenue, Weed Avenue and Chestnut Hill.
“There have been snowier winters, but that was the biggest single storm I can remember,” said Pat Standaert, a city resident who has run a weather data station at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center since the 1960’s. “As far as a single storm goes, that was the one.”