Southern Snow: Atlanta’s Blizzard of ’78?

A truly unbelievable situation continues to unfold in the South, and the pictures may look eerily familiar to Southern New Englanders.

Atlanta got 2-4″ of snow on Tuesday, and the pictures coming out of the city look like pictures from the Blizzard of ’78 here in Southern New England.   In February of 1978, those who couldn’t get home,  slept in local businesses.  Some were stranded there for days!  People of Atlanta were forced to do the same Tuesday night. 

Courtesy Atlanta Journal Constitution: People sleeping in CVS
Courtesy Atlanta Journal Constitution: People sleeping in CVS


Man sleeping inside a Providence business during the Blizzard of 1978.


Thousands of motorists were stranded on Rhode Island and Massachusetts highways while 2-3feet of snow fell across the region from February 6-7 in 1978.  Once people saw how badly the snow was getting 36 years ago, they jammed the highways, which quickly became impassable.  This led to a gridlock which took days to unsnarl.  

Thousands of cars were stranded on local highways in RI and MA in 1978.
Thousands of cars were stranded on local highways in RI and MA in 1978.


Courtesy WXIA: Traffic snarled on an Atlanta highway.
Courtesy WXIA: Traffic snarled on an Atlanta highway.

In Atlanta, a similar scene unfolded, but because of  much less snow and ice.  On Tuesday, the combination of thousands leaving work early, schools being dismissed and roads being slick helped create a very similar scenario to what  happened in Southern New England back in ’78….except with much less snow.  Two to four inches fell on ‘Hotlanta’, and that 4″ report was from a high elevation.

Here in Southern New England, we are obviously more accustomed to dealing with snow.  We have an army of trucks to treat and plow the roads.  We have early dismissal schedules.  We know how to drive in the snow (most of us) better than people in the south.

The same storm system that hit the Deep South also hit Southern New England early on Wednesday.  We expected it.  The forecasts were right on.   Our snow totals ranged from a coating in the northern part of Rhode Island, 2″ at the RI coast and  3″ at the Massachusetts coast.


Snowfall Totals from Wednesday Morning
Snowfall Totals from Wednesday Morning

Further to the east, even more fell.  There was one band of moderate to heavy snow which was stationary from Block Island to the south coast of Massachusetts.  This band brough snowfall rates of 1-1.5″ per hour to this area.

Live Pinpoint Doppler 12 Radar from 6:30am Wednesday.
Live Pinpoint Doppler 12 Radar from 6:00am Wednesday.

I received one unconfirmed report of 4-5″ on Block Island.  Meanwhile, over the Cape and Islands, 3-7″ of snow fell.  Imagine if that kind of snow fell on Atlanta! 

Hopefully everyone in Atlanta makes it through this storm okay.

-Meteorologist T.J. Del Santo


  • Cherie

    Great blog, TJ! Hopefully all those involved in the gridlock will be on their way soon. Snow & ice are no joke for those who are not used to those conditions! I feel bad for them all…cold and stranded without food, water and facilities, but especially for those with medical conditions that are stuck without their medications! I did hear things have started moving not too long ago.

  • Mike

    Our blizzard occurred because of the rate that the snow fell. Also we did not have the technology like today. Our December debacle occurred because no businesses wanted to close and lose out any of the holiday shopping revenue. Greed was a huge motivator for our debacle, inexperience and ignorance caused Georgia’s issue.

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