This week marked the 35th anniversary of the Blizzard of ’78, and as a result we have seen some of the iconic images from that storm on web sites and social media. I have a few pictures that I’ll share here. The other day it was snowing – pretty snow floating to the ground and coating everything. I snapped a picture with my smartphone camera that went to our photo stream, and my wife saw it and remarked that it was a pretty shot … and that is likely the only attention it will ever get. And as snow started falling from Winter Storm Nemo, I saw more smartphone camera pictures from friends on Facebook before noon than I have EVER seen from the Blizzard of ’78. But will any of them be remembered past this weekend?
It made me think that as pictures have become easier to take and storage and sharing effortless, they have become transient, losing their permanence and value.
At least that is how it seems. Looking at the image at the top, that is my family home during the Blizzard of 1978 in Massachusetts. It was taken from the street a couple of days after the storm; several years ago I digitized all of my parents’ slides from the early 60s to the early 80s, and I made a DVD for everyone in the family with all of the pictures and a slideshow.
For anyone who lived in New England, the Blizzard of ’78 was an event on the scale of the San Francisco earthquake, the Chicago fire, or other major disasters. Over at WickedLocal they have reprinted an original article on the storm, and here are a few things I collected up when I did a recollection on a personal blog on the 25th anniversary:
- More than 4 feet of snow.
- 100 MPH winds.
- High tides cresting 40 foot waves.
- Dozens of homes and businesses wiped out instantly, hundreds badly damaged.
- 100 people dead due to every imaginable weather related cause.
I was 12 when that storm hit. I was old enough to shovel snow for several people in the neighborhood to help out, and I was old enough to be terrified watching the news showing the parking lot route 128 had become and waiting for my dad to make it home.
But I was young enough to enjoy the fact that we had a week off from school and that the roads were shut down. I was young enough not to worry about being without power or phones for a while; I was young enough that the recently totaled ’64 Impala kept on the side of our garage became our snow fort that day and for the rest of the winter.
There are only a few pictures we have from the blizzard, and as you can see they were taken when the sun was out and the roof was almost clear – in other words a day or two later. The one at the top shows our house from the street. Since it was already more than 24 hours later, the snow has compacted, but everything was completely closed and snowed in. In order there is my Dad, my older brother (would have been ~14.5) and me (almost 12). The covered car was a ’74 Chevy Impala …
In this one you can see a bit up the street, showing that even by the 8th, two days after the storm, roads weren’t plowed. The ‘highway’ down the street opened that day, and the convenience store (Bob’s) opened up as well. We would take a sled down the street to get stuff, and run errands for people who couldn’t get out of their houses yet.
OK, this isn’t the Blizzard, but me after Christmas just before … note the M16-look alike (had forgotten that!) and my fave gift from that year – VertiBird! It was a helicopter that flew in circles … I remember that the first one I got didn’t work, and my dad called all around (hot gift that year), and that Child World in Framingham said they had one and would hold it for him. We got there, and of course they didn’t have any … my Dad was *furious*! Upon yelling at the manager, they ‘found’ one held for someone else and I got it! The VertiBird sat in my parents house for years after I had moved out, and I reclaimed it before they moved south several years ago. Unfortunately, while I kept it, my attempts to rewire and get it working for my kids were to no avail … it was just dead. But I digress.
For ‘Winter Storm Nemo’, the forecasting technology has advanced tremendously to the point that the Weather Channel now has a ‘storm-con’ that talks about the confidence of a major storm hitting. It worked very well for Hurricane Sandy, and while the totals haven’t exactly matched forecasts, the general forecast of conditions made sure everyone was able to see what was coming … so that the only people getting trapped on highways were those foolish enough to go driving when there was a driving ban in effect.
But as I said, there have been countless smartphone camera images and videos showing the snow. Some are fun and cute pictures of kids playing outside in the snow, others are of the roads or trees or some other indication of what is going on. Like I said, the hundreds of images I have seen are largely instantly forgettable … and then there are videos like this 8 minute wonder of a person in Western Massachusetts walking to the local 7-11. Enjoy!
Do you feel that with the ease of taking and posting smartphone camera pictures everywhere, that the images themselves lose permanence and meaning? Do you think people miss out on actually experiencing things by being so busy documenting stuff?