From the Vineyard Gazette editions of Feb. 1978:
The Island rocked back in a matter of hours from its two-round fight with the storm that left most of the state — and most of coastal New England — knocked out cold.
Winds 85 miles per hour and a foot of snow left cuts and bruises all over the Island. But the serious damage was done where Island meets the water. Monday night and early Tuesday morning that water rose five feet or so above its normal station; piled ice along the shore higher than a man’s head in places; tore away yards of bulkheading and cubic yards of shore; flooded low-lying houses and shops and pushed boats onto the beach.
The storm started about 10 a.m. Monday, when the moderate northeast wind brought in some scattered snow flurries. By noon, the air was thick with the white stuff. The wind was picking up, and the snow had accumulated to a few inches. The barometer at the Air New England ticket counter was starting a slide which would take it from 29.91 inches to 29.29 inches, a few hundredths below the lowest pressure recorded in Boston.
At 1 p.m. Air New England canceled its flights for the day, a cancellation which would last — because there was no place to go to or come from — until Thursday morning. The Islander got as far as Hedge Fence, and Capt. Tony Jardin decided the vessel and passengers were taking too much of a beating and returned to Woods Hole.
School was cancelled and prudent employers sent their nonessential employees homeward. Then the full intensity of the storm drove down on the Island, and all hell broke loose. Darkness descended as the snowplow crews were working into their sixth hour. Shortly thereafter the lights went out in two sections of the Island.
About 7 p.m., the state crew close off the Beach Road in front of the Sea View in Oak Bluffs and the Square Rigger in Edgartown. The driving seas had piled snow and sand two and a half feet deep across the road south of the Little Bridge, in a blockade that was half a mile long.
The road between Vineyard Haven’s Five Corners and the hospital was also closed off because of high water. Police departments from neighboring towns worked in unison to carry nurses to and from the hospital.
The Steamship Authority pier at Oak Bluffs took a shellacking. The seas and ice, which were piling directly into the terminal, had torn away the transfer bridge, the electric motor which operates it, and the counterweights. The whole works simply vanished.
In Vineyard Haven, ice worked underneath the Coastwise Wharf Company and the town piers, and was lifted by the water to tear loose planking from the cribbing and pull piles out of the bottom. The Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard suffered serious flooding damage, despite preventive measure taken earlier in the day. Serious erosion also occurred to places at West Chop.
In Menemsha, the tide rose up above the dock at the gas dock and nearly submerged the gas pumps.
Island post offices stayed open through the storm, although rural deliveries were canceled Monday afternoon and Tuesday. But because of problems off-Island, things are not back to normal in that department. The off-Island bottleneck has also halted the flow of groceries, but the bigger Island markets say they have little concern, having received big shipments before the storm.
The Vineyard listened, fascinated and appalled, to the awesome succession of reports from the mainland, everywhere the greatness of the storm and the smallness of man’s works. The ordeal did not reach those mighty proportions here but our experience seemed severe enough.
There had been that resounding gale, more furious still after dark, when the atmosphere seemed to be rent and carried away like the canvas in a ship at sea. How much could hold fast against the wildness of the storm? There had been that time of suspense when houses stood in darkness and creeping cold while linemen worked to restore the vital intangible of electric service.
There had been that incredible Monday evening passage of the ferry from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven, and hour and a half of wild wind and sea, experienced by a handful of passengers. A husband, whose wife was expected, inquired at the Vineyard Haven office as to the ferry’s arrival time, and was told, “We don’t know — we’ve lost her.” Communications had failed, and some speculation held that she had gone ashore at West Chop. In she came at last with her shaken passengers, brought through by superb seamanship.
Then on Tuesday morning, miracle on miracle, the sunny lull with blue sky of a storm’s tropical eye. At dusk again winds rose and snow fell, but this time the night produced only an inch or a little more, and then again a normal winter, though a hard one, seemed to resume what one must take to be its appointed course.
Compiled by Alison Mead