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The Long Island Ice Storm of January 13-14, 1978

After several minor snowfalls, this was the first major storm to hit Long Island during the winter of 1977-78. This was part of a storm that caused wide spread wintry weather along the east coast. Downed tree limbs and electrical lines caused major power outages from southern New England all the way down to central Georgia and Alabama.

Light snow spread across the island during the morning on Friday January 13 and continued throughout the day, with most areas averaging around 3 inches of accumulation. During the evening the snow mixed with sleet and freezing rain and eventually turned to all freezing rain which became heavy at times and continued through the night.

As the ice accumulated, power outages began to occur during the late evening and towards midnight, they began to become widespread across large parts of the island, especially along the north shore. In much of New York City, the temperature overnight rose just above freezing, preventing serious icing damage there, but on most of Long Island, temperatures stayed below freezing throughout the entire event resulting in one of the worst ice storms in decades. In fact temperatures following the storm did not reach freezing during the next several days and much of the island remained without power into the following week. The governor of New York activated the national guard to assist with the cleanup on Long Island and utility crews were brought in from hundreds of miles away to help with the repair of power lines.

As many homes on Long Island were finally getting their power back on Tuesday, January 17, a new storm dropped another 3 inches of snow during the day, compounding the utility repair problems for a while, although the snow changed to a cold rain during the evening, which continued overnight as temperatures remained in the 30's. A little farther to the north the precipitation remained as all snow and the 10 inches of heavy new snow combined with the weight of the previous snow and ice caused the collapse of the improperly designed roof of the Hartford Civic Center just hours after a crowd had witnessed a college basketball game there (miraculously, there were no injuries). On Long Island, the new storm had the opposite effect, resulting in improved conditions as the rain and temperatures barely above freezing was just enough to knock most of the ice off of trees and power lines by Wednesday morning. This gave utility crews a better chance to complete most of the power line repairs before the next major storm struck Long Island just a day and a half later.

The photos below were taken on January 14 and 15, 1978 in Syosset, New York. Click any of the pictures to view a higher resolution image. The weather maps are courtesy of the NOAA Central Library Data Imaging Project.


January 14, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York.  Broken tree limbs are piled beneath the tree that they broke off of during the ice storm. January 14, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York.  Icicles fringe an iron railing. January 14, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York.  This double-trunked Pin Oak resisted the pull of the ice.
January 14, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York. January 14, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York. January 14, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York.
January 15, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York. January 15, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York.  The storm sheared the tops off of many trees. January 15, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York.
January 15, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York. January 15, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York. January 15, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York.
January 15, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York. January 15, 1978 Ice Storm - Syosset, New York. January 13, 1978, 7:30 AM EDT Surface Analysis.  Courtesy NOAA Central Library Data Imaging Project.
January 13, 1978, 7:30 AM 500 millibar height contours.  Courtesy NOAA Central Library Data Imaging Project. January 14, 1978, 7:30 AM EDT Surface Analysis.  Courtesy NOAA Central Library Data Imaging Project. January 14, 1978, 7:30 AM 500 millibar height contours.  Courtesy NOAA Central Library Data Imaging Project.