Department of Public Works
One of the very busiest departments in town during the Blizzard of '78 was the Department of Public Works. The Department had 36.1 inches of snow to remove from Walpole's streets and roads. The full-time crew of 43 men worked their regular 46-1/2 hour week plus 90 hours of overtime in seven days. During that week, the men frequently had only four hours at a time for sleep.
Due to the amount of snow that fell, the town's own equipment was not large enough to remove it. Most of the town-owned equipment can accommodate a snowstorm of up to 14 inches, and some equipment handles up to 20 inches. Therefore, it was necessary for the town to borrow heavy-duty equipment from sand and gravel operations and construction firms. The Department of Public Works borrowed the following equipment:
Dedham Sand and Gravel: 2 #6000 front-end loaders, carrying 7 yards; 2 #988 front-end loaders, carrying 7 yards; 4 Euclid dump/pit trucks, carrying 20-25 yards (these are not usually used on the roads); 2 auto-car trucks, carrying 20-25 yards; 1 Mack truck, carrying 20-25 yards.
West Sand and Gravel, Walpole: 1 L6100 Trojan payloader; 1 L7100 Trojan payloader; 1 L3100 Trojan payloader; 1 L5100 Trojan payloader; 1 bulldozer; 3 auto trucks, carrying 20 yards; 1 Mack truck, carrying 20-25 yards.
The rental fee owed to Dedham Sand and Gravel was $116,000.30, and the fee owed to West Sand and Gravel was $962,267. Because of the disaster, the town qualifies for disaster relief funds. Consequently, the Army Corps of Engineers would pay 75 per cent of the price of the rental fees.
Police Department Report
Mr. Peatfield of the Walpole Police Dept. recalled that, during the Blizzard of '78, town departments "with no rehearsal, worked hand-in-hand." Walpole had not been victimized by a storm of this magnitude in anyone's memory; but, still, life went on. He commented further that, during the immediate aftermath of the blizzard, the town actually functioned quite safely. The general picture, particularly during the driving ban from February 6 through February 12, showed the extensive cooperation of the townspeople. "Everyone was helpful, obeyed the law, and stayed off the streets. There was an air of friendship and help for one's neighbor," Mr. Peatfield said.
The police did ticket drivers who were on the streets for other than essential business. But only about 35-50 tickets were necessary. During that driving ban, snowmobiles became extremely useful to the Police Department. Various individuals in town who owned snowmobiles offered them to the police for department use. In some cases, the individuals also donated their time to drive the vehicles on assorted errands.
Because of the depth of the snow, the town ambulance could not park as close to the house as it normally would. Therefore, a snowmobile would accompany the ambulance in case the patient needed to be transported from the house to the ambulance.
There were no traffic accidents during the storm, even when the snow was still falling and people were trying to reach their homes. Even the ambulance was called out less frequently than police expected. During a storm of this magnitude, the ambulance typically receives many calls for storm-related accidents, such as heart attacks or snowblower mishaps. Twelve ambulance calls were received from February 6 through February 12. This number is close to the average number of calls that would have occurred anyway, including the birth of a baby. Mr. Peatfield said that "during a storm, people are more likely to panic. They want to get to a hospital in case they can't get there later."
Twelve to fifteen people stayed at Blackburn Hall for one to two nights; and the Police Department, through Civil Defense personnel, supervised their care. All of these people were travelling through Walpole when the amount of snow became impassable.
Principally, the police were responsible for transporting doctors and nurses and other employees essential for public health and safety to and from their places of work. With the aid of snowmobiles and volunteers, the police also picked up medications at local pharmacies and delivered them to those in need.