Metro

April Fools’ Day blizzard of 1997 was no joke

Residents dug out after the blizzard of 1997.
George Rizer/Globe Staff
Residents dug out after the blizzard of 1997.

This had to be an April Fools’ joke.

In the final days of March 1997, Massachusetts seemed to have crossed irrevocably into spring, with temperatures reaching an enviable 63 degrees in Boston. But residents awoke April 1 to find more than two feet of wet snow, and hundreds of thousands were left without power thanks to damaging winds.

It was by far the biggest storm of the season, and one of the region’s largest in recorded history.

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As the snow from the historic winter of 2015 continues to slowly melt, the April Fools’ Day blizzard of 1997 is also a reminder that anything can happen in New England weather — and we’re not out of the woods yet.

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A Boston Globe article from 18 years ago quoted a National Weather Service meteorologist as saying the storm was “just a little late,” but “far from the freak category.”

The storm traveled up the East Coast, starting in Maryland, where the Baltimore Orioles canceled opening day.

By the time it hit Massachusetts late on March 31, the storm had grown powerful enough to drop 25.4 inches in Boston and 33 in Worcester, according to the National Weather Service.

Milford got the most, 36 inches.

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The flakes were heavier than much of the snow that fell in this year’s succession of major storms.

High winds, in a one-two punch, brought down power lines and cut off electricity to about 700,000 people.

A man trudged through the snow on Beacon Hill.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
A man trudged through the snow on Beacon Hill.

The only virtue of such a late-season storm: It melted quickly, as temperatures quickly rose.

A Globe article at the time pointed out that the city began to spring back to life shortly after the blizzard ended:

“By evening rush hour, the city’s splendor returned, with a skyline backlit by a setting sun and a short rainbow over Dorchester, and only digging out remained.”

Below, have a look at the Globe front page from the following day.

Rosemarie McDonald of the Globe staff contributed to this article. Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andyrosen.