Nemo dredges up memories


By windy emmet

As I sat huddled and cowering last week waiting for Nemo to blow the roof off stately Cobb Manor, I had to think back to the infamous blizzard of 1969. That wild storm descended on the city of Gloucester with little warning.
There was no Weather Channel and no Jim Cantore on the beach, telling us what was coming. I was a greenhorn news reporter at the Gloucester Daily Times, a job I truly loved.
I don’t know what that storm had against Gloucester, but it dropped a whopping 41 inches of snow and shut down the city for days. Let’s let Gloucester blogger Jay Albers tell the story.
“While the rest of the region dealt with half the snowfall as we did, I’ll never forget its impact. With Cape Ann sticking out into the ocean we were hit with ocean effect snow that required the Army National Guard to bring in heavy equipment to clear the streets.
“We were without power for two weeks, no school for two weeks and through it all it was neighbor helping neighbor. We had snow drifts reaching the second floor and had to use the back door just to get out of the house. Forget about using your car, yet the streets were alive with people walking, using skis, pulling sleds to haul the groceries home,” he said.
The storm produced paralyzing snowfall from New Jersey through most of New England. Forecasts severely underestimated the duration of the storm, often predicting just “a chance” of snow. The highest totals, often exceeding 42 inches were reported in Bangor with Lewiston topping 32 inches. The snow was accompanied by high winds, in some areas reaching 45 mph.
In Gloucester, the storm took a Stephen King twist.
With all the storm damage in Gloucester, they forgot about the sisters in the old lighthouse. I cannot remember their names and could not find it on the internet. But I remember that they were cranky to their neighbors and discouraged visitors. So no one checked on them after the storm for days…and days.
I believe it was a week later when someone remembered and sent police to check on the former lighthouse. When they opened the door, the family dog, trapped with the sisters, raced out the door and across the beach.
Inside, they found both sisters dead from exposure and starvation. To their horror, rescue crews found that the dog had stayed alive by eating the body of one of the sisters. The dog left his owner alone.
Animal lovers might understand the action of the animal, trapped and freezing. But some of the Gloucester community went crazy, spreading rumors of a “vampire dog.” They hunted down the dog and shot him a few days later.
The Times was a fine paper, in spite of the editor, who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty. He decided that a fine story would be to hunt down the surviving brother and get his reaction to the cataclysm. But the brother was dying in an iron lung in the VA Hospital in Jamaica Plain, Mass. Even the wacky cynical band of reporters at the paper drew the line.
Paul Harrigan rejected the idea. Andrew Merton, too. As the new guy, I was expected to follow orders. But I had been tipped off. I advised the editor was much more qualified to complete the task than I was. End of story.
But I often think of that old lighthouse and those poor, trapped sisters. And that dog. Especially during howling blizzards like Nemo.