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Revisiting the Groundhog Day storm of 1976 in southwestern Nova Scotia


SOUTHWESTERN NS – Groundhog Day is known as the day that groundhogs emerge from their burrows, predicting whether it will be an early spring based on whether they see their shadow or not.

On Groundhog Day 2019, in Nova Scotia Shubenacadie Sam predicted six more weeks of winter when he came out of his burrow and saw his shadow.

He was backed up by a new "meteorologist" on the south shore when Lucy the Lobster (in her second Groundhog Day prediction) also saw her shadow in the Municipality of Barrington as part of the annual South Shore Lobster Crawl. 

But in Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby counties (as well as other parts of the province) Groundhog Day is remembered for a vicious storm that came through the area on Feb. 2, 1976. 

Here is a collection of some stories we've written about the storm through the years. 


From FEBRUARY 2018:

Remembering the Groundhog Day storm 42 years later. 

As we hit the 42nd anniversary of the Groundhog Day storm, let’s have a look at some of what was going on in the world in 1976, from politics to popular culture: Pierre Trudeau was Canada’s prime minister. His oldest son, Justin, was four years old. Gerald Regan was premier of Nova Scotia. Gerald Ford was president of the United States. Had you been watching TV the night before the storm – that is, Sunday night, Feb. 1 – you might have seen The Waltons or the Sonny and Cher Show or maybe Kojak.

As for Monday, Feb. 2, the day of the storm, it may have started normally enough, but this would be no ordinary day.


The Groundhog Day Storm of 1976.
The Groundhog Day Storm of 1976.

From FEBRUARY 2017: 

Memories from the Groundhog Day storm of 1976

Following the Groundhog Day storm in 1976 – which caused widespread destruction and flooding and left people without power for an extended period – a book called Tidal Wave was compiled by Ruth Specht of Barton, in which students from around the tri-county area at the time shared their storm experiences. 


From FEBRUARY 2016:

40 YEARS LATER: Groundhog Day storm of 1976: 'It was devastating'

When the Yarmouth Vanguard newspaper came out later that week, the words at the top of the front page pretty well said it all: 'Vicious storm cripples region.'


Places like Westport saw lots of damage from the Groundhog Day Storm of 1976.
Places like Westport saw lots of damage from the Groundhog Day Storm of 1976.


From FEBRUARY 2016:

Forecasting has come a long way since 1976 Groundhog Day storm

Like the uninvited visitor from hell, the Groundhog Day storm blew into the region unexpectedly and took people by surprise, but this likely wouldn't happen today, said a meteorologist with Environment Canada,


From FEBRUARY 2011:

Remembering the Groundhog Day storm

The Groundhog Day storm blew through the Bay of Fundy 35 years ago this week and into the history books. It was the storm of the century. Before the storm blew itself out, it had redrawn the coastal map, brought devastation to fishing communities from Baccaro to Westport, reduced fishermen’s wharfs and farmers’ barns to sticks and forced everyone to confront the realities of a world without electricity. The damage sustained by the storm’s relentless assault has etched itself into our collective memory. 

Some of the people we interviewed in this story have since passed. But the memories they shared live on. 


A building smashed up on Yarmouth's waterfront.
A building smashed up on Yarmouth's waterfront.

From FEBRUARY 2016

Letter: A bus trip to remember from Digby to Wolfville

It was an extraordinary day to be traveling on the bus. Extraordinary because my fellow travelers and I, from the relative comfort of the bus, witnessed the effects of the greatest storm to hit this area since the Saxby Gale of 1869.


From FEBRUARY 2016:

Shelburne County during the Groundhog Day storm: 'It was wild'

“It was a warm day,” recalls the mayor of Clark’s Harbour, Leigh Stoddart.  “I was working and the wind it kept picking up, and picking up and picking up.”

Fishermen went running to get their boats secure as the waves picked up to 20 feet and the wind blew to 90 knots. “It was wild,” he said.  “Anything not secured down was flying everywhere.”


The collapse of Robicheau’s general store in Westport was part of the tremendous damage done during the 1976 Groundhog Day storm. Photo courtesy Islands Historical Society
The collapse of Robicheau’s general store in Westport was part of the tremendous damage done during the 1976 Groundhog Day storm. Photo courtesy Islands Historical Society

From February 2016:

Great big sea: Westport store keeper escapes through water to his waist

Raymond Robicheau had just finished saying he’d seen rough weather before, when a great big sea demolished the building he was in.

“Within a half hour my whole store was gone, everything washed away,” he remembered, clear as a bell, 40 years later.


From FEBRUARY 2016:

FROM OUR PAST: Remembering the Groundhog Day storm

The following may sound absurdly obvious but here goes: Groundhog Day 1976 might have been a pretty good day if not for the wind.

Memories of the storm by Vanguard journalist Eric Bourque. 


From JANUARY 2010:

Remembering the Groundhog Day Storm

The storm came without warning and caught people by surprise. Weather forecasts had called for a storm with winds of 50 kilometers per hour and gusts up to 100, but the Groundhog Day Storm blew gale force winds for over 18 hours. How Weymouth, N.S. remembered the storm.

Downtown Weymouth and the 1976 Groundhog Day storm. HISTORY OF WEYMOUTH FACEBOOK
Downtown Weymouth and the 1976 Groundhog Day storm. HISTORY OF WEYMOUTH FACEBOOK

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