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New York City’s Worst Blizzard

Blizzard of 1888 (Flickr)

New York City has seen some bad weather recently, but nothing close to this.  New York ground to a near halt in the face of huge snow drifts and strong winds. It was back when one in every four Americans lived in the area between Washington D.C. and Maine.

The day before, temperatures were in the 50’s, clear and sunny, but then a cold front moved in and temperatures plunged. Heavy rain turned to heavy snow and winds reached hurricane-strength. Gusts in New York City were up to 85 miles an hour creating a complete whiteout.

Drifts reached the second story of some buildings. New York’s elevated trains were blocked by snow drifts stranding an estimated 15-thousand people. People below put up ladders to rescue stranded passengers. Telegraph lines, water mains and gas lines were all above ground then and couldn’t stand up to the winds and snow.  Mark Twain was in New York at the time and was stranded at his hotel for days.

Communications between Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington were knocked out for two days because of snapped telephone and telegraph lines. 55 inches of snow fell in some areas.  400 people died, 200 in New York City.  Thousands of wild and farm animals froze to death.

All up and down the Atlantic coast, hundreds of boats were sunk in the high winds and waves. New York City ended up with 40 inches of snow; New Haven, Connecticut, 45 inches; Troy, New York, was hit by 55 inches of snow over 3 days.

As a result of the storm officials realized the dangers of above-ground telegraph, water and gas lines and moved them below ground. Same with the trains in New York City. The Great Blizzard of ’88 began on this date, March 11, 1888.

 

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