With up to 12 inches of snow possible coming our way over the next 24 hours to 36 hours it's just a reminder that the month of March can bring some pretty severe winter storms.  And probably none was worse than the blizzard of 1888 that killed more than 400 people and dumped as much as 55 inches of snow in some areas. New York City ground to a halt in the face of huge snow drifts and strong winds. 

The day before it was sunny with temperatures in the 50’s, but then cold Arctic air collided with moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.  As the temperature plunged, heavy rain turned to heavy snow and winds reached hurricane-strength. Winds gusted to 86 miles an hour in New York City creating a complete whiteout.

Drifts reached the second story of some buildings. New York’s elevated trains were blocked by snow drifts stranding thousands. People below put up ladders to rescue them. Telegraph lines, water mains and gas lines were also above ground then and couldn’t stand up to the winds and snow. Communications between Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington were knocked because of snapped telephone and telegraph lines.

Mark Twain was in New York at the time and was stranded at his hotel for days. 200 people were killed in New York City alone. 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.