- New York Times; March 13, 1888
So said the Times of the ravages of the blizzard which which dumped 20 to 60 inches of snow the North Eastern United States between March 11 and 14 in 1888. “The Great White Hurricane” as it was called in some quarters, or simply “The Great Blizzard of ‘88” as it was known to the New Yorkers who took the brunt of it, put New York into a stranglehold shutting down train, horse and foot traffic for four days and kept some people trapped in their homes for nearly a week.
The Storm Gathers and Then Lets Loose
That Sunday, the weather had seemed unseasonably mild, with heavy rain coming down. But then the temperatures began to drop quickly and that rain turned to snow. Winds that blew from the west and the north at speeds of 100 MPH brought huge gusts of snow and ice. In one report, by 4:00 pm "The snow came up so fast that five
"It's death out there...."
New York City began to shut down completely on Monday, the 12th as nobody could get where they needed to go. The Custom House and the Stock Exchange wee both closed. Price gougers began charging exorbitant fees to move: "Twenty dollars was paid for a conveyance from Astor House to Madison Square" reported "Harper's Weekly",
"The sleet came and blinded men's eyes..."
Still the snow continued to blow in huge drifts. In Brooklyn nine families were obliged to sit and freeze as the wind blew the roofs off of their houses. Hundreds of victims were taken to hospitals wherein many died from exposure. According to "Leslie's", "The
Electrical Lines Come Down Under the Weight of Ice
Thousands of feet of electrical wires for everything from telegraphs to telephones to electric lighting were weighed down by snow and ice and lay useless to the irritation of the Times. Progress had boasted of "...our superior means of inter- communication. Before the fury of
March 14 - the Snow Finally Turns to Powder
At long last, by March 14, the snow turned into a light, powdery shower, people were able to come out of their dwellings. They began to build bonfires in the streets, which of course overwhelmed the sewer systems for several days creating small lakes from melted snow at several points throughout the city. "The sun was a splendid and efficacious ally..." according to one writer. But the Blizzard and the troubles it had caused with the veritable forest of overhead wires were not forgotten. Over the next few years after considerable political wrangling, the poles and the wires all came down and were buried underground. According to the website "Virtual New York":
"The Blizzard of 1888 was not directly responsible for the movement to bury city’s electrical hard wiring; the movement to bury the wires dated back to well before the storm and continued for two years after it. But the events of that frosty and dangerous March week dramatized the problem, and contributed significantly to the developing movement to bury the wires, once and for all."
"Darkest Hours" by Jay Robert Nash, Wallaby Books, 1976
Grand Central Depot =
Park Place =
Boss Conkling =
Leslie's Illustrated =
Wires Weighed Down by Ice =