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The Great Blizzard of 1888

At around midnight on March 12, 1888, snow began to fall in New York City. The Great Blizzard of 1888 had begun. When it was over, 400 people in the Northeast—200 in New York City alone— had perished. The Great Blizzard of 1888 is still the deadliest and snowiest in U.S. history. Up until that point, the winter of 1887–1888 in New England and the Northeast wasn’t so bad. A cold snap in January had chilled the region, but by early March, temperatures in the Northeast danced around the mid-50s. Then, on March 11, a mass of cold Arctic air swept down from Canada and collided with a wall of warm, moist air trekking northward from the Gulf of Mexico. Almost instantly, temperatures plunged and rain turned to snow.

What: The Great Blizzard of 1888 When: March 11–13, 1888 Casualties: A total of 400 people were killed, with 200 fatalities in New York City. Impact: There was $2 million in damage in New York City alone. Did You Know? The snowfall total was 40–50 inches (101–127 cm) in some areas, and wind gusts blew at 80 mph (129 kmh).

The storm sat off the coast of southern New England, making a counterclockwise loop. The wind howled violently, blowing at 85 mph (137 kmh) in New York City. As more and more snow fell, it drifted into mounds that reached the second story of some buildings. Still, city residents tried to go about their day. Some took elevated trains to work, which turned out to be a bad decision. Snowdrifts on the track made it impossible for the trains to move, and about 15,000 commuters were stranded. The writer Mark Twain, who was visiting New York City from Hartford, was holed up for several days in his hotel, the snow too deep to venture outside. Others ducked into the nearest shelter they could find, including the ritzy Astor Hotel, where workers set up 100 cots to accommodate the refugees.

The Ultimate Book of Dangerous Weather


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