The Blizzard of 1888
by Bob Sweeney
March 2007

The blizzard of 1888 is probably the most famous snow storm in American history. It has become known in history as "The Great White Hurrican". Preced by five days of unseasonably warm weather along the East Coast, the storm paralyzed the East from Chesapeake Bay to Maine. Here is the Us Weather Bureau definition of a blizzard:

......a storm with winds of more than 35 miles an hour and snow that limits visibility to 500 feet or less. A severe blizzard is defined as having winds exceeding 45 miles an hour, visibility of a quarter mile or less, and temperatures of 10 degrees F or lower. On March 11, heavy rains began falling, but the next day the rain changed to heavy snow. Then the temperature dropped and the wind began to howl. The storm continued relentlessly for the next 36 hours. At least fifty inches of snow fell in Connecticut and Massachusetts, while forty inches covered New York and New Jersey and aprts of Pennsylvania. Winds of nearly fifty miles an hour created snowdrifts forty to fifty feet high. The resulting transportation crisis led to the creation of the New York subway, approved in 1894 and begun in 1900. Over 400 deaths were directly blamed on the storm, many as a result of passengers freezing to death in stranded elevated trains. The major Eastern cities were cut off for days and ships by the scores were grounded. It has been asserted that this one storm was the motivation for creation of the New York subway system.

Here is what the Sullivan Review had to say about the great storm in its issue of March 22, 1888:

The Sullivan Review
Dushore, PA
March 22, 1888

The storm of Monday and Tuesday (March 12 and 13) of last week, extended all over the eastern states, losing force and intensity as it traveled west. Railroads all over New York, New Jersey, Pennyslvania, and the New England states were blockaded. Train loads of passengers were snow bound at various towns. Telegraph wires were down, and Washington, Philadelphia and New York were isolated from the rest of the world as completely as though they were located in the desert of the Sahara. Much sufffering was caused in various ways. People lost their way in the driving sleet and piling drifts in New York City, and froze to death in the streets. On the ocean, the storm was no less intense and numerous cases of shipwreck are reported. The oldest inhabitant racks his memory in vain for a parallel. May we never have another, is the wish of all.


Freight and express matter was piled mountain high at all the great railroad centers.
News from Boston to New York and Philadelphia was sent via London during the progress of the storm.
Business was so nearly suspended Monday that we did not a single new subscriber all day.
Total darkness reigned in Boston, New York, Washington, and Philadelphia. The wind blew the street lamps out. (There were no electric lamps at that time.)
[...garbled text...]
All the railroads leading to Laporte were blocked during the storm, and haven't been shoveled out yet. (There was not railroad at Laporte, in that long past day.) The Associated Press despatches [sic] were snowed up, and the Republican missed the account of the last rooster fight at Bernice.

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