Now that spring is coming soon, it might serve as a reminder that the end of winter can be just as turbulent as the rest of the season.
March 11, 1888, was shaping up to be another unseasonably warm day. It had been remarkably mild for the previous week. Yet as the rain fell, the temperatures dropped.
By midnight of March 12, the Great Blizzard of 1888 was in full fury. It would snow nonstop for 36 hours, finally leaving the East Coast on the 14th. When all was said and done, parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts received 50 inches of snow, while parts of New York and New Jersey had up to 40 inches, with drifts as high as 50 feet. 48 inches dropped on Albany, 45 inches in New Haven, and 22 inches in New York, which recorded a temperature of between 6 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the storm, thanks to wind gusts that reached almost 80 miles per hour.
The blizzard had an enormous impact, even before the age of electricity. The telegraph and telephone lines were in tatters from Montreal and the Maritime provinces of Canada to Maryland and northern Virginia. 200 ships were grounded or wrecked. Roads and rail lines were impassible for days. It even froze the East River in New York so solid for a time that locals walked from Manhattan to Brooklyn across it, bypassing the 5-year-old Brooklyn Bridge which was deemed impassible due to ice.
Attached is a firsthand account of the Blizzard of 1888 by Albert Hunt of Winsted, Connecticut. Recorded in 1949, he recalls the day the storm first hit as if it were yesterday. It’s an amazing piece of oral history-and I wish there were more from that time period.
Musings for the Shoveler: Random Thoughts on Snow
Since I’ve been breaking my back shoveling a foot of snow outside, what a better way to relax than to think random thoughts on the white stuff that will eventually give me a heart attack.
Any child goes bananas at the concept of snow. It was the only time you watched the news with any degree of enthusiasm–just think, a swoop of the radar and “presto!”, no school!
In my house, that depended on the weatherman on duty that morning, or the night before. As a child watching News 12 on Long Island, it was a waiting game to see who would announce our joy–or our doom. If Norm Dvoskin was announcing, it was a fair bet that there’s at least a two-hour delay, if not more.
Joe Gioffi, on the other hand, was the grim reaper. The local school districts must’ve paid him off each year, because whenever that bastard went on the air, there was no hope. It would only be a sprinkle, or the good snow would be “north and west” of the city. Oh, how we longed to live “north and west”, with all their snow days…
Well, as adults we have a far more complex relationship with snow. We shovel the stuff. Our cars slip on the stuff. You shoo away the kids that want to sled down your driveway. God forbid it snows during rush hour. Here are some other grown ups, and their opinions on the subject.
“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” — Carl Reiner
“Courtesies cannot be borrowed like snow shovels; you must have some of your own.” — John Wanamaker
“I grew up thinking of snow as a luxury you visit.” — John Landis
“I seemed to vow to myself that some day I would go to the region of ice and snow and go on and on till I came to one of the poles of the earth, the end of the axis upon which this great round ball turns.” — Ernest Shackleton
“I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.” — Mae West
“Minneapolis has two seasons: Road Removal and Snow Repair.” — Steven Brust
“Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough.” — Earl Wilson
“The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.” — Margaret Atwood
“We build statues out of snow, and weep to see them melt.” — Walter Scott
“Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won’t make it ‘white’.” — Bing Crosby
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