With two months of snow and freeze behind us—hopefully!—it’s worth looking-back on the poor NYC denizens of 1888. On this day of that year, after a period of unseasonably warm weather, “The Great Blizzard of 1888” struck the East Coast, dumping 50+ inches of snow on parts of the Eastern Seaboard over a three day period. High winds blew the snow into drifts over 50 feet high—burying three story buildings! Some residents were trapped in their homes for a week. 400 people were killed during the blizzard, half of them in New York City.
Trains were immobilized for a week. Fires burned unchecked. And the flooding that occurred after the storm was devastating. Especially hard-hit was the Brooklyn neighborhood of Gravesend—where 52 inches of snow fell during the three day event.
The storm’s effect on transport (and commerce) motivated city planners to build the first underground railway systems. Boston opened its subway, “The T,” nine years later. New York City inaugurated its underground service a few years later.
So, today, as we stroll about in 50 degree weather (after a long, cold pull), let’s spare a thought for our City forebears and the misery they endured…when they least expected it.