Tomorrow, March 12th , marks the anniversary of the Great Blizzard of 1888, one of the most devastating storms ever to strike the northeast. While the snow and wind of last week closed schools from Alabama to Maine, it pales in comparison to the storm that barreled across the continent 121 years ago. On March 13, 1888, the New York Times headline read "IN A BLIZZARD'S GRASP, THE WORST STORM THE CITY HAS EVER KNOWN. BUSINESS AND TRAVEL COMPLETELY SUSPENDED. NEW YORK HELPLESS IN A TORNADO OF WIND AND SNOW WHICH PARALYZED ALL INDUSTRY, ISOLATED THE CITY FROM THE REST OF THE COUNTRY, CAUSED MANY ACCIDENTS AND GREAT DISCOMFORT, AND EXPOSED IT TO MANY DANGERS." Now that's a storm. The coverage in the Times was extensive, and included a vivid description of what the day was like for commuters:
"Trains started from Harlem crowded with people-- becoming jammed with people as they advanced-- who were in a hurry to get to their work. Slowly and more slowly they ran, and at last the doleful information came that they could go no further. Yet there was little or no profanity even among the men. Stories were told, jokes were cracked, and jovial good-fellowship prevailed. Nobody put on any airs. The aristocratic banker and merchant was "hale fellow well met" with the artisan, helpful to the shopgirl, and kind to the inevitable old lady whom even the blizzard couldn't keep at home."
The full story can be read online, at the Historical New York Times database, available through the library. Simply type in the date, March 13, 1888, enter the search term "blizzard" and then begin browsing the articles. To get the big picture, you can read through a facsimile version of the paper, page by page. Fair warning, it can be addictive.
If reading the paper leaves you wanting to know more, spend some time reading Blizzard! The Great Storm of '88 by Judd Caplovich. Be sure to check out the photograph on page 48-- more than 100 workers are shoveling off the railroad tracks at the Hollow Tree Ridge Road overpass in Darien!