America’s Biggest Snowstorm

Few storms are as iconic as the Blizzard of 1888. It was the deadliest, snowiest, and most unusual winter storm in American history. No storm of similar magnitude has occurred anywhere in the contiguous United States since. In New York City, rain turned to snow at 1 a.m. on Monday, March 12, when the temperature fell to freezing. Blizzard conditions quickly developed as the wind rose to a sustained 50 mph. By 8 a.m., the city was completely immobilized by the blinding, drifting snow and howling winds. All telegraph communications went down. There was no subway at the time, and the elevated rail line ground to a halt, with one train derailing and killing several passengers and crew. Walking in the streets became not only impossible but also deadly. Over 400 people perished, including 200 in New York alone, many buried in drifts in downtown Manhattan. The Astor Hotel set up 100 cots in its lobby when it became apparent by sunset that venturing outside was impossible. New York City’s official accumulation was 21” of snow, while the maximum point of accumulation from the storm was 58” of snow at Saratoga Springs, New York. The blizzard was the first widely photographed natural disaster in U.S. history.