A March blizzard pummels New York by surprise

The day before it hit, the temperature (measured from the Equitable Building at 120 Broadway) was a balmy 40 degrees—and the forecast at the tail end of what had been a warm winter called for light rain.

The next morning, Monday, March 12, 1888, the rain had turned to snow, ferocious winds created heavy drifts, and temperatures dropped to the low 20s.(Below, Park Street in Brooklyn)

For the next 24 hours, “the city went into its gas-lighted rooms and its heated houses, and its parlors and beds tired, wet, helpless, and full of amazement,” reported the New York Sun on March 13. (Below, 14th Street)

Take a look at these scenes of the city during and after the “White Hurricane” that pummeled the metropolis at the start of a workweek in mid-March 129 years ago.

About 200 people were killed during the storm itself and many more succumbed to storm-caused injuries later, felled by heavy snow or left in unheated flats after coal deliveries ceased. (Below, Fifth Avenue at 27th Street)

The downed power lines, stuck streetcars and trolleys, and deep mounds of snow are reminders of all the damage a late winter storm can do when city residents have been tricked by a mild winter season into feeling spring fever before winter is officially over.

Exiled Cuban journalist Jose Marti chronicled the storm from his New York home for an Argentinian newspaper.

Marti captured the mood of the city paralyzed by snow in poetic, descriptive prose, more of which you can read in The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910.

[Top photo: via Stuff Nobody Cares About]

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8 Responses to “A March blizzard pummels New York by surprise”

  1. GaelHawkins Says:

    How about it?

    Sent from my iPad


  2. mvschulze Says:

    Good timing with this, as we are bracing for another March Blizzard here in the NYC area. Love these posts! M 🙂

  3. Mike David Says:

    The fifth picture is actually Fifth Ave at 27th Street (before it was widened). Love your website!

  4. C. A. Sanders Says:

    Oddly enough, I remember learning about this in 3rd grade. I grew up in the Bronx (PS 83) so that’s probably why.

  5. Dymoon Says:

    Reblogged this on dymoonblog and commented:
    NY may see another bit of snow yet…

  6. Historic Photo: Aftermath of the Great Blizzard of 1888, New York City. – SeanMunger.com Says:

    […] thanks to the great blog Ephemeral New York who brought this picture, which I had seen before, back to my attention. Here is a deliciously detailed photograph taken in downtown New York in the aftermath of the […]

  7. James Graham Says:

    Roscoe Conkling, a famous politician. lost his life in the storm.

    Trivia: Conkling supposedly invented the phrase “Let the chips fall where they may.” (He was thinking of wood, not potatoes.)


  8. The March blizzard of 1888 hit NYC with 21 inches of snow and killed 200 people – The New York Tribune Says:

    […] you’ll see that March really does manage a roar when it comes to snowstorms. Ephemeral New York tells of the March megablizzard that caught the city by surprise, following balmy 40-degree temperatures […]

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