130 years ago this week a massive snowstorm killed 400 people


People in parts of the northeast and mid-Atlantic states are dealing with a late winter snowstorm this week, but it’s nothing like the blizzard of 1888.

Known as the Great White Hurricane, the deadly snowstorm struck the East Coast almost 130 years ago on March 11, according to the website Connecticuthistory.org. When the snow finally stopped on March 14, more than 400 people had died and the region was paralyzed by 60 inches of snow in some areas with drifts as high as 38 feet in places.

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The editors of the Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle, now the Poughkeepsie Journal,described the blizzard this way:

“Huge walls of (snow) moved along with the howling gale and swirled around corners, almost knocking people down who confronted it… In some places the sidewalks were impassable, and people had to take to the middle of the road, where they floundered and foamed and jumped and fretted on their way to their destinations,” the newspaper reported.

“It was a storm that will be remembered by the youngest boy as long as he lives.”

In National Geographic Magazine’s Volume 1, Brigadier Gen. A.W. Greely, the Chief Signal Officer of the Army from 1887 until 1906 described the monster storm this way.

“This storm is by no means as violent as others which have occurred in the eastern part of the United States. It is noted, however, as being one in which an unusual amount of snow fell, which drifted by the high winds caused by the advance of an anticyclonic area in rear of the storm depression did an enormous amount of damage to the railways in Massachusetts, southern New York, and New Jersey.”

Related:  MA officials warn of 'fast moving, high impact' storm, urge residents to stay home

Related: Boston: Hundreds of flights canceled due to winter storm

The storm shut down the rails and the roads up and down the eastern seaboard for days. The howling winds, with reported gusts at 80 mph in some areas, knocked out the telegraph system.

Damage estimates in New York, alone totaled as much as $25 million, about $670 million by today’s standards. 

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