Great White Hurricane of 1888

Heavy snow and wind gusts as high as 85 miles per hour brought whiteout conditions to New York City at midnight on Sunday, March 11, 1888.

Snow drifts had reached the second story of buildings in some areas, yet folks in that city braved the snow on Monday morning to get to work. Many of the elevated trains were blocked by snow drifts, stranding about 15,000 people.

Most city residents who made it to work or school left early—then had a treacherous journey back home.

Railroads and streetcars shut down. Roads were impassible. Train passengers were stuck for days. Two hundred ships wrecked because of the storm.

Telegraph wires fell. Gas lines and water lines—all above-ground—froze.

The storms historic three-day snowfall reached 55 inches in Troy, New York. Snow and high winds affected all those living along the Atlantic coast. About 25% of Americans lived from Washington D.C. to Maine, the area affected by the storm.

Stores ran out of fresh meat, canned meat, and salt meat. Scarce food was sometimes sold to the highest bidder, not to loyal regular customers.

Over 400 people died as a result of this Great White Hurricane—200 were in New York City.

Mark Twain, the beloved author, was stranded at a New York hotel. P.T. Barnum, also stuck at a hotel, entertained other folks likewise stranded at Madison Square Gardens.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources Staff. “Major Blizzards in U.S. History,”, 2018/01/07 Staff. “March 11, 1888: Great Blizzard of ’88 hits East Coast,”, 2018/01/07

“Surprising Stories: The Great White Hurricane of 1888,” New England Historical Society, 2018/01/07




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