Great Blizzard of 1888 in New York City


On March 13, 1888, New York was paralyzed by the worst snowstorm recorded in the City. The winter storm reached the northeast coast of United States late on March 11, 1888. It paralyzed the region from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine, as well as Atlantic provinces of Canada. More than 200 ships were either grounded or wrecked. More than 400 people died from the storm and the ensuing cold, including 200 in New York City alone. In the City of New York it snowed steadily for 24 hours on March 12. The snow continued to fall on the 13th and finally ended in the early morning on March 14. Temperature dropped to -13°C and the wind rose to a velocity of more than 80 miles per hour. The average fall of snow was three feet four inches, but the high winds piled the drifts up to second-story window levels in many places. People were caught unprepared for the storm.

Transportation was paralyzed for days after the event. One of the trains on the elevated tracks in the City derailed, and 75 trains became stuck in the snow or crashed.

Many telegraph, telephone and power lines were brought down by the weight of the snow and the gusting wind. Then, wires were buried by the continued snowfall and some people were electrocuted when stepping on recently buried power lines. Other people were buried by the snow and their bodies weren't found for days until the snow melted.

All telegraph service was disrupted, but the submarine cables were undisturbed. Messages from Boston to New York were made by way of London.

The deadly elevated rail disaster accelerated to the development of the subway system. All the overhead electric power cables, telephone, telegraph and signaling wires were buried underground until the early 1890s. Utility poles were cut down. This was a previous need but the process was also accelerated.




Great Blizzard





Old City of New York




Great Fire 1835



New Street, looking toward Wall Street in the aftermath of the Great Blizzard of 1888 in New York City. The ugly cityscape became a dreadful scenery. After the Blizzard, the utility companies were ordered to bury their wires. Source: Wide World Photo / New York Public Library.


Blizzard of 1888 in New York City.


Delivery wagons stalled in the snow of the Great Blizzard (Valentine's Manual of Old New York, 1927 / 1926)


NY Great Fire 1845


Blizzard 1888


Snow storm


Winter NYC


Great Blizzard




Broken telegraph poles in West 11th Street after the Great Blizzard (Valentine's Manual of Old New York, 1927 / 1926)




City New York panorama


Downed utility poles due to Blizzard of 1888 in New York City. Photo by Langill & Bodfish / Museum of the City of New York.


Manhattan 19th century


Copyright © Geographic Guide - Old NYC 19th Century.


Great Blizzard of 1888 in New York City


NY 19th Century