The Blizzard of 1888, which to date is one of the deadliest snowstorms to hit the United States, formed on March 11. Eerily enough, temperatures on March 10–just a day before the storm hit—were in the mid-50’s in the Northeast. That all changed on March 11, when cold Arctic air from Canada collided with Gulf air from the south and temperatures collided. Rain turned to snow and winds reached hurricane-strength. New yorkers were about a week away from spring; no one expected a sudden drop in temperature, let alone snow.
The snowstorm was categorized as a blizzard: a storm with winds of more than 35 miles per hour and snow that limits visibility to 500 feet or less. A severe blizzard is defined as having winds exceeding 45 miles an hour, and temperatures of 10 degrees fahrenheit or lower. The blizzard of 1888, indeed, was labeled as a severe blizzard. The national weather service estimated that fifty inches of snow fell in Connecticut and Massachusetts and forty inches covered New York and New Jersey. Winds blew up to 48 miles an hour, creating snowdrifts forty to fifty feet high.
New york was the state that was affected most by this storm. More than 400 lives were taken away and 25 million dollars in property damage resulted. Telegraph and telephone wires snapped when they could no longer sustain the weight of the snow and ice, in effect isolating New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington for many days. Two hundred ships sunk, and at least one hundred seamen died.
In conclusion, this was one of the worst blizzards in American history that struck the Northeast. This blizzard is remembered most for the snow that it released on the East Coast. Two reasons why this blizzard was so odd and unique was firstly because most severe winter storms that affect the Northeast are caused by an outbreak of cold air across the eastern U.S. No such air mass was in place prior to the development of the storm. Secondly, the storm center became stationary and actually made a counterclockwise loop off the coast of southern New England. Despite the tragedies, meteorologists found these atmospheric conditions fascinating and still do!