The one in 1888 changed New York forever

Brooklyn Currents | 1/26/2015 | 0 comments

Great blizzard of 1888 changes NYC
As trains pass by on either side, a lone person walks across the Brooklyn Bridge after a blizzard left the bridge and tracks covered in snow, on March 14, 1888. (Wallace G. Levison/Dahlstrom Collection/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

From Yahoo News

As Brooklyn and the rest of New York City brace for a blizzard forecasters say could be historic, some residents are looking back to the one that historians say changed the city for all time.

In March 1888, an unprecedented blizzard hit the northeast, dumping 20 to 60 inches of snow on an unprepared New York City. Drifts measured 30 and even 50 feet in some parts of the region.

Not only was the storm momentous, resulting in around 200 deaths in New York City alone, it had a lasting impact on the way the city functions today.

The creation of New York's now-ubiquitous subway, as well as its underground electrical system, can be traced back to "The Great White Hurricane," as the storm was nicknamed, according to Winds surpassing 80 mph knocked over electrical wires, starting fires that caused an estimated $25 million worth of property damage. Above-ground telephone and telegraph wires were also downed, cutting off communication to other cities. And all transportation was halted.

In a March 13, 1888, article that declared the blizzard the "worst storm the city has ever known," The New York Times wrote that without the blizzard, the city might "for an indefinite time" have endured "the nuisance of electric wires dangling from poles, of slow trains running on the trestlework, and slower cars drawn by horses in the streets dangerous with their center tearing rails." The Times concluded that "a system of a really rapid transit which cannot be made inoperable by storms must be straightaway devised and as speedily as possible constructed and that all the electric wires — telegraph, telephone, fire alarms, and illuminating — must be put underground without any delay."

After the storm, the city set in motion a plan to build an underground train system. The plan wasn't fully formed until 1894, and in 1900 construction on the subway finally began.


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