Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Think winter storms are bad now? Wait’ll you hear about the Great Blizzard of 1888

If you live somewhere like New York or Michigan, you may think you know everything about winter storms. But do you remember the big one that happened back in ’88? No, not 1988. We’re talking 1888.

The Great Blizzard of 1888 was one of the biggest and deadliest winter storms in U.S. history. Powerful blizzards and hurricane-level winds tore through the East Coast in March, piling as much as 50 inches of snow over streets, offices and homes. Transportation came to a halt, leaving thousands of people stranded in the cold and stopping deliveries of fresh food and coal that was used to heat homes. The storm killed more than 400 people, some of whom froze to death on their way home from work.

Major winter storms aren’t a thing of the past. In fact, they’ve become more frequent and intense in recent decades. Some states that usually don’t get very cold have been caught off guard by wintry weather. In January 2017, a blizzard dumped up to eight inches of snow in states such as Alabama and Georgia.

Part of the reason the Great Blizzard was so deadly was that weather forecasting wasn’t all that great during this time. People had no warnings and no time to stock up on food and fuel. Thankfully, with today’s thermometers, barometers, anemometers and a variety of other -ometers, we can predict and prepare for winter weather in advance. This winter is expected to get really cold in many parts of the U.S. around January or February, for example.   

So how should you get ready for a winter storm? For starters, assemble an emergency supply kit. In case the power goes out, make sure you have extra blankets, coats and a battery- or solar-operated cellphone charger. Prepare your home by making sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector. Learn more about getting ready for winter storms with our fact sheet.

Photo credit:
Photo of Great Blizzard in New York City, March 12, 1888. Courtesy NOAA Photo Library, National Weather Service Collection.   

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