Great White Hurricane of 1888

On March 11, 1888, a great “Nor’easter” began to form on the NE coast of the U.S.A. Because of their unstable atmospheric pressures, regions of Earth in the mid-latitudes experience the widest range of weather formations. March can be a wild weather month there. The Atlantic coast lies at the eastern edge of North America’s “snowbelt” – from the head of Lake Superior east – that bears the brunt of winter storms. This coast is also at the western edge of seasonal North Atlantic storms. When air masses from each direction meet up, they produce a “Nor’easter” – a long, large storm that, under the worst conditions, produces a winter hurricane.

In the few days before the storm, people all along the NE coast from New Jersey right through the Canadian Maritimes began to think that Spring was on its way with the mild temperatures they were suddenly enjoying… and the rain. The rain increased heavily. The temperature dropped. Rain became snow. The winds grew severe, gusting up to 129 km (80 mph).

By the end of the storm on March 14th, the East coast lay paralyzed… in a time before radio, automobiles, and diesel engines. Snow drifting in some places covered the roofs of houses. Principal cities like Washington, New York, Boston, and Halifax were isolated for days. Telegraph and telephone lines were down. Roads and rails were blocked. Delivery wagons and horse cars were buried on the street. Dozens of ships and those who sailed on them had disappeared. Hundreds of people died.

It took thousands of determined men many weeks to clear the snow by hand with pick and shovel.

Unlike those who lived in 1888, we benefit from over 100 more years of growth in the Sciences and their applications. These benefits help us live more safely in our atmospheric environments – from early storm warnings, structural improvements like underground transit and utilities, to snow removal equipment and portable generators.

B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage

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