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Today in History – Blizzard of 1888: How 1 Storm Changed New York City Forever

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. -Yahoo News

“The Great White Hurricane” arrived on this day in 1888. Hundreds died, and New York City took drastic steps to improve its infrastructure. Before winter comes to a close this year, protect yourself with these tips – “How to Survive a Blizzard.” 

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 NYCsubway.org. 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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