THE GREAT WHITE HURRICANE OF MARCH 11, 1888 – Marilyn Armstrong

Today is my birthday. It’s also the 132nd anniversary of the worst blizzard to ever hit the east coast of the United States. Early March is frequently stormy and snowy. Blizzards are not unusual, though typically, snow melts quickly in the spring.

I appear to have been destined for snowy climes. This is not only the story of a storm, but a cautionary tale to never forget winter isn’t over until the daffodils are in bloom. You can never overestimate how dangerous weather in this region can be, especially in the spring when wind patterns become unstable.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 11. There had been a blizzard a few days before, but apparently, it wasn’t a problem because I was safely born in Brooklyn Women’s Hospital. Nonetheless, throughout my childhood, no one in my family ever forgot to mention the blizzard that had hit before I was born. They called me “the blizzard baby” and everyone still talked about it. It was memorable.

Early March is a fine time for big snowstorms in the northeast. March 11, 1888, brought the biggest winter storm to ever hit the region. Known locally as the Brooklyn Blizzard of 1888 and up and down the east coast as the Great White Hurricane, it is my birthday blizzard, a foretaste of Marilyn to come. Or something like that.

Boston’s downtown crossing right after the 1978 blizzard – 28 inches

It was the worst blizzard to ever hit the city of New York. It broke records from Virginia to Maine. It remains one of the worst — and most famous — storms in United States history.

Accumulations of 40 to 50 inches were recorded. It’s hard to picture how much snow that is unless you’ve been through a few really big snowstorms. The deepest snow from a single storm in my life was 34 inches. That’s only a bit more than half the amount of the 1888 blizzard. Despite all the changes and improvements to technology and infrastructure, that amount of snow can paralyze us today.

It’s more snow than any infrastructure can handle. Did I mention snow is heavy? 50 inches on a standard roof might cause it to cave in.

It wasn’t merely a snowstorm. The superstorm included sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds. It was one of those occasions when people get put in their place, forcibly reminded of how strong Mother Nature is.

The storm blanketed areas of  New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. It carried with it sustained winds of more than 45-miles per hour. It produced drifts in excess of 50 feet high. My house, at its peak, is about 40 feet, so so we are talking about drifts as high as a three-story building. All forms of transportation were stopped. Roads and railroads were unusable. People were trapped in their houses for up to a week.

The Great White Hurricane paralyzed the Atlantic coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine. The storm extended all the way up into the Atlantic provinces of Canada. The telegraph went down, leaving major cities including Montreal, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Boston without communication for days to weeks. Because of the storm, New York began putting its telegraph and telephone wiring underground to protect it from future disasters.

The seas and coastlines were not spared. In total, from the Virginia coast to New England, more than 200 ships were grounded or wrecked and more than 100 seamen died.

130 years later, no winter storm has yet topped the big one of 1888. My special storm!

Categories: Marilyn Armstrong, Photography, Seasons, snow, Weather, Winter

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30 replies

    • Thank you. What an interesting time it is to be alive. I know the news is treacherous and scary, but it is also fascinating. If I were younger, this would be a time to always remember as a framework for how bad a government can be in a time of great danger.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It is fascinating. I’m having trouble staying away from the news!


      • Well, the Weather Gods are smilin’ at you today, Birthday Girl. Sunshine and mild temps to celebrate your 29th birthday.
        Hopefully we’ll feel chipper enough to take you out for a proper dinner and celebrate “your day” in proper fashion.
        Here’s looking at YOU, kid, sunshine and love of my life.


  1. That must have been some storm. I remember the one when I was about 8 months pregnant and the snow was so high that if you opened the front door there was a wall of white in front of you. We had to dig before we could go out.


    • This was like that — times two.

      In Brooklyn, New York, the actual snow depth exceeded the height of standard doors. It stopped all transportation and most communications. All the wires went down and it took weeks to get them all restored. It was the blizzard from Hell. It wasn’t just here, either. It was a monstrous storm. I think if you look it up, Montreal and Ontario were hit by the same storm as were many parts of places as far away as Indiana and Iowa.

      it was a massive storm, the equivalent of one of our monster hurricanes, but instead of rain, it was snow. I don’t who has written a book about it. I think there are or were several books, though I don’t know how many of them are still in print.

      What’s MOST fascinating about it is a reminder that no matter how much technology we have, nature will win. We have no control over our weather then or now or in the future. We can only try to stop making everything worse.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy birthday! Here’s wishing you lots of good health!!


  3. Happy Birthday to you, Marilyn!


  4. Happy Birthday – I’m not surprised that you were sort of a storm-baby! You still are, 73 years later…. in the best way possible. All the best.


  5. Hope you had a nice birthday dinner.


    • You’re a day behind us, so the dinner is tonight, but I’m counting on it. It is a restaurant Owen loves, but to which Garry and I have never been so it should be fun. I’m not expecting it to be crowded. Middle of the week, middle of the month. Middle of a crazy crazy world!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy Birthday Marilyn! 🙂


    • Thank you. Made it through another one. I’m just hoping things don’t get too medically dangerous out here. We have a very thin medical community here and I doubt we even have any tests. On the other hand, we don’t have a lot of crowds or big events.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow! That snow. And Wow! Your birthday. How are you celebrating? I hope you had a wonderful day comprised of birds and dogs and Garry and a cake. And anything ele your heart desired. xo


    • Owen is taking us out to dinner and I’m cancelling Garry’s eye exam at the hospital. I don’t want to be anywhere near the hospital. It’s all germ warfare in there! But dinner should be very nice.

      That was the biggest snowstorm to hit the east coast in memory. 50 inches of snow. That’s up to my hairline!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Happy birthday Marilyn. 💖❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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