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Old Timers Still Recall Blizzard Of 1888

Footnotes to Long Island History

OLD TIMERS STILL RECALL BLIZZARD OF 1888

MARCH 10,1960

by

Thomas R. Bayles


       The famous blizzard of 1888 all lives in the memories of the old timers as the worst storm to visit Long Island before or since than time. Winds of hurricane force piled the snow in great drifts of from five to 15 feet in height and made the highways impassable for days.

     The following noted from the diary of my father, Richard M. Bayles, gives a brief picture of conditions during and after that famous storm:

       "March 10, 1888- Beautiful clear spring like day. Surface is getting quite dry.

       "March 11- Mild morning. Southwest wind comes on and rain in evening.

       "March 12- A fierce snow storm is in progress this morning, the heaviest of the winter, with a strong northeast wind. The wildest storm of the winter prevails the wind increasing in fury in the afternoon. All night it blows with the greatest fury I ever saw.''

       "Roads are Impassable"

       "March 13- Roads are impassable, snow drifts eight feet high being frequent. Air is full of snow. Strong northerly winds prevail. Mercury 10 above this morning. No sun all day.

       "March 14 - calm and beautiful the sun shines upon the earth buried beneath the deepest fall of snow known in over 40 years at least. Clouds soon overcast and snow falls during most of the day. No vehicle passed since the 11th.

       "March 17-This is pronounced by the oldest people as the most severe snowstorm they ever knew. The snow would probably average about two feet deep on the level but it is so badly drifted that it is impossible to measure with banks four to ten feet deep No mails yet.

      " March 21 - Rain all day with southerly winds taking the snow off rapidly. Mails resume for first time after a suspension of nine days. During Sunday night. March 11 there was a heavy rain which turned to snow early in the morning and continued all day with winds increasing to gale force at night. The thermometer fell to near zero in the night and Tuesday morning great drifts of fine packed snow made highways impassable and blocked the railroad cuts so that trains were unable to get through Snow continued to fall on Tuesday with the storm ceasing on Wednesday, and the weather came off fair and mostly mild.

       Train stuck in Snow Banks

       The train that started from Greenport to the city on Monday morning got as far as Holbrook, where it got stuck in the snow banks and remained there for two days. The passengers found a case of eggs which they boiled in water from the locomotive and also a box of crackers on the train helped out their menu. The main line of the railroad was practically abandoned for several days.

       Patchogue was not open from the west until Thursday afternoon, the 15th and Sag Harbor the next day. As soon as the Montauk division was clear, three engines and a plow that had been working there were sent to clear the branch from Manorville to Eastport, and on Sunday night March 18 the plow reached riverhead. Two engines and a plow that were at Greenport when the storm began worked west from Greenport and on Tuesday, March 20, met the plow from Riverhead and opened the first rail connection to the city since March12.It was not until a week after the storm that some mail was brought to Greenport, Via New London across the sound to Greenport. The Port Jefferson times for March 18, 1894 carries the following item. One the week that the memorable blizzard of 88 visited us the streets were impassable and the trains on the P J branch could not run. For a week this section was without any mail, and all communication with the outside world was cut off. no radio in those days) The storm was so severe that a large number of employees in the rubber factory stayed in the shop all night rather than face the driving sleet and snow. At one place the men shoveling snow for the railroad hung their coats on the top of the telegraph poles  along the right of way. 

                                                   MARCH 16,1894 

                                            The week that has passed has proved quite a contrast to the same period in March 1888. On the beginning of that week the memorable blizzard with its great fall of snow visited us. The streets were impassable on account of high drifts and the trains on the P. J branch could not run until hand labor cleared the track of the snow solidly packed upon it For nearly a week this section of the island was with out any mail and all communication with the outside world was out off The storm was so severe that employees at the rubber shop nearly perished in getting to their homes .A large number of them stayed in the factory all night, rather than face the driving sleet. The storm began with rain on Sunday night and last Sunday night just six years from the date of the storm the rain was again falling. But with that exception there was nothing further of a coincident character. The personal contact which many people had with the blizzard was so striking this it will not be obliterated from their memory while life jests.

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