The Great Blizzard of 1899

Footnotes to Long Island History


FEB. 16,1950


Thomas R. Bayles

       Just to show people what can really be like around Patchogue, we recently dug up this account of a blizzard which was published in the Advance of February 17, 1899.

       "Last Saturday night a howling northeaster struck Long Island, and Sunday, Sunday night, Monday, and Monday night it continued with unabated fury. The wind blow at the rate of a mile a minute and the snow fell so fast one could scarcely see across the street. Reliable experts put the depth of snow at from 18 inches to two feet. Those who dug out from their homes through 10 foot snow banks do not agree with the estimate. Neither do the milkmen who wish they were in any other business.

       "People generally agree that the storm was as bad as the blizzard of 1888, and in some respects it were worse. The snow was deeper and the cold much more severe. The thermometer went several degrees below zero and the mean temperature for Saturday and Monday was close to zero. There was a great rattling in coal bins and wood piles.

       "Street Commissioner Crowley and his assistants made a desperate effort to clear the streets Sunday, but it was a losing game .Monday it was again impossible as the snow filled in again in a few hours. Tuesday it was impossible to do anything but break the roads. The horses could scarcely wallow through the great drifts, and men had to dig out the biggest drifts. Lance Still cut through the drifts in the lower part of town, and many others lent a hand so that by Tuesday noon the roads were just passable.

       "Great drifts are piled up in Main street 12 feet high. Tunnels and narrow passageways are the means of communication between the sides of the streets.

       "A ton of cool was burned in warming up the Methodist Church for Sunday service and only about a score of members came out Sunday morning. At the Congregational Church there was no service expect Sunday School.

       "The morning train crews left Patchogue Monday morning with two engines and one car and they got to Long Island City about noon. They returned about 10 o'clock Tuesday night following the three big engines that opened the road. One of these engines was an immense camel back freight locomotive and the crowd at the depot was greatly interested in its appearance. One of the engineers presented Miss Webb, the telegraph operator, with Tuesday's Eagle. A. H. Carman offered a dollar for the New York Sun, but the engineer who has refused to sell it. These engines brought mail bags to Babylon and left them. The boys at the post office had a fine time resting up Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday noon they had to hustle as the delayed mails reached here at that time.

       "The entire Island is buried beneath virgin snow drifts. Reports from all sections tell the same story. No trains, no mails, no daily papers for two or three days. No business, no church, no fun. Everybody and his neighbor has been shoveling snow.

       "The snow plow on the railroad that went east Wednesday noon got only as far as Moriches. The Long Island Railroad practically suspended business Monday as nothing could be done in the drifting storm. Rather than take chances of blocking the road further with dead engines, all trains were stopped. Wednesday desperate efforts were made to reach the east end of the Island.

       "Long Island Sound was frozen miles out from shore. Steamers from Huntington and other points could not reach New York.

       "Local butchers were very short on meat by Wednesday night and the coal dealers were low on coal. East Hampton reported an oil famine. Riverhead ran out of eggs and snow shovels.

       "The trains on the north side and to Riverhead did not get through until Thursday."

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