25th Anniversary of the Blizzard of 1888

by Laurel | March 9th, 2012

09 March 1913

Stereoscopic View, New Britain, CT, Blizzard of 1888

Stereoscopic View, New Britain, CT, Blizzard of 1888

The miniature blizzards of the past week have reminded Holyoke of the full-grown blizzard which struck the city about 25 years ago, the 25th anniversary of which will take place Wednesday. Holyokers have good cause to remember that time, when the drifts in the city streets were from 12 to 15 feet high, and it was several days before all the streets in the city were in condition for travel. The storm at its beginning gave no promise of anything out of the ordinary, although in the morning the snow fell constantly and heavily, but it was not until afternoon that the wind arose to any great height and the blizzard began to get in its fine work. Gillett in “Held by the Enemy” was scheduled as the attraction at the Opera House that night, but Holyoke was held by the enemy as well as Gillett, and could not get down to the Opera House to see the play. There were many cases of exhaustion, where people were trying to get to their homes after their work at the offices and mills, and some narrow escapes from death. The snow piled up everywhere, and it is remembered that the weight of snow broke the roof at the Whiting Paper Company’s mill, and up on Northampton Street at one house the occupants had to get out through upper windows of the house, a drift being piled clean up over the doors.

The hotels were crowded in the city that night, and beds were made up in the parlors, many from out of town being unable to get home, the train service being tied up tight. Other Holyokers who were out of the city were unable to get home, and there was considerable anxiety until they could be heard from. The milkmen could not get to their customers, and there was such a demand for condensed milk and other provisions that the storekeepers stocks were almost exhausted. At 1:30 the afternoon of the 13th High Street was broken out bu the use of four horses and men with shovels, and at 2 in the afternoon a big snow plow was run up from Springfield on the railroad after a hard struggle with the drifts. Upper Oak Street was broken out on the same afternoon and by Wednesday morning a large share of the streets were open for traffic. The street railway ran barges for some days until their tracks could be opened for travel. The record made by that storm has never been equaled since, and at the same time the old residents could not recall that there had ever been one so severe preceding it. Only the fact that the weather was not extremely cold saved a large loss of life.

The image above, photographed in New Britain can give you an idea of what the storm was like.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican, image public domain from Wiki Commons.

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