Huffpost Green
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Bill Lucey Headshot

Old Man Winter Is Back

Posted: Updated:

For those who are nostalgia buffs, this might be your winter.

According to Accuweather, most of the nation should prepare themselves for the worst winter in 25 years, which might stretch well into March.

The artic cold blasts aren't even sparing the South. The biting cold weather has led to homeless shelters being filled to capacity in Charlotte, N.C.; while The Miami Herald was reporting temperatures dipping into the 30's, the coldest weather to hit South Florida in seven years, causing fears among citrus growers that crops might be irreparably damaged.

More cold temperatures will likely hit the Midwest through the weekend with Iowa, Missouri and Illinois predicted to receive 4-6 inches of fresh snow. 6 to 12 inches is expected over the mountains of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania and across northwest Pennsylvania, and southwest New York.

What some observers find alarming is that most of the eastern seaboard of the United States, which is expected to receive another couple inches of snow this weekend, is recording unusually cold temperatures, not experienced since 1985.

However cold it gets this winter; and however much snow blankets our sidewalks, and covers are windshields, let's just hope and pray we won't meet anything like the "Blizzard of 1888'', the winter in which New York City (with over two million residents) found itself buried in five feet of snow, leaving 400 dead (including all the East Coast), most of whom were buried in head-high snowdrifts.

What started out as one of the mildest winters on the East Coast in 17 years, turned suddenly violent, beginning on March 11, 1888, when the storm gathered momentum in New Jersey and rain turned into snow as the temperatures took a precipitous drop. The deluge of snow (50 inches) never settled down until March 14th. The N.Y. Hearld reported "the only lights to seen up and down a dreary waste of snow are those shone from the comfortable interiors of several saloons that are scattered along Broadway.''

In addition to the heavy snow, strong winds had reached 80 miles an hour (129 km); leaving a million residents along the East Coast trapped in their homes. Public transportation was paralyzed, schools were closed for days, and several funerals had to be cancelled, while a number of dead bodies discovered in snow drifts were kept in snow banks in the city.

One noteworthy bête noire during the "Blizzard of 1888'', was writer John Whitaker Watson, who, oddly enough, composed a poem, "Beautiful Snow'' in 1887. A Connecticut newspaper offered a five cents reward for Watson's arrest and conviction. A group from Hartford reportedly strung up the poet's effigy in front of a hotel and pelted it with snowballs.

In November, 1950, deep snowdrifts battered Northeast Ohio (some referring to it as the "Great Thanksgiving Storm'') the worst storm to hit Cleveland in 37 years, a storm which claimed 11 lives in the Greater Cleveland area, 26 statewide. Most of the deaths were attributed to over exertion from shoveling snow.

Cleveland Mayor Thomas A. Burke declared a state of emergency; while Ohio Governor Frank J. Lausche called in the National Guard to bring order to the extensive looting taking place citywide with orders to "shoot to kill'' as looters made away with bread, milk, meats, baked goods, and liquor. Jewelry stores were also reportedly pillaged; one jewelry merchant claimed a loss of as much as $5,000 in merchandise.

An equally serious concern was the loss of electricity, especially at St Luke's Hospital in Cleveland, which was without power on November 25, 1950 from 9:45 a.m until 7 p.m that evening. The Cleveland Press, the afternoon daily, wasn't able to put a paper at all; The Plain Dealer, the morning newspaper, however, did manage to publish an eight page news section on November 26th and 27th.

The storm of 1950 wasn't limited to Ohio; it spread over 22 states and caused a total of 250 deaths, according to tallies compiled by The Associated Press.

In 1922, a blizzard turned tragic hit the nation's capital in what became known as the "Knickerbocker Storm'', so named when 28 inches of snow caused the roof to collapse on the wood-beamed Knickerbocker Theater in Washington D.C. during the showing of the motion picture "Get Rich Quick Wallingford'', killing 98 patrons and injuring 130 others on January 28th. Altogether, 100 people died from the storm in the D.C. area from January 27 through the 29th.

New York City was pounded again, the day after Christmas in 1947, when a heap of snow swept in from the Atlantic on December 26th, dumping 25.8 inches; two feet of it came down in 24 hours, causing airports to cancel flights, while the Long Island Rail Road was forced to suspend service later that evening. All told, 80 died from the blizzard, including 55 from the eight Mid-Atlantic States.

New England, too, usually bears the brunt of "Old Man Winter'', never more so than in the blustery winter of 1978, when on February 6th and 7th, 29 New Englanders were reported dead and 339 houses destroyed. 27 inches of snow was reported at Logan International Airport with gusts of wind measured as high as 110 miles an hour.

Hockey fans were stranded for three days at the Boston Garden, surviving largely on hot dogs and free coffee; one man was reported dead after leaving his stranded car, just west of Boston; and in other disturbing report, a five-year old girl was washed out to sea by the towering tides in the South Shore suburb of Scituate. All told, Massachusetts and New Hampshire incurred $300 million in damages.

And the one people still talk about, the "Blizzard of the Century'' took place in March, 1993, when record snow assaulted the southern Mid-Atlantic States from Alabama to Massachusetts. 170 people were reported dead with property damage as high as $1.6 billion.

Much of Eastern and Southeastern Kentucky was covered with up to 30 inches of snow, making it a record for single day's snowfall; Syracuse alone received more than three feet of snow; and in Gordon County, Ga, west of Atlanta, 24 carpet mill facilities collapsed, unable to withstand the heavy weight of the snow. 50 tornadoes additionally swept through Florida at one of the worst times, as the Sunshine State will still trying to recover from the ravages of Hurricane Andrew.

The last major snowstorm, not so long ago, was the chilling "Blizzard of 1996'' that descended on the eastern United States and was responsible for well over 100 deaths.

The storm began on January 6th and didn't let up until January 8th. Philadelphia received 31 inches of snow; 27.8 inches fell in Newark, New Jersey; and 14.4 inches in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort in West Virginia, meanwhile, reported receiving 48 inches of snow. Even U.S. government operations in Washington D.C. were closed for a week The "Blizzard of 1996'' caused $3 billion in damages and contributed to 187 deaths, according to the meteorology department at Penn State University.

So let's all just cross our frost bitten fingers that when "Old Man Winter'' does decide to make his presence known that he blows right out of town without setting any major records.

From Our Partners