Streets of Washington, written by John DeFerrari, covers some of DC’s most interesting buildings and history. John is the author of Historic Restaurants of Washington, D.C.: Capital Eats, published by the History Press, Inc. and also the author of Lost Washington DC.
Although the snowstorm that just struck the east coast was not as bad as forecasters feared, it’s worth looking back at one of the most devastating storms from the past. The great blizzard of March 11, 1888 wasn’t even predicted at all in Washington. The weather forecast that day was just for wind and rain, with clear skies to follow. Sure enough, the day began with heavy rains, but by late afternoon it turned suddenly to heavy snow. About a foot of snow fell through the night, followed by fierce winds. It turned out to be a cataclysmic storm, walloping the entire northeastern U.S. and dumping two to three feet of snow in New York and New England. Though Washington was not the worst hit, the storm’s effects had a lasting impact on the city.
A street-side snow hut made after the massive snow storm of March 1888 (Source: Library of Congress).
“The storm that visited Washington yesterday was one of the most remarkable known for years, The Evening Star reported on Monday, “In fact, the capital seemed to have dropped into the very center of a cyclone that brought with it a blinding succession of rain, snow, wind, and cold…. [T]he city was sheeted in a mantle of white that grew thicker every minute. As the night fell the heavily-laden telegraph wires began to come down, and in many places the streets were blockaded so that street cars had to turn around and make partial trips. The police wires were out of order, and to add to the discomforts of the night the electric lights began to fail. By midnight the city was almost in darkness, save for a few feeble gas jets that had flickered through the storm.” (more…)