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Globe headlines from March 17, 1888, a few days after the Great White Hurricane.
Globe headlines from March 17, 1888, a few days after the Great White Hurricane.

Around this time in 1888, New Englanders were not basking in near-50-degree sunny weather. Instead, they were battling a blizzard that killed 400 people and dumped almost 60 inches of snow on some parts of the East Coast.

The storm, referred to as the “Great Blizzard of 1888” or the “Great White Hurricane,” hit Boston at about 7 a.m. on March 12, 1888, and continued until March 14, according to Boston Globe archives. It originated near Salt Lake City and traveled in a straight line northeast until it changed directions near Detroit, where it curved south. This is the path the storm followed all the way to just south of Boston.

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“For three days it travelled very slowly, but by being kept confined by the heavier air surrounding it, its intensity grew in proportion to its restraint, and yesterday, when the last well-defined reports of it were received in Boston, it was crowded into a small area over the lake region, giving high winds and snow,” the Globe reported on March 12, 1888.

The Great White Hurricane lingered on the East Coast for about three days, hitting eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, eastern New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and most of Maine, the Globe reported.

“Fortunately for Boston, while it is nearest the centre of the storm, it has so far escaped the most violent part of it, the usual rule of cyclones, that the most violent winds are in the southern half, being carried out upon this occasion,” the Globe reported on March 13, 1888.

Nearly all telegraph and telephone wires went down and railways were blocked, according to Globe archives, effectively isolating Boston from the rest of the region. However, there were no serious casualties in the city, according to the archives.

Other areas weren’t as lucky.

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“Children died trying to get home from school and adults perished in snowdrifts higher than their heads,” according to the New England Historical Society. “Telegraph boys tied wires around their waists so they could be pulled out of the drifts.”

In Springfield, a little girl was found buried in a snow bank when a man went to get a hat stuck in the snow, according to the historical society. In New York, about 200 people froze to death, the Globe reported.

“History does not tell of a storm that equals the one which begun here last Sunday night,” the Globe reported on March 14, 1888.


Breanne Kovatch can be reached at breanne.kovatch@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @breannekovatch.