125 years ago today a mammoth blizzard was bearing down on the Northeastern United States. The monster storm, which became known as the “Great White Hurricane” developed east of Cape Hatteras during the evening of March 11 and moved north to just off the RI coast by late in the evening on March 12. The storm ran into an atmospheric roadblock similar to to the weather pattern that contributed to last week’s long-duration Southern New England snow storm. The storm did a slow counter-clockwise loop near the RI coast on March 13, and was finally moving east away from the coast by the morning of March 14.
Initially, the storm brought rain to New York City on March 11, but by the morning of March 12 the precipitation had changed to snow as the temperature plummeted. The temperature fell all the way to the single digits by the morning on March 13 when the snow was winding down in New York City. In Southeastern New England, there was a sharp contrast between rain and snow. Parts of western RI received more than a foot of snow, while the storm produced no snow in most of Southeastern Massachusetts.
The hardest hit areas were from New York City to Albany and Western MA and Western CT, where 30-50″ of snow was reported. The storm paralyzed the region for days, including the closing of the New York Stock Exchange for two days. Roads and railroads were impassable for several days. As a result of the storm, New York began placing its telegraph and telephone structure underground to prevent further destruction. The storm had a major impact in the maritime community. Winds were reported to be as high as 80 miles per hour, and more than 100 mariners died when more than 200 vessels were either wrecked or grounded.