Nebraska School Kids From the Past Could Tell You that Winter Blizzards Happen


Blizzard Before Global Warming

Blizzard Before Global Warming

Blizzard Before Global Warming

Nebraska School Kids January 1888

On This Date In History:  Last year, the East Coast, most famously the Washington DC area, had a few giant snow storms.  Some folks blamed Global Warming.  Around Christmas this year, the northeast got slammed by a big old system that dropped 20 inches on Central Park and gave the mayor a big headache.  Now, there is another similar system that has dumped a bunch of snow and ice in the South and promises to adversely affect the northeast again.  My bet is that New York will get a significant amount of snow but I suspect that Boston will be closer to the target of the 2-foot-type snow totals and blizzard warnings.  In between these events, we had a tornado outbreak in the Ozarks and parts of the Midwest.  Ironically, parts of Arkansas that got whacked with twisters a couple of weeks ago have now had to deal with the snow and ice.  I have fully expected Global Warming articles but haven’t seen much yet.  But, you know what?  It is not unprecedented.  I recall a January  tornado that caused fatalities in Owensboro not too many years ago.  This is a La Nina year and that may have more to do with the persistent pattern we’ve had and when you get a change in the pattern, well, then severe weather can occur in between the wintry stuff.  At this point, the models way out are suggesting another potential severe outbreak in the Ozarks in a couple of weeks.  Not sure if it will happen, but its out there.

While its been snowing in Atlanta, its been in the upper 70’s to near 80 in South Florida, that is about normal. As I alluded, it’s not out of the question that we get a warm up for a few days in the South in a couple of weeks.   Winter weather is not unusual and neither are warm ups, which are  so common that it is known as a “false spring”.  In the Midwest, January 11,888 had been unseasonably warm as had the morning of January 12. A cold front came barreling down with air that dropped temperatures well below zero with high winds. Some reports of the day say that the mercury fell 100 degrees in 24 hours. ..while its possible, that may be an exaggeration.

You Can Read The Book

You Can Read The Book

You Can Read The Book
When the mercury fell, the snow began to fall. Most likely a shortwave blew up from the southwest and grabbed all of the warm moist air to the south and threw it over the cold air. People who had gone to work and especially school children had not dressed for the extreme cold as the whole thing was a total surprise. 235 people died that day, many of them school children trying to get home. Hence, on this date in 1888, the Midwest of the United States suffered from what is now known as either the “Schoolhouse Blizzard,” “The Big Brash Blizzard of 1888” or the “Schoolchildren’s Blizzard.” One story holds that a teacher was trapped in her schoolhouse with 3 children and by 3 pm they had run out of heating fuel. She tried to lead them 82 yards to her boarding house. Visibility was so poor that they got lost in the short distance and the 3 kids died. She survived but lost her feet to frostbite. There are many other tales of rescues using rope to tie children together as they tried to get to safety.  The meteorological details surrounding the 1888 blizzard are interesting and the individual stories quite harrowing.

Extreme weather changes have gone on in this country in the winter for a long long time….long before anyone thought of global warming. Its just that now we have better forecasts to be able to prepare.

Wall Street March 1888

Not A Good Trading Day on Wall Street

It was a tough winter in 1888. In March, New York City had one of its greatest snowfalls and blizzards. From March 12-14, about 50 inches fell and wind drifted the snow to up to 40 feet. The city came to a standstill.  The storm adversely affected cities all up and down the East Coast, including Baltimore, which had temperatures in the mid 40’s the day before the storm hit.   And that winter of 1888 was well before anyone suggests that climate change had any effect on the weather.

Weather patterns really haven’t changed all that much, it’s just that forecasting has gotten so much better as well as communications.  But, snow forecasting remains very difficult and the TV honchos who aren’t on the air insist on public relations campaigns that elevate their tv weather folks to mythical proportions.  Even if a station has a top shelf Meteorologist like Jay Cardosi or Matt Milosevich, Kevin Harned or Marc Weinberg, it’s far from perfect.  It doesn’t help when a tv outfit hires a broadcaster and then labels them as  a Meteorologist. It’s really not fair to that person. Either way, snow/sleet/ice forecasts can be really beyond human abilities and so they change.  The difference between an inch of snow and 5 inches is not much.  And when you throw in ice potential, it really creates a challenge.  Be thankful for what we have today.  Those kids in Nebraska in 1888 could only dream of having someone alert them to the potential danger as did the people along the East Coast later that year.

3 Responses

  1. Snow, ice and cold. If you’re a Texan, that means 1899 and 1983, especially. Those were bay-freezing years. I was here for ’83, and it was something.

    Last weekend, the cold front that cleared the coast had some old-timers telling stories on the early morning hunting and fishing show. I’ll not clog your blog with all those, but I did hear a new one about 1983 – four duck hunters down around Rockport who lost their boat in the front and survived by digging a hole in the mud and laying on top of one another, rotating every so often to prevent the top guy from freezing. That was the trip they learned a burlap bag filled with decoys can be as useful as a life preserver!

    When I was growing up in Iowa (that’s my “BOI”) we had some good blizzards. Crusty drifts were dangerous for us kids – we always were tempted to walk on top, and it could be hard to get out if we fell through!

  2. Thanx. So, you are a BOI but just not the one that I thought.

  3. This is a great site – found it completely by accident. I had to check it today after our mega storm. This storm total of the past week reminds me of the Connecticut storms of 1978. Keep up the wonderful weather/time travel trivia.

    I’m so sick of hearing about “Snow Armageddon.” Marketing people just looking for a 20 second buzzword to put on the morning news.

    If you want a hoot you should check out our local weather guy on WFSB.

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