The Russell Snow Plow & Hand Flanger, Riverhead, undated. It was because of the Great Blizzard of 1888 that the LIRR acquired snow plows to help clear the tracks during major snow events. (Image from the Orville Young Photograph Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives [211.4.399]. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)
Nearly 130 years later, the Great Blizzard of 1888 is still the storm against which all others are measured. The storm, which began on March 11 and lasted for 72 hours, devastated the entire Northeast. The three days of howling winds, blinding snow, and Artic temperatures came without warning, burying the area in giant snowdrifts, knocking out telephone lines, paralyzing the Long Island Railroad, and leaving many people stranded in their homes or businesses. About 400 deaths in the Northeast were attributed to the storm, including many stranded pedestrians and commuters.
Long Island was hit hard with high winds and more than 40-50 inches of snow. Southold had "no communication by train, mail, or telegraph" for days: "Our streets are blocked by snow drifts varying from five to fifteen feet in height," the Traveler reported on March 16, 1888. Main Street in Huntington was "filled up with 10 or 15 feet of snow," recounts an eyewitness in Blizzard: The Great Storm of '88 (1988).