« AnteriorContinuar »
THE BLIZZARD OF MARCH, 1888.
BY SAMUEL D. LORD.
It is not a new thing to have a snowstorm in March in New Hampshire, but it is a very uncommon event here to have blizzards such as we are about to describe even in the winter months. The recollection of the oldest inhabitant” fails to recall one in the month of March, that in quantity of snow, in force of wind, and in temperature compares with the storm of March, 1888. We have storms of great severity, we have cold storms that are signally severe, and winds that blow down from the mountains upon us with great force.
A quarter of a century ago New Hampshire was considered a land of the greatest frosts and deepest snows, having a climate that furnished but slight relief to the cold conditions of Greenland. Now we know that our climate is indeed agreeable compared with that of our northwestern territories, and with the modern improvements of heating our dwellings we have all the conveniences one could expect. The want of natural heat is supplied to us by artificial means. We have occasional cyclones, earthquakes, and storms, with cold blasts, of course, but they are diminutive when compared with those of other sections of the country.
The record of storms, dates, and conditions is now kept, but it was not so till the establishment of the Signal Department, which
requires of observers meteorological exactness in the reading of barometer, thermometer, rain and snow gauges, and we can readily compare storm with storm and blizzard with blizzard.
The storm we record began here lightly on March 11, continued on a public day, "town-meeting" day, the 13th, closing on the 14th, and from its interference with the public business became noted in our history as the "town-meeting"storm of 1888. In many towns access to the town meeting was impossible in consequence of snow drifts, and adjournments or new calls for such meetings became necessary.
The storm did not approach us with the severity which was exhibited in some other States, yet here it had the character of the blizzard. It was something more than an ordinary storm. The snow fell fast and was caught by the wild winds and hurled everywhere. The old highways and the railroads were rendered impassable. The snow came with such force into the eyes of the pedestrian as to blind him; melting near the eye, the other parts of the large bunches of snow would remain fixed and frozen fast to the eye, so that it was his constant work to protect his sight. The snow would follow the breath inhaled into the lungs, and, melting, fill them with water, nearly choking him, if not quite doing the work of strangulation. These are some of the conditions of the blizzard, and many reading this
who were exposed in this storm will remember these peculiar traits of this blizzard in distinction from the ordinary storm, hence we have the right to give the storm the hardest name yet invented, the blizzard.
This storm attracted the attention of the Signal Department at Washington, as also the secretary of the New England Meteorological Society, and through their officers reports have been made of the storm in its rise and progress through the country. Under the direction of General Greely, chief signal officer of the department, Lieut. H. H. C. Dunwoody investigated the storm and has well described and particularly defined it till it reached and passed New England. This officer has acquired such skill in the investigation of storms, as well as in predicting them, that his report will be particularly interesting to everyone, and I quote from his report found in the “ Weather Review,” March, 1888.
The most severe storm of the month, and the most violent that has occurred in the eastern portion of the United States for a number of years, was first observed as a feeble cyclonic disturbance, central in Northern Georgia on the morning of the 11th, although the barometric disturbance within which this storm developed had its origin in the north Pacific, where it was observed on the 6th. The 7 A. M. report of the roth exhibited an extended barometric trough, covering the central valleys, within which heavy rains were reported from the Gulf coast northward to Lake Superior, while areas of high pressure covered the Atlantic coast and the northern Rocky Mountain regions. This barometric trough moved slowly eastward during the roth, causing unusually heavy rains in the Southern States, and rain followed by snow in the Lake region and Ohio valley. The anti-cyclone which followed quickly the passage of this barometric trough over the central valleys was attended by a cold wave causing marked and sudden changes in temperature, and within a few hours after, the wind shifted to the northwest. These contrasts of temperature are indicated by reports on the afternoon of the toth, as follows: Cairo, Ill., 50°; Springfield, Mo., 24°; Memphis, Tenn., 64o; Fort Gibson, Ind. Ter., 32°; Chicago, Ill., 44°; Keokuk, Ia., 22o. These thermal conditions existed when the barometric trough extended from Louisiana northward to Lake Superior, the barometer being lowest over Lake Michigan, where the primary storm was at that time central.
During the 11th, the northern cyclonic disturbance moved northeastward and disappeared beyond the limits of the stations of observation, while the secondary disturbance moved eastward towards Cape Hatteras, N. C., and thence northeastward along the middle Atlantic, as indicated by the accompanying charts. As the center approached the coast it developed great energy, causing destructive gales, which were attended by heavy rains southward of Virginia, and rain turning to snow from Virginia northward over the Middle Atlantic States and New England.
He gives the following data in relation to this storm :
Long. W. 82° 201
First observed, Lat. 34° 20'
The “secondary disturbance' referred to "remained stationary during the 13th, thus accounting for the persistence of the storm” says Lieutenant Dunwoody, "and the brisk and high southeasterly winds in the east portion of Long Island, while strong westerly winds continued on the New York and New Jersey coasts.'
Prof. Winslow Upton of Brown University, secretary of the lew England Meteorological Society, formerly connected with the Signal Department, has given this storm much study, and has
collected data from all parts of New England and from commanders of ships on the Atlantic, publishing the same in the “ American Meteorological Journal,” and he has also given a report of the same in the “ New England Bulletin” for May. I am authorized by Professor Upton to quote from his publications, and I am glad to do so freely, because his data are reliable and his conclusions are given with scientific accuracy. I am also under obligations to Professor Upton for the use of his plates in this paper, by which the daily conditions of the storm are charted so as to graphically present the daily meteorological conditions of the storm in its passage over New England. I quote from him as follows :
By charting the barometric and wind reports from New England and from vessels off the coast, I find that the center was near Martha's Vineyard, March 12th, 10 P. M., then moved northwestward, and that the cyclone ceased to have a definite existence on the 14th, over Connecticut. This path I ascribe to the main center itself rather than to an offshoot, as I can find no indication of the continued advance of the storm center except as above from the ship reports at hand, kindly transmitted to me by the United States hydrographic office. It is probable, however, that a second center formed off the coast on the 14th, as the barometric indications in the afternoon of that day point to a low area in the ocean.
In Bulletin No. 41 of the New England Meteorological Society, for March, 1888, referring to the same storm, he says:
This disastrous storm was the peculiar feature of the month. On the 1oth an elliptical depression (29.9 inches) with two distinct centers extended from Arkansas northerly. On the ith the northerly of these centers reached Lake Ontario, and either moved northeasterly beyond the area of the United States, or was dissipated. The southerly center reached the South Carolina coast, attended by heavy rains, then curved to the northeast and advanced up the coast, the pressure rapidly falling below 29 inches, and the winds increasing to hurricane intensity. The center reached the southeastern coast of Massachusetts on the evening of the 12th, then curved westward, advanced into Connecticut on the 13th, and ceased to maintain itself as a cyclone on the 14th, the pressure rising at the center to 29.7 inches.
The following charts (I., II., III., IV.), prepared under the direction of Professor Upton, give the thermometer and barometer for March 12th at 10 P. M., 13th at 7 A. M., 13th at 10