It’s still Wintertime in the Northern Hemisphere, and the risk of blizzard activity will be around for awhile. Here, in the Great Plains, the topic of discussion is usually the weather. Wintertime brings out grumbling about cold temperatures and snow clearing chores. In as much as people hate Midwestern Winters, I’m surprised that they decide to remain living here.
Icy winds and heavy snowfall were pretty much ho-hum events that we put up with. That is until newscasters and weather forecasters began turning them into panic-filled, mega-news story events, the hype around normal winter conditions these days is enough to frighten many seasoned wintertime veterans.
If you know anything about blizzards, the one to top happened in 1888. It was the grand-daddy of all winter storms. I might get around to writing about that storm on a future post. Maybe. But today is all about the Great Blizzard of 1899, a blizzard ranked at number 10.
February 12, 1899 started out, in the Midwest, as a fairly normal winter day. There had been reports of light to moderate snow the day before, from Nebraska, to New York. However an unusual Arctic air mass swooped into the Great Plains, bringing about record low temperatures that have yet to be surpassed. Midwesterners hunkered in for yet another one of their infamous blizzards.
The real surprises of the February storm were the extent of coverage and the places that were affected. By the time all of the effects and impact were accounted for, it would make this year’s so-called “Polar Vortex” look like a small-town carnival side-show. The three and a half day Great Blizzard of 1899 dropped not only record low temperatures, but record level snow depth in many parts of North America.
The main worries came from places not normally affected by snowfall of any sort. After somewhat normal snowfall in the North and Midwest, the system picked up energy and moisture from the Gulf coast and Eastern Seaboard. It moved from New York City down to Washington, D.C., then continued south. From the Midwest, the storm picked up speed and more vapor to affect such areas as Mississippi and southern Louisiana.
During the event, record low readings bottomed out at -61F at Fort Logan, Montana. The low in Monterey, Virginia, dipped to -29F.
Record snowfall amounts, not yet exceeded, fell in Cape May, New Jersey with approximately 34 inches of the white stuff. The New Jersey record still stands as the highest single storm snowfall ever, in that state. Washington D.C. recorded 20.5 inches, that record only recently broken. The town of High Point, North Carolina reported a foot of snow and 3F temperatures. Old-timers claimed that to be the coldest winter weather they’d ever experienced.
Amazingly, the Port of New Orleans was totally iced in by February 13th. Rubberneckers turned out in droves to view the ice floes drifting from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. The coldest ever Mardis Gras in New Orleans passed with 7F readings. In fact, the Krewe of Rex Parade had to be postponed for awhile until snow was cleared away from the parade route.
The first time, in recorded history, in Miami temperatures dropped below 30F was on February 14, 1899 when the mercury dropped to the second coldest temperature, ever, at 29F. Even more incredible was the reporting out of, the then U.S. Territory, Cuba. The Weather Bureau reported a killing frost in and around Havana.
Despite the unprecidented cold and snowfall, the Great Blizzard of 1899, caused no reported deaths. The total extent of the blizzard’s main effects and very heavy air, stretched from Upper Saskatchewan, into the Gulf of Mexico into Cuba.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is amazed at the annual drumbeats of doom that come from weather forecasters whenever so-called “inclement weather” comes our way. Usually, such weather turns out to be far less severe than anticipated and is a bit of a let-down.