The "Lindsay Snowstorm" (February 9-10, 1969)
I was 11 years old at the time and living in Pittsburgh - and greatly annoyed that we got hardly a snowflake from this snowstorm. Meteorology was a new interest of mine and I didn't yet understand the dynamics of weather systems, e.g., East Coast storms often don't affect Western Pennsylvania because the Appalachian Mountains act as a barrier. (As was the case with the post-Christmas blizzard in 2010.) The 15.3" that fell on New York beginning Sunday, Feb. 9, 1969 brought the city to a virtual standstill for a number of days. It was front page news in the Pittsburgh papers, and I eyed the photos enviously. (Like the one to the right showing mostly foot traffic on 2nd Ave. near 45th St.)
This became known as the "Lindsay snowstorm" because New York's mayor John Lindsay (below) was blamed for not getting streets plowed quickly enough, especially in the borough of Queens. It nearly cost him re-election later that year, but he won, running as an independent. (10 years later a series of crippling snowstorms in Chicago was largely responsible for the defeat of its mayor.) At the time it was the City's tenth biggest snowstorm - since then ten subsequent storms have had larger accumulations (through the winter of 2021).
This snowstorm was the inspiration for two episodes of the sitcom That Girl (starring Marlo Thomas). In a two-part storyline Ann and boyfriend Donald were stranded at JFK by the snowstorm after accompanying her parents to the airport. This threatened a Broadway audition Ann had later that day - which she eventually did over the phone. Later, Donald, a writer for the fictional Newsview Magazine, wrote a story about Ann's experience. These episodes aired on ABC on October 30 and Nov. 6, 1969. (They are from the show's fourth season which is available on Amazon.)
To read about other New York snowstorms, please double click here for a recap I've written on my blog New York City Weather Archive. And below are links to posts from this blog about other New York snowstorms:
April Blizzard Stops New York, Puts Spring on Hold (April 1982)
March 1993 "Storm of the Century" Immobilizes Eastern US
Blizzard of '96 Brings New York & Mid-Atlantic to a Halt (Jan. 1996)
New York's Biggest Snowstorm of All Time (Feb. 2006)
One plus of major snow storms is that New York turns into a small town. Neighbors help neighbors, strangers help strangers, everyone is in the same situation and some of us try to show our strength shoveling only to return to a heating pad or ice and a nip to ease the back pain. Not that I'm dreaming of a White February. But it does bring out the best in people.
Posted by: Frank Evans | 02/08/2010 at 08:31 PM
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Posted by: mallin patio furniture | 02/02/2011 at 05:51 AM
I accidentally came across your website describing various snowstorms in New York City. Thought you might be interested this story.
1969: NYC owned 1600 garbage collection trucks which doubled as snow plows when needed. Management had become complacent. Normally they were able to keep enough trucks operating for the daily trash collection routes, while the rest were out of service for repair. The entire system failed in the 1969 snowstorm; the Sanitation Department could not keep enough trucks operating to make headway against the mounting snowfall. It was unable to get trucks to or from the central repair shop in Queens; breakdowns mounted fast as the snow fell. Neither the streets could be plowed nor the trash collected for days. The NY Times reported that “40% of snow removal equipment was defective because of poor maintenance.”
I was hired by the Lindsay administration in 1970 to fix the problems in the Sanitation Department to prevent another such disaster in the future.This was not simply a problem of an aged fleet; they were aggressively buying new trucks. It was a systemic problem - a combination of maintenance logistics and complacent management. (Incidentally, my partner, Andrew Kerr, and I were “outed” as Lindsay’s secret consultants by the NY Daily News, so we became City officials during Lindsay’s second term.)
In a nutshell, the solution required replacing top management then creating satellite repair shops, one in each borough that could take care of minor repairs applying new repair protocols. These changes reduced turnaround time from two days+ to an hour or two.
NYC has had worse snowstorms since then, notably the 26.9-inch snowfall of 2006 and 27.5-inch blizzard during the winter of 2016. Even so, while it naturally takes time clear the streets and there is bound to be considerable inconvenience to residents, the Sanitation Department’s ability to cope with such storms has remained effective. This is because the fixes were systemic and will continue until explicitly altered.
John S. Thomas, former Deputy Director of the Budget, City of New York.
Author of So, Mr. Mayor . . .You Want to Improve Productivity” published by the National Commission on Productivity.
Posted by: John Thomas | 04/17/2017 at 05:40 PM
FEB 1969 Blizzard. This Texas 19 year old and My Navy husbands Story:
My Navy husband and I left CHARLESTON SC to take his friend to see his Family in Wallingford CONNECTICUT . My husband had just bought a new 1969 Camaro . We arrived on Saturday and woke up to his new car buried in snow . He HAD to get back to base! He was able to get his car out. As we drove down the Hwy into NY CITY, traffic came to a STOP!! We sat in the car COLD, worried! We noticed people getting out of cars walking thru deep snow toward buildings . Ladies in their SUNDAY DRESSES!! A man knocked on our window and offered us cheese and hot tea. I was 19, and very scared. He asked us to get out of the car and follow him to his Building . We said NO
A FEW hours later he came back. He talked to Michael ( Navy husband). He said Sir people are dying on this Hwy from the cold. Please come with me.
Husband looked at me and said I DO NOT WANT anything to happen to you!! I said WHAT about your Car???
We left the car and walked thru the deep snow in a HIPPIE COMMUNE , in the Bronx. We plus Many others were led to a Basement . Cheese and Hot Tea awaited us! Basement was their laundry room! Michael was a survivor, he led me to a ledge behind a dryer. We sat on the ledge all night SCARED and Worried.
The Hwy was not cleared the next day, but paths were made for cars to go in the opposite direction to an exit!
I will FOREVER be Grateful!
At Least 90 people died.
Posted by: Brenda | 01/05/2022 at 10:45 AM