Snowstorms From Back in "The Good Old Days" (1900 - 1949)
By far the most popular posts on this site are about snowstorms. And after reading a recent photo essay in the New York Times about snowstorms of the distant past I was inspired to write another - this one about those that crippled New York in the first half of the 20th century. It's worth noting that back then snow removal was on the primitive side, largely dependent upon on manual labor, so relatively modest accumulations created problems that might happen nowadays with significantly greater accumulations (i.e., six inches in 1910 might be comparable in inconvenience to what a foot or more of snow creates today). Furthermore, since the work ethos of that era was different than what it is today, employers weren't as forgiving when treacherous weather conditions made it difficult for workers to get to their jobs.
WINTER OF 1901-02
Feb. 17, 1902 - This storm dropped 10". (Similar to a few other winter storms in the first decade of the century, I was unable to find details about when the snow fell, what the hourly amounts were or what the wind speed and direction were for each hour of the day.)
WINTER OF 1902-03
Dec. 25, 1902- This was the second significant snowfall in the past two weeks. After 6.4" fell on Dec. 12-14 (most of it falling on the 13th), 6.5" fell today.
Feb. 15-17, 1903 - This was a snow and sleet storm, which began mid-day on the 15th, continued through much of the 16th, and ended mid-day on the 17th. In total 9.8" accumulated (accounting for all of February's snow). During the first two days temperatures ranged between 28° and 30° then fell into the teens around daybreak on the 17th.
WINTER OF 1903-04
Jan. 2-3, 1904 - All but a half-inch of the storm's eight inches fell today during the afternoon and evening. Temperatures fell slowly thru the day, dropping from 26° to 13°.
WINTER OF 1904-05
Dec. 17-18, 1904 - Bringing to mind December 1902, two significant snowfalls fell in the course of a week as seven inches fell on Dec. 12-13 and a half foot fell today. Snowfall from both was pretty evenly split between the two days of each snowfall.
Jan. 3-4, 1905 - Seven inches of snow fell between mid-afternoon on 1/3 and mid-morning the following day. After passage of a cold front mid-morning on the 3rd (with winds shifting from the northeast to the northwest) temperatures fell from the low-40s to mid-20s, when snow began falling, and were in the mid-teens when the snow came to an end. The snow was blown around by winds gusting between 25-30 mph.
Jan. 24-25, 1905 - Snow began falling after 9PM and continued for 24 hours, accumulating 11". It was a fluffy snow with just 0.54" of water content. During the course of the storm the temperature dropped from mid-20s to low teens. Snow fell heaviest between 8AM and noon on the 25th when an Arctic front moved through. Besides the cold and snow, the afternoon also featured gusty winds (25-30 mph).
WINTER OF 1905-06
Feb. 8-9, 1906 - Six inches of snow fell, much of it during the morning of the 9th. Temperatures were mostly in the 31° to 33° range. Snow changed to sleet and freezing rain shortly after daybreak on the 9th and continued through mid-day.
March 15, 1906 - This cold, late winter storm had temperatures that were only in the mid-20s (typical high for mid-March is mid-40s) as a half-foot of snow piled up. Snow began falling shortly before daybreak and continued until 10PM. Despite the cold temperatures it was a wet snow, with 1.09" of liquid measured.
WINTER OF 1906-07
Jan. 17, 1907 - It was very cold during this quick-moving six-inch snowfall, with temperatures in the mid-teens when the snow began, rising into the low 20s during the afternoon. The snow fell during the daylight hours, coming down heaviest in the early afternoon.
Feb. 4-5, 1907 - Snow began around noon and continued for nearly 24 hours, accumulating 11". It fell heaviest between 8PM and 4AM. Temperatures stayed in a narrow range of 19° to 22°. This storm followed a snowfall of four inches on the first two days of the month.
Feb. 24, 1907 - Six inches of snow piled up between 1PM and 10PM. Temperatures rose steadily, from low 20s when the snow started, to the mid-30s when it changed to rain and sleet in the final few hours.
March 10, 1907 - Much of today's six-inch accumulation fell between 1:00 and 5PM. Temperatures ranged between 27° and 30°. This was the winter's fourth snowfall of six inches or more since mid-January.
WINTER OF 1907-08
Jan. 23-24, 1908 - A 10-inch snowstorm began after dark on the 23rd, with three inches measured thru midnight, and an additional seven inches during the morning of the 24th.
Feb. 5-6, 1908 - The day began bitterly cold with a low of 1° above zero (the coldest reading of the winter). Then the temperature rose all day and was 32° by midnight. Snow began falling in the afternoon and continued into the next day with four inches falling on each day. After 8" had fallen the snow changed to rain as the temperature rose to 40° (it tumbled back to 29° by midnight). This snowstorm came almost one year to the day of an 11-inch snowstorm.
WINTER OF 1909-10
Dec. 25-26, 1909 - Snow began mid-afternoon on Christmas Day and fell for nearly 24 hours, accumulating eight inches. Much of the snow fell on the 25th, and in above-freezing temperatures.
Jan. 14, 1910 - The biggest snowfall of the winter blanketed the City with 10" (0.5" of it fell on 1/15). This came three weeks after a snowfall of eight inches. Snow began falling shortly after midnight and fell steadily through late afternoon. After the temperature rose to 33° late in the morning it fell steadily until 9PM when it was 20°.
WINTER OF 1911-12
Dec. 4, 1911 - A morning snowfall of seven inches ended up being the biggest snowfall of the winter. Precipitation began yesterday evening as rain but changed to snow overnight. The day's high/low of 33/19 made this the coldest day of the month.
WINTER OF 1912-13
Dec. 24, 1912 - A morning snowstorm dumped 11.4", making this Christmas Eve's biggest snowfall on record. Snow fell heaviest between 4-9AM, when it fell at a rate of 1.5" per hour.
WINTER OF 1913-14
Feb. 13-14, 1914 - On the 13th the temperature rose from -1° to the mid-20s by midnight. Snow began falling after 7PM, fell heavily through the overnight hours and then changed to sleet around daybreak as the temperature rose into the low 30s. 9.7" accumulated. Then on 2/16 there was a five-inch snowfall during the morning in temperatures that were in the teens.
March 1, 1914 - Rain in the morning changed to snow around lunchtime and by midnight 13.5" had accumulated (an additional inch fell after midnight on 3/2). It was a very heavy, wet snow with a high water content (2.65") until around 9PM when Arctic air moved in. This was the century's first snowstorm of a foot or more, and the first since February 1899, when 16 inches piled up. This remains the longest period between snowstorms of 12 inches or more.
WINTER OF 1914-15
April 3, 1915 - The biggest snowfall of the "winter" blanketed the City on what was Easter Saturday as ten inches of heavy snow fell between 9AM and 11PM (eight inches fell between 11AM and 6PM). During the storm winds from out of the north gusted to 25 mph and temperatures hovered around 30°, producing wind chills in the teens.
WINTER OF 1916-17
Dec. 15, 1916 - A snowstorm dumped 12.7" of snow between 7AM-9PM, with nearly ten inches on the ground by mid-afternoon. The snow was very powdery, produced from just 0.59" of water (and by daybreak on 12/16 it had packed down to nine inches on the ground). The day's high was 28°, the first of five days in a row with highs in the 20s.
April 9, 1917 - One of April's biggest snowstorms dumped 6.5" (0.1" of it fell late last night). This brought the winter's total snowfall to 50.7" for the second year in a row. The snow was over by 7AM and by noon the temperature was in the upper 30s, where it stayed for the remainder of the afternoon. Combined with sunny skies, substantial melting took place and by nightfall there was less than two inches on the ground in Central Park.
WINTER OF 1917-18
Dec. 13, 1917 - The biggest snowfall of the winter began late in the afternoon and by the time the snow ended in the early hours of 12/14 9.5" had accumulated (eight inches fell today). The temperature rose into the mid-30s as midnight approached, making it a very wet snow, with rain mixed in at times.
WINTER OF 1919-20
Feb. 4-7, 1920 - One of New York's most extended onslaughts of winter weather of all time brought 72 hours of snow, sleet and freezing rain (beginning after 2AM on 2/4 and ending around dawn on 2/7). During this punishing storm, 4.41" of liquid precipitation fell, 17.5" of it in the form of snow (five to six inches of snow fell on 2/4, 2/5 and 2/6); the rest was sleet and freezing rain. For much of the storm temperatures were in the 20s, and winds gusted between 35 and 45 mph, with wind chills in the single digits.
WINTER OF 1920-21
Feb. 20, 1921 - The winter's biggest snowfall amounted to 12.5". Beginning shortly after midnight as rain, it quickly changed over to snow after 1AM and continued until early evening; it was a very wet snow, with 2.68" of liquid precipitation measured. The temperature fell slowly through the day, from 35° to 22° (on the way to 14° by daybreak on the 21st). Winds gusted to 41 mph.
WINTER OF 1921-22
Jan. 28-29, 1922 - New York was on the northern fringe of a winter storm that became known as the "Knickerbocker Snowstorm", named after a movie theater in Washington, DC whose roof collapsed from the weight of snow the night of 1/28, killing 98 moviegoers. And although NYC escaped the paralyzing amounts of snow that piled up in Virginia, DC, Maryland and southeastern PA (6.5" fell in Central Park, the biggest snowfall of the winter), gale force winds clocked at between 35 and 50 mph howled for nearly 24 hours, beginning mid-day on the 28th. Temperatures throughout the storm were in the 29° to 31° range, with chills in the low teens.
WINTER OF 1922-23
Jan. 3-4, 1923 - The biggest snowfall of the winter began this afternoon and continued until daybreak on the 4th, accumulating nine inches. The temperature fell slowly through the storm, dropping from 33° to 29°.
Jan. 14, 1923 - Snow began falling after 10AM and by 5PM 7.8" had accumulated; then it changed to light rain for the next three hours as the temperature rose into the mid-30s.
March 6-7, 1923 - Snow began falling around 10AM and continued light and steady for the next 24 hours, accumulating 7.3" (along with a mix with sleet and freezing rain after 4PM). This was the tenth snowfall of three inches or more this winter. Besides the snow/ice, winds gusted to 30-35 mph, and temperatures were very cold on the 6th, with a high/low of only 25/19.
WINTER OF 1923-24
April 1, 1924 - It was no April Fool's joke as 8.5" of heavy, wet snow fell from mid-afternoon through 9PM. Interestingly, snow fell mostly with temperatures two or three degrees above freezing. Besides the snow, gale force winds gusted to 35 mph.
WINTER OF 1924-25
Jan. 2, 1925 - A blizzard dumped close to a foot of snow (11.5"). Snow began falling around daybreak and lasted until 11PM. In addition to snow there were also periods of heavy sleet in the early afternoon. Temperatures throughout the storm were in the mid-20s, but howling winds gusting between 35-40 mph produced wind chills in the single digits.
Jan. 20, 1925 - A fierce storm dumped seven inches of snow and ice, with much of the snow falling between 1:00 and 8AM before it changed to sleet, which was driven by winds that gusted close to 40 mph. The sleet came down heaviest during the mid-day hours as the temperature rose above freezing briefly before falling back into the 20s. Snow returned in the storm's last few hours.
WINTER OF 1925-26
Feb. 10, 1926 - Less than a week after a fierce blizzard brought 10.4" of snow and sleet (accompanied by wind gusts of 40-45 mph) another snowstorm dumped a foot on the City, much of it falling this morning between 3:00 and 9:00 (light snow began last night and accumulated 1.6"). Winds from this storm gusted between 30 and 35 mph. Temperatures in the morning held steady in the low 20s and then fell slowly during the afternoon, reaching 11° by midnight. (In a similar fashion, two snowstorms of 9.2" and 12.8" occurred just three days apart in early February during the winter of 1994.)
WINTER OF 1926-27
Dec. 5, 1926 - 7.9" of snow fell on a very cold day, which had a high/low of just 24/11. Snow fell heaviest from 1PM until 7PM. This was the biggest snowfall of the winter and was the snowiest 12/5 until 2003, when 8.0" fell.
WINTER OF 1928-29
Feb. 21, 1929 - More than half of the winter's 13.8" of snow fell today as eight inches accumulated between 5AM and 2PM. Temperatures were in the low-to-mid-twenties during the storm.
WINTER OF 1932-33
Dec. 17, 1932 - Snow that began late in the morning continued through the early AM on 12/18 and amounted to 7.2". It was also a very cold day, with a high/low of only 20/11. (The snow was gone by Christmas Day, which had a high of 59°.) The next measurable snowfall wouldn't be for another seven weeks (on 2/4).
Feb. 11, 1933 - In just eight hours (1-9:00 AM) ten inches of snow fell, the biggest snowstorm in seven years. Sleet mixed in during the final few hours even though temperatures were in the low 20s.
WINTER OF 1933-34
Dec. 26, 1933 - A little more than 24 hours after temperatures were in the mid-50s, a snowstorm swept into the City shortly after daybreak and by early afternoon ten inches had fallen, and temperatures were in the mid-20s. An additional inch of snow fell in the early evening, bringing the day's snowfall total to 11.2". (Much larger accumulations would later fall on this date in 1946 and 2010).
Feb. 25, 1934 - On a brutally cold day (high/low of 16/9) light snow began falling mid-afternoon and fell steadily thru the following afternoon, accumulating 9.3". This was the third snowfall of 7.5" or more this month and brought February's total snowfall to 27.9" (the other major snowfalls were on 2/1 and 2/19-20). At the time this was the second snowiest month on record (now ranked sixth) and the snowiest February (since topped by Feb. 2010 and 2014).
WINTER OF 1934-35
Jan. 22-23, 1935 - This was a two-stage storm. On 1/22 precipitation began in the morning as rain which changed to snow around mid-day as the temperature fell from the low 40s into the upper 20s; five inches was measured. Then after a 13-hour break, winds shifted from the northwest to northeast and heavy snow returned late on the morning of 1/23. Between 1:00 and 7PM it fell at a rate of an inch or more per hour and accumulated nearly thirteen inches. Flakes fell until the wee hours of the next day. Temperatures fell slowly throughout the day, dropping from 26° to 18° (and they'd continue to fall slowly the following day). This was the first snowstorm of a foot or more in nine years.
WINTER OF 1935-36
Jan. 19, 1936 - A winter storm brought heavy snow, sleet and gusty winds. After beginning as light rain late last night, nine inches of snow piled up in the morning (mostly between 3:00-9:00) and the afternoon saw an onslaught of sleet that was propelled by 25-35 mph winds, producing wind chills in the single digits (the air temperature was in the mid-20s). The sleet accumulated 2.5".
WINTER OF 1937-38
April 6-9, 1938 - This was a sloppy four days of weather, with 6.4" of snow falling on April 6 and 7 (the biggest snowfall of the winter) and 0.95" of rain on April 8 and 9. During these days temperatures were mostly in the 30s. The low of 28° on 4/6 was the only April day in the 1930s with a low in the 20s.
WINTER OF 1938-39
Nov. 27, 1938 - Just six weeks after the latest 90-degree reading on record, back-to-back snowstorms dropped nearly 13 inches of snow in four days. The first, on 11/24-25 measured 8.8" (3.9" on Thanksgiving Day, 4.9" the day after) while the snowfall that ended before dawn today (and began late last night) brought an additional four inches. The high/low during these four days was 32/20, which was 18 degrees below average. This was the snowiest month of the winter and the third snowiest November on record (after Nov. 1898 and 1882).
Jan. 13, 1939 - Beginning mid-afternoon, a snowfall of 8.8" (1.0" fell on 1/14) tied the Thanksgiving snowstorm of 11/24-25 as the biggest snowfall of the season.
WINTER OF 1939-40
Feb. 14, 1940 - It was a wintry day, as wind-blown sleet and snow fell throughout the day, accumulating 7.7" (an additional 1.3" fell overnight). Late in the morning winds gusted to 50 mph. Temperatures fell slowly, from the low-30s in the morning to low-20s by midnight.
WINTER OF 1940-41
March 8, 1941 - A fierce winter storm that began late last night brought heavy snow, sleet and high winds during the morning. By 11AM 18.1" of snow had fallen (15.7" of it fell today); the precipitation then changed to light drizzle in the afternoon (the day's high was 33°). At the time this tied with a snowstorm in January 1935 as New York's second biggest snowfall (it's now ranked tenth).
WINTER OF 1942-43
Jan. 28, 1943 - The winter's nastiest storm dropped 7.1" of snow and sleet, which was accompanied by northeasterly winds that gusted to 34 mph. Precipitation began at daybreak and continued through early evening.
WINTER OF 1943-44
April 5, 1944 - Four days before Easter Sunday a late season snowstorm dumped 6.5". Beginning as rain a little after midnight, it changed to snow around 2AM and mixed with sleet around lunchtime before ending in mid-afternoon. The snow came down heaviest between 3-5AM when three inches accumulated. The day's high/low was 34/29.
WINTER OF 1945-46
Dec. 19, 1945 - An afternoon/evening snowstorm dropped 8.3" (all but 0.3" fell today). This would be the biggest snowfall of the winter (and since March 1941). Besides the snow, temperatures were also quite cold, with a high/low of just 23/20 (fifteen degrees below average).
WINTER OF 1946-47
Feb. 21, 1947 - Snow that began yesterday evening (accumulating 4.2" by midnight) continued through this morning and piled up an additional 6.5". This 10.7" snowfall was the biggest in six years. Temperatures were very cold, with a high/low of 24/14, sixteen degrees below average.
WINTER OF 1947-48
Dec. 26, 1947 - Snow began falling around 3:30 AM on the 26th and fell steadily all day, at times at a rate of two inches per hour (the forecast at daybreak called for a five-inch accumulation). Winds gusted as high as 36 mph during the evening and temperatures hovered around 29° for much of the storm. By midnight 25.5" had piled up and an additional 0.9" fell after midnight, breaking the previous snowfall record of 21" set by the great blizzard of March 1888; it would remain the City's greatest snowfall of all time until 26.9" fell in February 2006 (it now ranks third). This storm came three days after a snowfall of 2.5".
WINTER OF 1948-49
Dec. 19, 1948 - One year after the record-setting 26.4" snowstorm of Dec. 26 another formidable snowstorm crippled the City with 16.0". At the time this was the shortest length of time between major snowstorms. Since then there have been seven pairs of major snowstorms (of one foot or more) that have occurred with less than 12 months in between (the shortest time between being four weeks in January and February 1978.)
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