Several significant weather
disasters have struck New York City over the past two hundred
years, ranging from howling blizzards to torrential hurricanes
to intense heat waves and droughts. Severe weather in New York
City history has had a way of bringing into focus the relationship
between New Yorkers and their lived environment. Weather extremes
have often challenged the ability of the city to operate as normal,
while revealing to New Yorkers vulnerabilities in the citys
infrastructure and emergency response capabilities.
Throughout the nineteenth
century, New York City gradually evolved as settlement spread
outwards to resemble the sprawling urban landscape we know today.
But early in the century development was confined to the areas
beneath 14th Streetsettlements on other parts
of Manhattan were considered outlying villages. As flocks of migrants
and immigrants flowed into the city over the course of the century,
development spread outwards, even as New Yorkers had to adjust
to more dense living and working conditions as well as the problems
that came with moving people from one part of Manhattan to another.
When storms hit New York--such as the Cape May-Long Island Hurricane
in 1821 that flooded the Battery and much of downtown Manhattanthe
citys vulnerabilities became more apparent. Knowledge gleaned
from storms has been used in expanding the city and strengthening
Events such as storms, which
shake New Yorkers sense of normalcy, provide great insight
into the particular moments in which they occur. Because of the
impact storms have had on New Yorkers senses of comfort
and routine, and the ways that they dramatically transform familiar
landscapes, storms stick out in individual and group memories.
Perhaps no weather event has had as significant an impact on New
York City as the Blizzard of 1888. While not an event that fueled
progress in and of itself, the Blizzard of 1888 did clarify for
New Yorkers specific steps that New Yorkers needed to take to
make the city a more efficientand weather guardedenvironment.
For this reason, as well as for the dramatic stories wrought in
its path, the Blizzard of 1888 has long stuck out in New York