When I was a kid, anytime we had a snowstorm, and I thought it was a big one, my parents would say to me, “This is nothing compared to the blizzard of ’47, now that was a really big snowstorm.” I hated that, I couldn’t go back to 1947 , I couldn’t see the snow they had, I could only go out and play in the snow that I had now. My parents generation might have had the same problem with their grandparents in hearing about the blizzard of 1888. The blizzard of ’88 remains legendary. It lasted 3 days, blanketed the entire northeast, had winds of up to 70 mph, dropped 21 inches of snow and fell in New York on a city much less technologically equipped to cope with snow than we can possibly imagine today.
The estimated death total from the storm was 400. Reports were that coal was scarce, milk was unavailable, and hundreds of people were trapped in the snow. Today we look at snowstorms mainly in terms of when we get our cars out and, perhaps, power back on. In 1888 nobody had a car, few had power, the concerns were that of getting supplies and staying alive. (NY Sun Headline from March 14th).
Before they were knocked down, New York operators had to send messages to London and request that they be forwarded back to New England and other local places were underground and underwater wires were still intact.