It’s after 7PM on Sunday, March 11, 1888. We are on the roof of The Equitable Life Assurance Society Building at 120 Broadway in lower Manhattan.
The movement you’re hearing is coming from Sergeant Elias B. Dunn, New York City’s Chief Weatherman. He’s come up to the roof to take the temperature.
At the time, the Weather Bureau kept in touch with the Coast Guard through telephone, telegraph and carrier pigeons. Like other weather station chiefs, Dunn is linked to 170 regular government weather stations all over the country. Sunday’s forecast called for light rain.
Ordinarily, no one manned the Bureau on Sundays, but during the afternoon, the early Spring weather had suddenly and alarmingly taken a turn for the worse with the temperature rapidly falling.
Now, what was thought to be a passing rain shower, has turned into heavy sleet with almost gale-force winds.
After taking the temperature. Dunn’s rushes downstairs into his office below to worriedly telegraph the conditions to Washington DC.
He’ll get no response.
All Communication for New York with the outside world was gone. Overnight the freezing rain turned to snow.
By daybreak Monday morning, New York was engulfed in a furious blizzard with winds as high as 85 Miles per hour and temperature conditions still rapidly falling. People were trapped inside homes, places of business, or most dangerously, stuck out on the streets.
The snow would continue with hurricane force until Tuesday evening, forty-eight hours after the storm began. In New York City, an estimated 200 people died.