Snow Removal In New York 1908
While some people were complaining about the lack of snow removal in New York City this past week, it makes you realize how dependent we are on mechanized snowplows.
One hundred six years ago today, a major snowstorm similar to this past week’s storm, hit New York City on January 24, 1908 and dumped over ten inches of snow in New York and 35 mile per hour gusts of wind had some snowdrifts pile up from six to ten feet.
The snow began the night of January 23 and continued until the afternoon of the 24th. The temperature never dipped below 22 degrees, but it was still miserable for commuters trying to get around town.
According to the New York Tribune, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sent men around to spread sand over the streets to prevent horses from falling. Unfortunately they only could get to a handful of spots and horses slipped and fell in heaps all over the city. The human toll from the storm was four deaths and thirteen injuries directly attributable to the severe weather.
All of the snow had to be removed by manual labor. And when the city put out notices that men were needed for temporary work to remove the snow with shovels, over 30,000 men applied.
At one recruiting station, the United Charities Building on East 3rd Street, 100 men were needed and 3,000 showed up. The police had to be called to keep order and they used their nightsticks to drive back the crowd of desperate unemployed men.
On January 24, over 800 men and 200 trucks were kept busy removing snow primarily below 14th Street around Broadway, Chambers and Canal Streets.
By January 25, over 3,500 men and 1,800 carts were in the streets to clear the snow. It was estimated that 300,000 cubic yards of snow would have to be removed and it would cost the city $100,000.
As compared with the recent storm this past week where traffic was snarled on the Upper East side of Manhattan, traffic was also paralyzed all over the city during the brunt of the 1908 storm. The Bronx was covered in a thick layer of snow and was likened to the foothills of the Adirondacks. In Brooklyn every line of the B.R.T. was out of commission and the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges were at a standstill for many hours. All of Staten Island’s telephone and telegraph wires were down.
The New York Evening World noted that, “As usual in all paralyzing storms in this city the officials of the various surface lines declared that everything was moving as smoothly as on the blandest spring morning.”
An investigation made by reporters showed that nearly every crosstown line in Manhattan was out of service!
So much for the accuracy of city officials then and now.