Worst Snowstorms In New York History – January 1925

January 2015, Not As Bad January 1925

Trolley stuck in snow during storm

Trolley stuck in snow during storm

It was bad for Suffolk County, NY and Boston, MA, but New York City’s 2015 “worst blizzard of all time” did not live up to its billing.

Official records for the city have been kept since 1869, and so far this January, New York City has received a relatively small amount of snow with 14.3 inches accumulating.

January 1925 arrived and departed like a polar bear and New York City was the unwelcome recipient of 27.4 inches of snow, the most ever recorded for any January up to that time. (This record was finally eclipsed in January 2011 when the city recorded 36 inches of snow.)

But it was not only New York City that got hit multiple times in January 1925 with lots of snowstorms, but upstate New York got slammed as well.

The tally for the city read like this: A relentless snowstorm that lasted two days occurred from January 2-3. On January 12 the city required 12,000 shovelmen to tackle another snowstorm that clogged the streets. January 20 New York City got hit with two blizzards in one day. January 27 more snow fell and then the coup de grace; the giant storm on January 30 that affected the metropolitan area.

Ninety years ago today on January 30, New York City was hit hard, but so was the entire region. How bad was it? Cattle in the streets? Ferry service ground to a halt? Here are a few excerpts of what The New York Times said about the crippling weather:

…Fields of ice of polar proportions blocked ferry service in New York yesterday while snowdrifts from ten to twenty feet deep paralyzed railroad transportation in Northern and Western New York.

…Tens of thousands of commuters and other travelers between New York and New Jersey, finding the ferry service practically at a standstill, crowded the Hudson and Manhattan tubes as the only means of transportation. The Lackawanna and West Shore Railroads operated only two or three ferries all day, despite the gangs of workmen set to work to keep the ferry slips clear. Notices were posted at the ferry terminals on both sides of the river ad-travelers to use the tubes. Long lines of vehicles were strung out on the streets approaching the ferry slips on the New Jersey side. Scores of additional policemen were assigned to the ferry entrances to help handle the congestion of both vehicles and pedestrians. Many ferryboats were disabled by contact with unusually large ice floes. The ferryboat plying between Ellis Island and the Battery which left the Battery with workers for Ellis Island at 8:45, dropped one of her propellers and lost the other in contact with a floe of unusual size. Tugs answering the boat’s distress signals towed her to Ellis Island.

…Streets and highways in and between many New York and New Jersey communities were blocked all day by the enormous piles of snow and ice, through which snow plows and scrapers were able to make but little headway.

…In Manhattan thousands of shovelers mobilized by the Street Cleaning Department were aided by tens of thousands of property owners, the latter devoting their efforts to clearing the sidewalks. The snow removers working on the sidewalks in front of private property never used a greater variety of sharp-pointed picks, sharp-edged ice chisels, keen-edged shovels and scrapers, and they never kept pedestrians jumping faster and higher to run that dangerous-looking gauntlet. Pneumatic ice chisels, operated like riveting guns and pneumatic drills were tested by snow removers on the plaza of the City Hall. The compressed air as furnished from a motor and tank mounted on a truck. Lines of hose stretched out like long tentacles to convey the compressed air to the chisels. Behind the operators came shovelers who loaded the fragments of ice and snow into ash carts and trucks.

…Throughout New York City rapid transit service was operated practically without delay. Surface lines were tied up at intervals in isolated placed by ice-clogged switches or motor trucks stalled on the tracks. More than 100 snowplows were used to keep the tracks of the Public Service Railway Company open in the Newark territory. The entire emergency force of the B. M. T. lines was put to work clearing the right-of-way along the main traffic arteries. The Street Cleaning Department in Brooklyn had more than 9,000 men at work cleaning streets. The Long Island Railroad reported no delays. Delays on the New Haven Rail-road were for only a few minutes. No delay was reported on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

…To save 125 head of cattle from freezing on two barges marooned in ice floes at the foot of West Sixtieth Street, James C. Fell of 336 Fort Washington Place, Vice President of the Stockyards Company and Malachi Lee of 663 Tenth Avenue, started to drive them down Twelfth Avenue to Fortieth Street to a slaughter house. Both men were arrested by Patrolman John Donnellan on a charge of violating a city ordinance prohibiting heeding of cattle on city streets. Magistrate McAndrews suspended sentences.

…The storm upstate was described as the worst in railroad history. Syracuse was one of the worst stricken cities in the path of the storm. The entire trolley system was put out of use and motor vehicles found highways impassable. Doctors, responding to emergency calls, in many cases used skis. Students of Colgate University, at Hamilton, N. Y., after clearing the walks and drives on the campus of snow thirty to thirty-six inches deep, put on their bathing suits and dived into snow-banks eight feet high.

…The tie-up on the New York Central lines between Albany and Rochester was so complete that the Twentieth Century Limited due at 9:45 A.M. yesterday did not arrive until 1:18 this morning. The Fifth Avenue Limited due at 9:22 A.M. yesterday, arrived at 2:15 A. M. today. The tracks of the New York Central through the Mohawk Valley were buried under snow from three to six feet deep, with enormous drifts piled in railroad cuts. Through the foresight of H. Scott, Superintendent of the Mohawk Division, between Albany and Syracuse, and F. Risley, Superintendent of the Syracuse, from Syracuse to Buffalo, no passenger train was permitted to depart from a station until he was clear to-the next station. No trains were marooned at isolated points.

…A statement issued from the executive offices of the New York Central Lines describing the effects of the snowstorm; “The snowstorm of yesterday, last and this morning was, the most severe in the history of the railroad, especially so between Albany and Rochester, resulting in considerable delay to passenger trains. The snow was from three to five feet deep on the level, with strong northwest winds causing- the snow to drift into cuts to depths of ten feet. Trains were held up at stations where food was available, no trains being held between stations where there was no food. The most serious delay to traffic was in the streets of Syracuse. where the street cars were derailed and automobiles stalled on the tracks or the railroad. At 10 P.M. the storm continued. Trains are moving well at all points except between Albany and Rochester, where the storm was the worst. Large forces of railroad workers were out throughout the night with special equipment to clear the tracks.”

…More than twenty trains were stalled overnight. Thousands of persons slept on the stalled trains. One of the marooned passengers was Colonel Theodore Roosevelt (son of the late President Roosevelt). He was one of the first to leave his berth in the morning to go in search of a sandwich and a cup of coffee.

…The only possible fatality from the railroad blockade was reported at Cazenovia, where a train was snowbound. There a passenger, according to Dr. Leon C. Dwight of Syracuse and other passengers, left the train, saying it was his intention to walk to the station half a mile away, to telephone to his family. He was last, seen plunging through snowdrifts up to his waist. The passenger never reached the station and he did not return to the marooned train. A search for him was started late in the afternoon along the railroad right-of-way.

The month of February 1925 ended up being much kinder to New York City and only an additional 1.3 inches of snow fell upon the city.

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