Huge Snowstorm In March 1956 Paralyzed New York City and Suburbs
Just in time for spring, the weather forecasters are predicting a lot of snow for New York City starting Tuesday, March 20. Possibly eight inches will fall across the area and then melt within a couple of days.
Snow becomes the main news story here in New York. This will be a small storm compared to the snowstorm that hit New York City on March 18 – 20, 1956. By the time it was over, New York City received 13 and a half inches of snow, making travel in the region next to impossible.
What made this storm worse than others what not just the amount of snow but the surprise nature of it. On Friday, March 16 1956, a mild snowstorm deposited 4.6 inches of snow upon the city. On Saturday, March 17, 1956 the weather bureau predicted another storm was developing and moving up the coast but that it would move out to sea by Sunday, before any accumulating snow would affect the New York area.
Of course the weather bureau was completely wrong and from Sunday evening into Monday, March 19, the snow started and didn’t let up until Tuesday morning.
Trains and buses were delayed by many hours, autos abandoned and thousands of motorists were stranded overnight.
Millions of workers tried calling into work to to tell their employers they would not be able to get in. The telephone company claimed it could not keep up with the flood of calls that began at 7 a.m. and the total number of calls might have set an all-time record with more than 20 million calls placed in a single day.
This was the era in which New York City schools almost never closed due to weather. For this storm, the schools were closed for two days. But the closing was highly unusual for one reason; it had been decided by Superintendent of Schools William Jansen on Sunday, March 18 the day before the storm that schools would be closed. That marked the first time since the great influenza pandemic of 1918 that New York City schools were canceled in advance. Compare that with today when Mayor Bill de Blassio closes schools for almost any snow event citing “safety concerns.”
Restaurants were empty and hotels were filled. The New York Stock Exchange operated with less than 75% of their staff on hand. The New York Public Library and Metropolitan Museum of Art each closed early; the library at 9 p.m rather than 10 p.m. and the museum after a delayed opening at Noon, closed at 4 p.m.
Taxi’s were impossible to find and few trucks proceeded with deliveries. Businesses suffered an estimated $150 million in losses but both Macy’s and Gimbels did a brisk business in sales of galoshes and rubbers.
Funerals were delayed, courts could not proceed without juries, prosecutors and attorneys. Ambulances could not get through high snow drifts on side streets and the city was inundated with calls from tenants who had little or no heat.
62 years later no one remembers because it was a snowstorm. Even with 13 and a half inches, big deal, they happen all the time. It’s just that our alarmist media and politicians today make everything into a crisis.
Whatever we end up getting in this late March 2018 snowstorm, will be as quickly forgotten as the 1956 storm.