Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Plight of Winter Wonderland: Part I (b)

By Miriam B. Medina

(Continued from Page: 1)

The first weather forecasts in New York City newspapers were published in 1853. The Weather Bureau was not established by the Signal Corps until as late as 1870. After being part of the Department of Agriculture from 1891 on, the Weather Bureau was moved to the Commerce Department in 1940 after 49 years, finally becoming the National Weather Bureau in 1970 30 years later.

As a consequence, here we sit today, with all this modern technology and all of these highly skilled, highly trained experts more often than not accurately predicting the weather, yet we still get trapped by blankets of snow. Subsequently observing the weather channel this morning, it seems like there is more wintery weather on the horizon, after enduring a month that has already set records for snowfall in the region. Today is January 24, 2011, and at 5:30 am the temperature reads only 4 degrees in Central New Jersey. Yikes! That will put some pep in your step first thing, in the morning. I want to take a hot chocolate bath and crawl beneath mounds of covers just thinking about it, but guess what? More stormy weather will be coming on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, as Mother Nature is visiting us once again, bringing a mixture of sleet, rain and snow. Personally, I've had enough of Mother's cooking for a while. For those of us who are employed outside of our homes, traveling in unfavorable weather conditions is not something we want to do. At least we should be grateful that it's not a blizzard like way back in 1888. This terrible blizzard occurred on March 12th and lasted until the 14th, killing about 400 people and dumping whopping 21 inches of snow on New York City. Their winter wonderland turned into a winter nightmare...

Although there are many who are familiar with the legendary Blizzard of 1888, which was the most famous snowstorm in American History, I still would like to take this moment to talk about it for the benefit of the others who are not familiar with it.

New York City during the 1800's was already teeming with the continuous arrivals of immigrants from Italy, Germany, Ireland and a large contingent of the Jewish population from the Southern and Eastern parts of Europe. These immigrants were seeking a better economic life and all of the opportunities that America offered, for themselves and their families. As significant developments continued to grow throughout the city, job opportunities within the transportation and marketing industries had become available. A great majority of Jewish and Italian immigrants had settled on the Lower East side, seeking employment that was close to home. Many of the immigrants found work on the docks in the harbor areas. By 1888, there were at least 1,500,000 inhabitants from a wide range of cultural and national backgrounds living and working in the City of New York. The increase in population created many problems for native or settled New Yorkers. In order to ensure their continued survival, they needed to make significant adjustments to their living and working conditions.

The scene in New York the week before March 12th, 1888 included the usual hustle and bustle of the large, congested metropolis. Thousands of wage earners, men and women, hustled to and from work. The thunderous sounds erupted from the elevated trains that streamed by; and the terrible squeal and screech of metal on metal filled the city as the trains slowly came to a halt, spitting glowing sparks on the pedestrians below, scaring and causing the horses to buck and madly run away, crashing wagons against the columns of the El. The city sidewalks and streets were endlessly crammed with a steady, rhythmic movement of ordinary people going about their daily business. New York was and still is a place where people visit briefly or stay for prolonged periods of time. Those that worked the night shift at the newspapers would normally go home between 2 to 4 in the morning. Then there were the milkmen, and bakers making their early morning deliveries. The city as ever was alive!

To be continued: Part I (c)

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