The Blizzard of 1969
February 8-10, 1969

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Known as the "Lindsay Storm", the blizzard paralyzed the metropolitan areas of New York and Boston for three days, from February 8th to February 10th, 1969.  The storm got its nickname from John Lindsay, then Mayor of New York City.  His poor handling of the events before, during, and after the storm made many New Yorkers angry with him, and it all but devastated his re-election chances.  His snow removal crews were slow to respond because of inaccurate weather forecasts and bad planning; sections of New York City remained unplowed for a week after the storm.

The storm resulted from two low pressure storm centers.  One in the Ohio Valley had weakened after moving through the Rockies, while another was forming off the coast of Virginia.  The secondary low pressure area intensified rapidly, moved up the east coast to merge with the first and headed northeast toward Cape Cod.  The heaviest snow fell in a band from New York City to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

The storm pounded the Northeast; Manhattan received 20 inches of snow the first day.  Bedford, Massachusetts recorded 25 inches, and Portland, Maine ended up with 22 inches.  Boston received its fair share of snow with about 20 inches in the city.

NY Street Scene, 10-Feb-1969
Manhattan Midtown Street Scene, Feb. 10, 1969

My own experience of this storm was a series of singular events.  Just two weeks into a new full-time job at IBM in Cambridge, Mass., I had flown down to Laguardia Airport on the Eastern air shuttle, visiting for the weekend at my parents' home in Pelham Manor, New York.  When the storm descended on New England, getting back to the Boston area was something of an adventure . . .

The airports were closed, of course, so I decided to take the train.  Pelham was on the New Haven/Hartford line outside of the city, just 31 minutes from Grand Central Station in Manhattan.  A brave taxi driver took me to the Pelham station, swimming through 8 inches or more of snow on the ground with more coming down heavily.  I caught the train into the city, heading for the express train from Grand Central to Boston's South Station.

In Grand Central Station I waited in line for my ticket to Boston; the station was busy but not jammed.  By chance I overheard the person behind me in line was also going to Boston, but he was turned away – the train was full, and I had gotten the last ticket!  I found out later that my train inbound was the last one that came into Grand Central that day, and the train to Boston was the last train that left – the station was closed by the storm, an almost unheard-of event.

On the train to Boston we all felt a bit lucky; no other transportation was moving.  At first I could not find a seat, but outrageous coincidence played its hand again – in the next car I ran into Fred Abramson and his fiancee.  Fred and I were college roommates at MIT in the Spring of 1967, and I had shared an off-campus apartment with him that summer.  The three of us talked and shared snacks and took turns sitting and standing as the unexpected hours went by.

The train stopped twice for an hour or more between New York City and New Haven to let the railroad plows clear the track ahead of us.  What was normally a 4- to 5-hour trip stretched into 9 1/2 hours – an overnight adventure ride through a major blizzard, but we made it!  We arrived at about 6:30 in the morning at Boston's Back Bay Station, greeted by clearing skies, bright sunshine and almost two feet of snow on the ground.  By chance I had gotten the last train into New York, then the last ticket on the last train to leave!

  – Dave Tuttle

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Copyright 2003-2016 by David B. Tuttle, Reading MA
This page last updated 19-Mar-2016

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