The Blizzard of '88

by Mary Cable, Atheneum, $19.95. In 1888 the adolescent United States Weather Service assumed that the Lord would not permit untoward events on His day. The outfit closed down at midnight on Saturday and remained virtually comatose until five o’clock on Sunday afternoon, so when a cold blast from the west joined a northbound hurricane on Sunday, March 11, nobody could report hell to pay off Cape Hatteras. By Monday morning the storm had reached New York City, where those who endured the fierce winds and savage cold never forgot it. Survivors even formed a club, like war veterans, and held annual luncheons to exchange memories. It seems likely that Ms. Cable has had access to records of that club, for her account of the great blizzard abounds in lively personal anecdotes of adventure and resourcefulness. The storm was not without its useful side. It got the tangle of telegraph, telephone, and electric wires (illegal for years) out of the streets and stimulated action on the long-needed subway system. It also demonstrated how quickly and easily natural disaster can put a mechanized society—New York was already in essence a twentiethcentury city—out of action. For that reason alone the blizzard of '88 is still of interest.