I’ve lived in Albany, NY over thirty years now, and one of those trivia questions I like to ask relative newcomers – people who’ve only been here twenty years, e.g. – is “What are the two greatest snowstorms in recorded Albany history?”
The worst event, by far, was the Great Blizzard of 1888, during the second week in March, which dumped 45 inches (120 cm) on Albany, 22 inches (56 cm) in New York City, and huge amounts across New York State, New Jersey and much of New England. The storm and the frigid aftermath killed over 400 people in the region and crippled the region for days afterward.
The second worst Albany snowstorm was the 1993 Storm of the Century during the second week in March. The storm that started in the Gulf of Mexico created tornadoes that affected Cuba and the southern United States and even dumped a foot of snow as far south as Alabama. It churned up the coast and ended up affecting 26 US states plus eastern Canada. Albany received 26.6 inches (67.6 cm) of snow.
To the surprise of some, I do not remember the 1888 blizzard. I DO well recall the 1993 superstorm, though, for two reasons.
That Sunday, the church I belonged to at the time was closed for service, a state of emergency having been called for the area. However, I lived close enough that I could trudge over anyway. The custodian was busy using the snowblower, but it was inadequate for the task. So I grabbed a shovel and assisted; I believed there were one or two others trying to clean up as well.
The day before, the Albany Public Library was contemplating closing in anticipation of not only a stark forecast but the reports that the storm had already caused to the south. At the time, the library was run by an autocratic fellow I’ll call Bill. He wanted to be notified about all decisions, so the staff attempted unsuccessfully to reach him.
Finally, some senior librarians took it upon themselves to close the facilities early, which turned out to be the obviously correct choice. However, they got jammed up by Bill, who was furious with their initiative. Ultimately, the bad publicity from Bill’s unjustified public pique forced him to back down. This also directly led to the creation of a librarians’ union in Albany.
As spring approaches, Albany, know that the two worst snowstorms on record happened THIS week in history.