Monday, March 7, 2016

New England - The Great Snow of 1717

The Great Snow of 1717 was a series of snowstorms between February 27 & March 7, 1717 (Gregorian calendar) that blanketed the British American colonies of New York & New England with 5 or more feet (1.5 or more meters) of snow, & much higher drifts.

March 7, 1717 diary entry of Massachusetts Rev. Cotton Mather: "Never such a Snow, in the Memory of Man! And so much falling this Day, as well as fallen two Dayes ago, that very many, of our Assemblies had no Sacrifices."

During this storm, many New Englanders could only leave their houses from the leeward side windows…on the second floor.  While Boston only received about 40 inches of snow, many places got 8+ feet during the 10 day period. 

The Great Snow of 1717

The damage was catastrophic. As many as 95% of New England's deer population died from starvation & predators.  They got stuck in the snow becoming easy prey for wolves, which were light enough to get through the snow.  The snow was so high, that the tops of many trees were covered, allowing small animals to graze in the upper branches of orchard crops, harming many of the fruit trees.  Flocks of heavier sheep & cattle were smothered or starved to death. A widow & her 3 children, in a small house in Medford, Massachusetts, were dug out by neighbors several days after the storm, after they spied her chimney smoke "issuing from a snowbank."  The post roads were lost beneath the snowpack well into March.