It was Thanksgiving Day when strong winds, in excess of 40 miles per hour, began blowing from the Atlantic Ocean across the New England coast. This was followed, in short order, by gales from the other direction. Equally strong winds roared across upstate New York from the west.
Blizzard conditions disrupted the entire area. Transportation became impossible; some trains were halted by 20-foot snow drifts. Communication was interrupted as the wind and snow brought down telephone and telegraph lines. In some towns and villages, residents were forced to dig tunnels through the snow from their front doors to the streets. In New York City, 2,000 workers attempted to clear the key streets and avenues.
Boston was perhaps worst hit by the storm. Approximately 100 ships were blown ashore from the city's harbor and another 40 were sunk. About 100 people died when a Portland-based steamer sank near Cape Cod. Bodies and debris filled the harbors and nearby beaches.
The storm is thought to have killed at least 450 people, though due to the wide extent of the storm and the poor record-keeping of the time, it is impossible to determine exactly how many people died.