How Blizzards Make, Or Break, A Mayor

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Blizzards are big tests for modern mayors. In fact, Yoni Appelbaum says the modern American mayor was born in a blizzard, back in 1888.

It was known as The Great White Hurricane: a winter cataclysm that dumped up to 40 inches of snow from New York to Boston; it killed 400 people, sank 200 ships, and paralyzed the northeast for days.

That storm demonstrated the need for more robust infrastructure — like subways and underground electrical and telephone cables — and it compelled mayors to take charge and lead their cities in a new way.


Yoni Appelbaum, senior editor at The Atlantic where he oversees the Politics section. He tweets @YAppelbaum.

Ray Flynn, former Mayor of Boston (1984-1993) and U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See (1993-1997).


The Atlantic: Blizzards And The Birth Of The Modern Mayor

  • "Before 1888, most urban residents were content to hunker down and endure blizzards. Mayors might distribute patronage and cut ribbons, but few voters expected them to do much more ... The storm altered those expectations. Newly aware of their own vulnerability, city dwellers demanded that their mayors do more to protect them from nature's wrath."

This segment aired on January 29, 2015.


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