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Most Inconvenient Storm, 1886

This slideshow contains 11 items
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Ice storm damage, 1886

Ice storm damage, 1886

Item 6061 info
Maine Historical Society

On January 29, 1886, a bank of headlines on the front page of the Portland Daily Press noted:

RAIN AND ICE.
Terrible Condition of Affairs Throughout the Country.
Boston's Street Crossings Covered with Six Inches of Water.
Great Damage Caused to Timber and Orchards in York County.


The story, with a Saco dateline, began:

"A cold rain storm has been in progress here the past thirty hours. Tonight trees and boughs are falling all over the city. The damage to timber and orchards throughout York county is estimated at thousands of dollars. The telegraph and telephone wires are prostrated."


2
Park Street, Portland, 1886

Park Street, Portland, 1886

Item 6063 info
Maine Historical Society

A headline on page 2 of the same paper announced "Terrible Times."

The story called the Jan. 28 event "the most inconvenient storm of the season."

The Horse Railroad Company tried to keep the rail tracks open, but could not keep up with the heavy ice.

The story noted: "When the citizens looked out of their windows, yesterday morning, the trees presented a beautiful spectacle, the branches laden with ice; but it proved a sad spectacle in its results."


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The great ice storm of Jan. 28, 1886

The great ice storm of Jan. 28, 1886

Item 6059 info
Maine Historical Society

Ice-laden branches finally gave way as the sun did not shine to melt the heavy loads.

"Late in the afternoon," the paper reported, "many of the streets in the upper part of the city were made almost impassible by the debris of small and large wood. . .

"In some cases whole trees fell as in the case of one on Cumberland street, or were split in halves by the weight of their branches, as was noticed in one of the splendid old elms in front of the Winslow pottery at Deering, and in front of the Anderson mansion on Free street."


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Cumberland Club, Portland, 1886

Cumberland Club, Portland, 1886

Item 6060 info
Maine Historical Society

"In Lincoln Park, it is thought, that most of the trees are irretrievably ruined. Twenty were all broken up last night.

"Down in Deering Oaks, and on State street, immense injury has been done to historic trees.

"At night the drivers of teams had to keep a constant watch in many of the streets in order to pick their way in the darkness.

"The condition of the telegraph, telephone and electric light wires was something terrible.

"The great number of wires, loaded with ice, bent the poles over to several degrees out of plumb, so that the poles looked like a line of tipsy men reeling along the street."


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Oxford Street, Portland, 1886

Oxford Street, Portland, 1886

Item 6062 info
Maine Historical Society

"To add to the general discomfort the rain fell steadily, and the slush and water in the streets made the walking very disagreeable.

"In the harbor there was no sea, the water being quiet. It was quite thick outside.

"At about half-past nine last evening H.J. Butler, the fireman on the Grand Trunk shifting engine No. 10, discovered fire in the wooden building on central wharf, next below the store of W.S. Dana.

"Engineer Mitchell at once sounded an alarm on the whistle of his locomotive and an alarm was also rung upon one of the church bells.

"The building was occupied by Foss & Deering, wholesale grocers . . . When discovered the fire had evidently been under way for some time, and the interior of Foss & Deering's store was burning fiercely.

"The department responded to the alarm with commendable promptness, considering the fact that the alarm system could not be used and the almost impassible condition of the streets."


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Spring Street, Portland, after ice storm, 1886

Spring Street, Portland, after ice storm, 1886

Item 21089 info
Maine Historical Society

Another fire alarm was sounded at 1:30 a.m. at Deane Brothers & Sawyer furniture store on Middle Street.

The engines took quite a while arriving, due to the Central Wharf fire.

The paper reported, "The fresh winds fanned the flames, and the men were soon forced from the ladders to the street below.

"About half an hour from the sounding of the alarm, the wall at the rear was seen to sway out, and immediately the whole northerly corner of the building fell with a crash through the roof of the low wooden block beneath."

The Eastern Argus reported, "The fire was the hottest and fiercest seen in this city for a long time. There was not a foot of spare hose on any of the reels, which delayed getting a steam on.

"The firemen, although exhausted with the work on Central wharf, worked like beavers, and confined the fire in the building in which it started."


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High and Spring streets, Portland, 1886

High and Spring streets, Portland, 1886

Item 21083 info
Maine Historical Society

Portland's Eastern Argus newspaper wrote on Friday, Jan. 29, "Yesterday was a bad day for the trees, the various wires, and other things as are pendant in the air in this city."

The story continued, "One of the chief characteristics of Portland is its trees, and they have been spoken of and admired by all visitors.

"From such has been handed us the sobriquet of 'Forest City.' Yesterday's storm, however, wrought dire destruction among our lofty elms and smaller shade trees.

"The thick coating of ice proved more fatal than anything that has yet struck them, and on all sides could be seen the work of the fell destroyer.

"Trees that had withstood the ravages of a century succumbed in part to the affectionate touch of Jack Frost.

"The scene yesterday afternoon was a grand, yet painful one. State street, for instance, presented an appearance to be remembered.

"Its mammoth trees formed an arch of glittering icicles, which swayed to and fro in the wind, at times reaching almost to the level of the street."


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Ice storm damage, Portland, 1886

Ice storm damage, Portland, 1886

Item 21084 info
Maine Historical Society

The Eastern Argus continued, " There has been no such destruction by a storm in this city for many years.

"As darkness came on the aspect of affairs grew more dangerous. The feeble light thrown by the few gas lamps hardly served to dispel the gloom.

"In the upper part of the city the streets were almost deserted. What few pedestrians there were hurried along in the middle of the street, casting many anxious glances at the tree tops and jumping quickly as the warning crash was heard."


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Deering Street, Portland, 1886

Deering Street, Portland, 1886

Item 21085 info
Maine Historical Society

"Nearly all the arc lights hanging from trees were smashed, and many incandescent lights were wrenched from the posts by falling limbs," the Argus continued.

"In consequence of the masses of ice accumulated on the wires by which constant breaks occurred, the city authorities, upon representation of the telephone and fire superintendents, that there was danger of communicating fire to dwelling and stores should the electric light current be turned on, ordered the Electric Light company not to turn on their current, and consequently the city was not lighted."


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State Street, Portland, 1886

State Street, Portland, 1886

Item 21086 info
Maine Historical Society

The Portland Daily Press followed up in its edition of Saturday, Jan. 30. 1886.

"The full extent of the damage done by the storm of Thursday was not realized by the people of Portland until yesterday morning when they awoke to find many of the streets rendered entirely impassable by scattered limbs torn from the trees by the weight of ice.

"Among the streets where the greatest damage had been done during the night are Pine, High, Danforth, and State streets.

"In Deering Park, the oaks have suffered nearly as much as the elms in the city.

"On many, in place of graceful tops are unsightly and bare limbs; and the ground is littered by a supply of firewood which is regarded with covetous eyes by very many passers.

"The residents of that part of the city say that there was a continual smashing in the park all Thursday night."


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Carleton Street, Portland, 1886

Carleton Street, Portland, 1886

Item 21087 info
Maine Historical Society

"At the signal service station Observer Kinney reported he experienced a terrible day Thursday and more so during the night.

"When making his trips to the roof to take observations he had to go armed with an axe with which to cut open the hatchways and signal offices.

"The new storm signal flag was torn in shreds and fell into the street, and the lantern had to be tied to the mast.

"He states that the rainfall was 1 1/4 inches."

The storm hit other Maine cities and towns as well, damaging many deciduous trees and especially harming fruit orchards.

An item in the Portland Daily Press from Richmond stated: "The memory of the oldest inhabitant must be heavily taxed to recall a storm to compare with the rain and sleet storm of yesterday and last night."


This slideshow contains 11 items