Winter Storm Piles Over 18 Inches of Snow on Central Park

Blizzard conditions existed for much of the day in Central Park as the snow continues into the early morning. However – heavy precipitation freezing temperatures weren’t enough to keep away the sledding faithful that covered Cedar Hill and other favorite alpine spots throughout the park. Not much for style points – but a big “E” for enthusiasm.

Central Park Covered In Snow Recalls Sleigh Rides To McGown's Pass Tavern

Currier and Ives Sleigh Race

Currier and Ives Sleigh Race

This past Sunday Central Park was covered by a thick blanket of white as New York City enjoyed the first snowfall of the season.  Later that day the slopes all around the park were covered with all manner of sleds and toboggans as New Yorkers young (and not so) took advantage of the rare, pre-holiday opportunity for downhill racing.  I took a walk up the East Drive towards McGown’s Pass (E. 106th St.) later in the evening and experienced a moment of “Time And Again” temporal displacement.  Streetlights twinkling through the snow, not a car to be seen, or heard, just the soft white mantle covering the road and trees, muting what little sound there was.  Easy to imagine the park a century or so ago, when the first snow of the season was the occasion for a race to the Tavern that once stood at the top of McGown’s Pass.

For most of the latter half of the 19th century, right up until its demolition in 1915, the McGown’s Pass Tavern awarded a magnum of champagne to the first sleigh that reached it each season.  The tradition was carried on with the Central Park Casino until it’s demise in 1934.

McGown's Pass Tavern

McGown's Pass Tavern at 106th St.

The Tavern was originally owned by the McGown family and had existed on the spot in various incarnations for over two hundred years.  It was originally a stop along the Boston Post Road and the site has also been the home of Mt St. Vincent Convent and a museum.  By the turn of the last century it had been rebuilt into an extremely popular restaurant and sportsman’s club – reportedly a favorite uptown spot for then Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt.

The space once occupied by the Tavern is now the site of the Central Park Composting Center, a very valuable, if somewhat less fashionable, use for the hill at 106th St.  But even now, on a still night following a snowstorm you can almost hear the muffled thump of hooves and jingling of sleigh bells through the crisp winter air.

Summer Thunderstorm Wreaks Havoc in Central Park

Last night at about 10 pm I could hear the thunder crashing just a few blocks east in Central Park.  I absently wondered how it was impacting the screening of “Sex In The City” at the Central Park Film Festival.  I also concratulated myself on deciding against my planned saunter over to observe the demographics of the type of crowd that would brave 90 degree heat and 100% humitdity to observe the further quatro-frenetic antics of Carrie & Co.  As it turned out there were much more serious matters at hand.

Tree Damage on the East Side Drive

Tree Damage on the East Side Drive

Over three hundred trees, some over a century old, lay snapped in half and uprooted throughout Central Park today after a severe thunderstorm with winds as high as 80 mph crashed through New York City last night.  The storm swept through the park Tuesday night, snapping the park’s famous American elm trees in half while uprooting others. One tree lay across the tennis courts at West 96th Street, and a few lampposts stood at a slant after trees crashed into them. A number of parked cars were also destroyed when branches went flying through the air and smahed into them.

“I’ve never seen a wind of that velocity in New York City,” Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said according to the AP.  “It looks like pictures that I’ve seen of war zones where artillery shells have shredded trees.”  Parks employees were cleaning up streets and travel lanes Wednesday and identifying any hazardous areas of trees with hanging limbs that could still come down. The Central Park Conservancy also brought in emergency contractors.

Benepe urged the public to stay away from any trees in the park marked hazardous. He said some of the heavier-hit sections, like the North Meadow and the area around the tennis courts, might have to be cordoned off.  “The landscape has changed forever,” he said.

The American elm can grow up to 125 feet tall, with a spread spanning 65 feet at the top. Benepe said he wasn’t sure if new saplings would ever be able to reach the size and maturity of the trees that were lost.  The storm swept in after two sweltering days of temperatures above 90 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, there is a chance of showers and thunderstorms Wednesday evening.

Lowest Temperature In Central Park History

Tomorrow, February 9th, will mark the 75th Anniversary of the coldest day in Central Park history.

Today’s temperature reached a balmy 56 degrees in the park. And we hope you enjoyed it. In any case you certainly enjoyed it more than the park goers on this date 75 years ago. It was on February 10th in 1934 that the following headline appeared in the New York Times:

Mercury 14.3 Below Zero On New York’s Coldest Day; Six Dead and Hundreds Treated for Frostbitten Ears and Noses — 8 to 10 Below Due Here Today. THE FREEZING WEATHER CAUSES A MIST IN THE HARBOR. 14.3 BELOW ZERO ON COLDEST DAY

It marked the coldest temerature ever recorded in Central Park.