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The Knickerbocker Storm: Photographs from the historic blizzard that ended in tragedy, 1922

 

In Washington, D.C.'s recorded history, the Knickerbocker Hurricane has remained unsurpassed, both for the amount of snow it produced and for its devastating toll on human life.

The roof collapse of the Knickerbocker Theater, which claimed 98 lives (many of them children), was described by the Washington Post as "the greatest disaster in Washington history".

The storm was notable for its persistence, generating snowfall rates of more than an inch per hour in the 24-hour period from Friday afternoon, January 27 through Saturday afternoon, January 28. Twenty-five inches fell in that period, setting 24. Hourly snowfall record

All told, the storm shed 28 inches of snow in more than 130 years of official Washington, D.C., weather records, more than any other hurricane. Subfreezing temperatures in the days before the storm meant that every layer got stuck.

The cold weather was established by a blocking pattern, which was common before and during Colombia's snow storms. In such a situation, there is a kind of traffic jam in the environment.

The high pressure over Greenland favors the flow in the atmosphere resulting in a major drop in the jet stream over eastern North America. The dip in the jet stream allows Arctic air to move south into the Mid-Atlantic states.

An estimated 22,400 square miles (58,000 km) of the northeastern United States was affected by this blizzard with 20 inches (51 cm) of snow. Heavy snowfall occurred in Maryland and Virginia. 19 inches (48 cm) was recorded in Richmond, Virginia.


Snow depths measured at the main observation site in Washington, DC reached 28 inches (71 cm), while an observer at Rock Creek Park a few miles to the north reached 3.02 inches (76.7 mm) by 33 inches (84 cm). Measured with the liquid equivalent. ,

Railroad lines between Philadelphia and Washington, DC were covered by at least 36 inches (91 cm) of snow, with a height of 16 feet (4.9 m).

This blizzard is the largest in Washington, D.C. history since the beginning of official record-keeping in 1885 (although it dwarfs the 36 inches (91 cm) of snow in January 1772's Washington–Jefferson Storm).

At the height of the storm, the Knickerbocker Theater, the city's newest and largest movie house, drew between 300 and 1,000 people for a performance of the silent comedy get-rich-quick Wallingford.

The roof of the Knickerbocker Theatre, which was designed by Reginald Wycliffe Geer and owned by Harry Crandall, was completely flat, allowing for heavy snow to accumulate during the storm.

Eventually, heavy, wet snow eroded the roof down the middle, bringing down the balcony and part of the brick wall. Dozens were buried, 98 theater-goers were killed and 133 were injured.

Congressman Andrew Jackson Barchfeld was also among those killed in the theater. The theater's architect, Reginald Wycliffe Geer, and owner, Harry M. Crandall later killed himself.


The horrors of what happened are captured in this excerpt from the Washington Post, originally published on January 29, 1928. An eyewitness to the devastation, a man who had just entered the theater and who had barely escaped with his life, said a heartfelt burst of laughter before the roof collapsed.

"Great God!" They said. "It was the most heartbreaking thing I've ever wanted to see." In the lobby of the theatre, firefighters and policemen and strong civilians did their best to attempt to evacuate the wounded and dead.

It was an act that tried the souls of men. When the accident happened for the first time, after that there was shouting of women and screaming of men. Screaming screams pierced the air. A woman, in particular, shouted at the top of her voice, not shouting for help, or assistance, or assistance; Because she was probably not aware of what had happened.

His screams were the gasp of the deceased, and so the doctors said. When there was a sudden silence, a powerful symphony of exquisite pain made a united appeal for help, or relief.

The shouters were those who were under the weight of a roof and a balcony. And how much does it weigh? What is the entangled mass? Standing at the door leading to the lobby, the usually stoic policemen were almost disheartened.

Firefighters, whose normal job is to deal with fallen structures, finding their way through the rubble, were horrified. They looked despondent in the face of this duty, but they went to work with a determination to render every help to the power of all mortal man.

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