With a barrage of blizzard after blizzard this winter, the snowfall in 2015 has been excessive to say the least, and I’ve heard more than one person say “I can’t remember a winter like this!” This winter has indeed been a bit crazy, perhaps. But unprecedented? Not exactly. We’ve all heard of or remember the Blizzard of 1978, but have you heard of the Great Blizzard of 1888? It came out of nowhere and crippled the entire northeastern seaboard. No one saw it coming… except for one man out here in our neck of the woods. One Berkshires resident did in fact predict it, and folklorist Joe Durwin shared the legend of the “Prophet of Beartown Mountain” with me for an upcoming segment for Connecting Point.

The “Great White Hurricane” as it was called hit the northeast on March 12th, 1888 and crippled public transit, stranded travelers, and brought industry and commerce to a screeching halt. From Massachusetts to New Jersey, everything came to a standstill, covered in piles and piles of heavy white snow.


Downtown Springfield, MA during the “Great White Hurricane” of March, 1888


And in a time long before Doppler radar, satellite imagery, computers or any of the advanced technology that meteorologists take for granted today, a simple man from Richmond, Massachusetts – Levi Bebee – using a self-devised system of observing the atmosphere, foretold of the coming storm. Those who heeded his warnings (and there were some) were prepared. Those who didn’t… well, they had a lot of digging out to do! His prediction granted him a small amount of fame, and farmers used his methods for years to help determine when to plant and harvest their crops. He even wrote articles on the weather for National Geographic!

Levi Bebee was one of countless extraordinary individuals from our region, a legend from the past whose story still resonates today – especially when you’re waist-deep in snow, shovel in hand!

I think you’ll find Joe Durwin’s tale of the “Weather Prophet of Beartown Mountain” an interesting and entertaining one. At the very least, it should be a reminder as you look out your window upon a sea of white as far as the eye can see, that when it comes to New England weather, we’ve been here before.