2. The Great White Hurricane

Photographer: Associated Press

Year: March 1888

Location: Northeast

Casualties: 400

For most of the country, the Great White Hurricane was the worst blizzard for a century in both directions. Until Sandy, it had been the only event powerful enough to completely disconnect the island of Manhattan from power, communication, and transportation, and shut down the New York Stock Exchange for two days. Even in less technological times, this kind of metropolitan isolation was bizarre, as one New York Times writer puzzled at how, "in this last quarter of the nineteenth century that for even one day New-York could be so completely isolated from the rest of the world as if Manhattan Island was in the middle of the South Sea." In the storm, miles and miles of telephone and power cables bent and crashed under force of snow and wind, causing not only the massive outages, but several deaths and injuries. The leftover tangle of useless wires and senseless tragedy spurred advocady to ditch the poles altogether and wire everything underground, as it is today.