Digest>Archives> Mar/Apr 2012

Stepping Stones and the Blizzard of 1934

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Stepping Stones Lighthouse, New York as it appeared in the 1930s when lighthouse keeper Charles A. Rogers lived there with his wife and small child. In February of 1934, temperatures dropped to well below zero in a cold streak that did not want to snap, with some nights dropping to minus 14 degrees, and much of Long Island Sound froze over. Then on the night of the 19th and morning of 20th the area was hit by a storm that dumped seventeen inches of snow on the area. The local newspapers said it was the worst storm since 1888.

Keeper Rogers had never imagined that he would be unable to launch the lighthouse boat for such a long period of time to restock the lighthouse with provisions. By March 1, with the food supply nearly gone, and no telephone at the lighthouse to call for help, he resorted to flying the stars and stripes upside down, which to mariners means “distress.”

The local police, unaware of what type of distress the keeper and his family were in, tried to launch their boat, but it had become locked in by ice at its dock. Although there was almost no vessel traffic in the sound, the tugboat Mexpet, under command of Captain Sioss, which was making its way out of Long Island Sound, spotted the distress signal. Breaking through the ice, the tug boat was able to reach the lighthouse to inquire how they could help. Keeper Rogers said he only had two days’ supply of food left. Capt Sioss offered the keeper some food, but Rogers declined, saying it was the responsibly of the United States Lighthouse Service to come to his aid.

When Capt. Sioss docked in New York later that afternoon, he notified the Lighthouse Service which promptly dispatched the Lighthouse Tender Hickory from the Staten Island Lighthouse Depot with a supply of provisions for the keeper Rogers at Stepping Stones Lighthouse.

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2012 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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