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Fri Apr 6, 2012, 01:26 PM

North Dakota blizzard of 1966

I spent a winter in North Dakota over 20 years ago. It gives a whole new dimension to cold and snow.



The blizzard of March 2, 3, and 4, 1966 may have been the worst recorded storm to hit North Dakota because of its long stay across the state, snowfall accumulation, and high wind speeds.

This blizzard came with plenty of warning from the weather service, but no one had experienced a blizzard of this power and duration. It began about noon on Wednesday March 2. By Friday night, the winds had reached 70 mph with gusts in some locations to 100 mph. The wind blew the snow about leaving parts of some highways clear, but other stretches where drifts were 20 to 30 feet high and hundreds of yards long. The actual snowfall varied, but reached 35 inches in some places and at least 20 inches in many places. Only the northwestern corner of the state was spared the destructive power of this storm.

On Wednesday, the State Highway Department requested travelers to stay off the highways; by Thursday, cities were asking businesses to close and for residents to stay off city streets. Visibility in the open country, and even in farm yards, was reduced to zero for 11 hours, and zero to 1/8 mile for another 19 hours. During the storm, Highway Department volunteers attempted to rescue travelers stuck in their cars. They managed to get to a few of them, but many remained trapped until Friday evening when the storm let up.

Despite the warnings, some travelers were caught in the storm. Two of these were couples trying to get to the Dickinson hospital in time for the birth of their child. One child was born in farmhouse before the couple was able to get to Dickinson; the other was born after the coupleís car got stuck twice in town, and the mother and father had to walk the last few yards to the hospital.

Three trains, one carrying 500 passengers were stalled by deep drifts near New Salem. All three trains eventually had to be dug out of the drifts by men with shovels because the drifts were too deep for snowplows mounted on work engines.

Five North Dakotans died in the storm (18 died throughout the stormís path in three states). Three of the victims were men who apparently died of heart attacks while trying to shovel or walk in the storm. Two victims were young girls who had left their farm homes to tend to livestock in the barn, but lost their direction in the blizzardís swirling snow and wind, and walked away from the house and barn into the pasture.

The economic impact of the storm was enormous. Official records show that 74,500 head of cattle, 54,000 sheep, 2,400 hogs, and numerous other livestock perished in the storm. Some of these were in open fields where snow blinded them, causing them to drift into fences where they died; others died in barns that were covered with snow drifts and sealed so tightly that the livestock suffocated; some died in barns that collapsed under the weight of the snow. City businesses shut down and many buildings were damaged by heavy snow.


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Reply North Dakota blizzard of 1966 (Original post)
Major Nikon Apr 2012 OP
progressoid Apr 2012 #1
rurallib Apr 2012 #2
ButterflyBlood Apr 2012 #3

Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 02:02 PM

1. I was just in ND last week.

It was so warm that kids were swimming in the river.

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Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2012, 02:31 PM

2. incredible picture

wonder how long before it all melted.

That blizzard most of the country had last winter (@ Feb. 1) was pretty much melted in a week (I know, unbelieveable).

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Response to rurallib (Reply #2)

Sat Apr 7, 2012, 01:57 AM

3. Actually it probably didn't take that long

I grew up in ND, and am in a rather snow state still (MN) and once winter ends our massive snowbanks don't last long. It doesn't take too many days of 60-70 degree weather to wipe out the leftovers of even the most massive blizzards.

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