Showing posts with label freak weather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label freak weather. Show all posts

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Children’s Blizzard of 1888

By Joy Neighbors

It began on the wintry Thursday afternoon of January 12, 1888 in the Great Plains. For the past several days the weather had been snowy with brutally cold temperatures but it appeared a reprieve had been granted.  Temperatures were on the rise. Just a few hours out in the warmer weather would be a welcome relief before the next storm was due to hit later that day.

According to the Weather Bureau forecast that day. "A cold wave is indicated for Dakota and Nebraska tonight and tomorrow; the snow will drift heavily today and tomorrow in Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin.” Today, forecasters would call this the start of an Alberta Clipper.

Children had walked to school in the warmer weather and farmers took to the fields to see what damage the last storm had done. But by mid-morning, the snow began to fall again in the Dakotas. By noon, another storm had rushed in and temperatures had fallen so fast many teachers had already used up their allotment of wood for the day. With a blinding blizzard there was no way to get more. Desks and chairs were tossed on the fire in an attempt to keep frostbite at bay until help could arrive - and no one knew how long that would be.

In Minnesota, temperatures were just above freezing early that afternoon and many stepped out to enjoy the welcomed break. Around 3:00 clouds began furiously rolling in to the area and the wind increased quickly. By 3:30 one of the worst blizzards on record was already loose upon the state. The somewhat balmy afternoon had turned deadly cold with temps plummeting 50 to 60 degrees in a just minutes. They now registered in the negative 40s and 50s.

When teachers realized the severity of the situation, most kept children in the classrooms and schoolhouses. Those who had already ventured out were facing dire consequences.  The children in Nebraska and South Dakota fared the worst with an official death toll of 235 people – mostly children caught out in the storm who froze to death. Some reports said the number killed was closer to 500 people considering some folks in the country were not missed until the spring, and some bodies were not discovered until later in the year when all of the snow had melted. Not only was the human death toll high, the toll on livestock caught out in the storm was also extensive.

The storm took down Western Union telegraph lines, which stopped warnings from reaching other states in the path of the storm. Trains were stopped where they stood.  In the nine states and territories including Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, and Iowa, it was one of the worst winter storms to ever hit that area.

The weather the next day dawned clear and cold with snow drifts up to five feet tall and 30 feet wide in some places. The Children’s Blizzard was the tail end of six years of extreme weather for the region, which began in 1882. Forecasters had dubbed the freak weather, “The Little Ice Age.”

Friday, March 15, 2019

Beware the Ides of March

Beware the Ides of March. This famous warning was issued by a soothsayer to Roman leader Julius Caesar. Caesar paid little attention to his demise and was murdered on March 15. But the date seems to draw interesting tragedies to it.
Czar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated his thrown on March 15, 1917. NASA announced on March 15, 1988 that the ozone layer over Northern Hemisphere was depleting three times faster than predicted. And then there was the blizzard of the century …

March 15, 1941 had been a delightful day in the Red River Valley region of North Dakota. The sun had come out and the snow was beginning to melt. Spirits were high because spring couldn’t be far behind. It was Saturday night and local residents were enjoying a night on the town after a week of grim war news from Europe.
The weather forecast was typical for the area -snow with colder temperatures arriving overnight. No one knew that the weather system bearing down on the region would be remembered for decades as the Blizzard of the Century.                                                                          
It began with the wind – intensely cold wind that kept building until it sustained at 50 mph with bursts up to 85 mph. People were driving to activities when the winds hit. Reports indicated that temperatures dropped 20 degrees within 15 minutes that evening as artic air roared through bringing blizzard conditions. Many families froze to death in their vehicles or trying to find shelter. Snow drifts measured 7-feet high, some reaching up to 12-feet. When the storm had passed, 151 people had perished - 39 in North Dakota and 32 in Minnesota.
This freak storm brought about a necessary change in how blizzard watches and warnings were handled. No longer would Chicago weathermen issue alerts for regions outside the Windy City.  Local weathermen would begin to establish control over their region’s forecasting, and issue alerts and warnings as needed.
Here’s wishing you a calm and enjoyable Ides of March!