Great Plains Blizzards Now and Then

Snow measurements from February 10, 2013, at 7:00PM (CST) in downtown Fargo, North Dakota.

Snow measurements from February 10, 2013, at 7:00PM (CST) in downtown Fargo, North Dakota.

Last week I revisited Walter P. Webb’s 1931 work, The Great Plains. In the coming days, I’ll blog a bit more on Webb’s work. For now, though, Blizzard Orko (as of 7:03PM [CST], February 10, 2013) induced several departments of transportation to close sections of Interstate 29 and Interstate 94 on the northern Great Plains: north-south from Grand Forks, North Dakota to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and east-west from Jamestown, North Dakota in to Minnesota (the MNDOT’s road condition map I found is more general than decisive about exactly what sections are closed). These closures, or specifically this blizzard, reminded me a bit about Webb’s remarks on Great Plains blizzards, or what he pulled from Clement A. Lounsberry, the Civil War veteran who started The Bismarck Tribune in the 1870s. Of blizzards, Lounsberry  (via Webb) referenced that historically they were known as a

…mad, rushing combination of wind and snow which neither man nor beast could face. The snow found its way through every crack and crevice. Barns and stacks were literally covered by drifting snow, and, when the storm was over, cattle fed from the tops of stacks. Persons lost upon the prairie were almost certain to meet with death, unless familiar with the nature of these storms… I learned of many instances where persons were lost in trying to go from the house to the barn, and of other instances where cords were fastened to the house so that, if the barn should be missed, by holding onto the cord the house could be found again (Webb, 1931: 25)

With this in mind, this evening I took some measurements of snowfall in downtown Fargo. At least 7 1/4″ of snow has fallen (it is now 7PM, CST). Tomorrow winds are expected to intensify, as is snow removal and book reading.


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