It has been 50 years since one of the worst blizzards in North Dakota’s history. The storm started on March 2, lasting three days and spanning across the entire state, taking the lives of five people it its pathway.
Historical records show that winds were measured at 70 mph with spots recording 100 mph gusts. As the stormed traveled east, the snowfall increased.
By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
According to a map published by the National Weather Service, snowfall in southwest North Dakota was anywhere between eight and 20 inches, a vast difference from the northeast part of the state where levels as high as 36 inches were recorded.
Though the snowfall was not has high in this part of the state, it didn’t prevent high snow drifts from accumulating. Drifts as high as 40 feet could be seen.
According to records, all transportation had stopped by the second day of the 3-day storm. The National Weather Service said that three trains were forced to stop and drifts developed around the rail cars. Visibility was non-existent, causing travel by automobile to cease early and wouldn’t be resumed for nearly two days.
According to the North Dakota Historical Society, the economic impact was great after tens of thousands of livestock was lost. Records show that 74,500 head of cattle, 54,000 sheep, 2,400 hogs, along with other livestock died in the heavy storm. The value of the lost livestock was estimated at $12,000,000 at the time.
Schools and businesses were closed across all of North Dakota, some of the first recorded instances of closures in the state’s history.
Nearly all activities requiring some form of transportation stopped, including airlines, bus lines, mail routes and newspaper publishings.
Though the blizzard caused the tragic passing of five individuals across the state, at least two couples from the area were blessed with a miracle during the marathon of snow and wind.
Here is what the March 10, 1966 edition of the Slope County Messenger had to say in 1966 under the headline ‘Strom Baby Born At Olson Farm During the Storm’:
Todd LeRoy Strom, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Claire Strom, was born Thursday at 6:30 p.m., during the blizzard, at the New England farm home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Olson.
The Stroms had set out from their farm at 4:10 that morning, while the blizzard raged, on their way to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Dickinson.
They were forced to stop at the Carroll Township School, waited for the sun to come up in hopes that the weather would improve. It didn’t and after another attempt to get out, they returned past the school to the Olson home.
The baby was delivered by the father and Mrs. Olson while Mr. Olson manned the telephone, in touch with Mrs. Lloyd Strom, Hettinger County Health Nurse, and a doctor in Dickinson.
The Hettinger County snow plow arrived at noon on Friday, operated by Clyde Gullickson.
The baby is fine and the mother is improving after complications set in. The baby weighed six pounds.
According to historical records, Baby Strom was actually one of two babies born that day. The other baby was born at a hospital in Dickinson after the couple’s car got stuck twice. They ended up walking the final few yards to the hospital entrance.