It's been a rugged winter so far.
The Minot area had record-setting snowfall in December and is nearly halfway to setting another record snowfall this month, plus there's already plenty of the "white stuff" to remove from driveways, roads and other areas.
December also was the eighth-coldest December in North Dakota history.
Blowing snow which stuck to the roads caused dangerous icy conditions in central and western North Dakota this past weekend, with a number of vehicles sliding off roads or overturning. This is a section northwest of Minot on the U.S. 83 Bypass Saturday afternoon. This winter’s weather might be historical with the heavy snowfall, but severe blizzards have been especially history-making over the years in North Dakota.
Although North Dakota has had a number of mild winters, it has had its share of severe winter weather over the years, with some of those winters going down in the state's history with severe blizzards.
Here are a few of them, according to the files of The Minot Daily News, that unleashed themselves on this state:
Many oldtimers remember the winter of 1948-49 when people were snowbound and hay had to be airlifted to cattle in the region.
Minot was the rescue hub for the 1949 "Operation Haylift" when C-47 cargo planes flew in and out of the airport dropping bales of hay to cattle marooned in fields through northwest counties.
"For those who lived through the winter of 1948-49 in North Dakota, especially the counties along the northern border, the experience can never be forgotten," The Minot Daily News reported.
During that winter of '48-49, mountains of snow were piled up and at one time and it was estimated no more than six miles of highway were passable. Help rushed in after disaster appeals from then Gov. Fred G. Aandahl.
Fifth Army personnel also were directed to North Dakota with their "Weasels," tractor-like machines, to battle their way through the drifts and bring supplies to people stranded for days, sometimes weeks, in buried farmhouses, rural schools almost anyplace.
People in that 1948-49 ordeal walked to work between piles of snow well over their heads ... and they were their brother's keeper for those who needed help.
Also, there was no major flood in Minot that spring.
Some other blizzards that have been marked significant in North Dakota over the years include:
- March 1920. The storm took seven lives, among them Hazel Miner, a rural Oliver County schoolgirl who sheltered her younger brother and sister from the storm after their sleigh had tipped. The younger children were found alive but Hazel had died. Many stories, including a folk ballad, have been written about Hazel's heroism over the years. There also were others who lost their lives in that storm, including four small brothers from rural Ryder who were trying to head home from their school southwest of Ryder with their team and sled and became stalled in the storm. The Minot Daily News called the blizzard "the worst blizzard since 1902."
- March 1941. This storm was rated as one of the most ferocious blizzards in history. Before it stopped, 76 people had died in North Dakota, Minnesota, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In North Dakota, the death toll was 39.
- March 1966. The storm struck the south-central part of the state, leaving roof-top snowpiles in towns and literally burying a passenger train near Bismarck. It took five lives, among them a 6-year-old Strasburg girl, who became lost while walking to the barn from her home for milking chores. Her father searched for her for hours in the roaring winds and snow until he found her in a 12-foot drift. She was dressed in overshoes, two jackets and a stocking cap but had died of exposure.
Blizzard reports go back many years, including in January 1888 when 65 mph winds swept across the Plains and nearly 100 people were killed, including several in North Dakota. Several other storms between the late 1800s and the early 1920s took the lives of North Dakotans. A February 1923 blizzard killed 22 people and at that time was considered the second-worst in the state's history.
A January 1975 blizzard was called the "blizzard of the century" by a Minneapolis meteorologist. It left 55 people dead in nine region states, including nine in North Dakota. Among those who died in it were a Minot youth and two companions who tried to walk to safety from a stalled car near Lakota. In Minot, some of the snowdrifts reached nearly the rooftop of some houses, according to reports. Some buildings and some under construction collapsed because of the strong winds.
And then there was the ice storm of March 5-6, 1983.
A blizzard occurring April 26-27, 1984, dropped 25 inches of snow on Minot and had high winds. Travel in the western and central parts of the state was almost impossible. At the time, the storm was considered the worst April blizzard on record. The Minot Daily News reported that during that storm, several of its employees stayed overnight at the newspaper so they could be sure they were on hand for work the next day. Others did get to work the next day, either by walking or catching rides.
And the most recent snow emergency the North Dakota National Guard was called in for, called Operation Snowball, was in the winter of December 1996 which went into April 1997.
What's in store for the rest of this winter? If you go by The Old Farmers Almanac for 2009, there's still more snow at intervals from now and into March and cold weather also at various times into mid-February but then warmer than normal weather is predicted to hit in April and May.