Easter Blizzard

Warm weather, flowers blooming, not a care in the world, right? Ha! Easter blizzards have happened before, and could happen again.

The winter of 1872-73 was very open, mild, and dry; Nebraska homesteaders broke sod in each of its months, and by April the prairie grass was already green. In 1873 there were very few well built houses in Adams County. During the mild winter and early spring, new arrivals had constructed dugouts in hillsides, or thrown together claim shanties of up and down boards, ment to be temporary housing until a soddie or frame house could be built. Most of the new settlers had not endured a plains winter storm and were totally unprepared. Fuel was scarce on the treeless prairie, many settlers having only a days supply of buffalo chips, and having just come through their first winter, or just arrived from the east, most families had a meager food supply. While the settlers’ shelter and food supply was inadequate, shelter and food for livestock was even poorer or nonexistent. During the warm weather, some livestock had been turned out on the prairie to find food. Thus the stage was set for the blizzard which would cause the greatest loss of life in south-central Nebraska.

Mild, dry and already green, yea that sounds a little familiar.

They tell of the rain which began about noon, changing to sleet in the afternoon. The sleet soon became ice, making it almost impossible for man or beast to travel about the streets of the county’s two population centers, Juniata and Hastings. Business ceased and only the most daring ventured out. Homesteaders who were in town had to remain until the storm ended, causing great worry and hardship to the family left at home on the claim. As the temperature dropped families gathered up what fuel they could and prepared for a long cold night, not dreaming the storm would last three days. Sometime in the night of the first day the sleet turned to snow. As the night wore on the snow laden wind increased in ferocity. Snow began to sift through the smallest cracks in houses and stables. The snow was later described as so wet that within a few minutes a person’s clothes were wet through as if by rain.
Monday morning the sun was not visible, the entire world was a mass of swirling snow and howling winds. At noon the sun could not be located in the sky. Men, worried about their livestock, or the dwindling supply of fuel for the fire, went to the door, but could not see a few feet ahead. Some men ventured to their stables, but were driven back or failed to find them. Others found the stables and had to remain there as they could not determine the location of the house only a hundred feet away. Many of those who ventured out did so attached to a rope. An unfortunate few who did not take this precaution, were lost in the swirling whiteness and perished. As the second night approached, houses shook with the force of the wind. Many feared it was their last night upon the earth.
By Monday night, some houses had snowdrifts inside, and some families had run out of fuel and survived by huddling in bed. Livestock had to be cared for and some people led their horse or milk cow into their houses. Much of the livestock that was left outdoors perished.
The blizzard raged without letup throughout Tuesday and Tuesday night. Wednesday morning the winds began to lessen and by noon the sun was barely visible. By four p.m. Wednesday it was comparatively calm. People began to venture out, searching for family members, checking on neighbors, looking for lost livestock. Many dugouts were completely covered over with snow and the occupants had to dig themselves out or were dug out by neighbors. SOURCE

I hear some of you saying, “Calamity, I don’t live in the Northern Plains, there’s no way this is going to happen to me.” Let’s not forget that the East coast had an Easter Blizzard just last year. Snow, sleet, and ice from western Vermont and New Hampshire up to Maine.  There’s a band of rain showers forecast for this weekend, could this be the year the Easter Blizzard repeats?!
No, probably not, it’s supposed to be 60°F.  Still, we’re far enough away from last frost dates that cold snaps could still happen. Enjoy your Easter weekend everyone, but don’t count out Ole Man Winter just yet.

– Calamity Jane

8 comments… add one
  • irishdutchuncle April 5, 2012, 9:19 am

    i remember two or three Easter day snow storms here.
    (southeast PA)

    i’ve kept a length of cord with my bugout supplies, with dense fog/blizzard conditions specifically in mind, but i now realize it’s too short. i stopped by the local dive shop a few months ago to see what type of cord the cave divers use. i may buy some of that, or a few spools of masons twine as a replacement. in a bugout i wouldn’t want any members of the group wandering away too far…

    does anyone have a recommendation on ice cleats? i have a pair of foreign MILSURP ice booties, but they’re too dorky for my wife or my son to use. (even if i could find more pairs…) i know it’s just better to stay inside shelter during ice storms, (rather than risking broken bones etc.) but i’d like to have more options.

    Reply
    • sput April 5, 2012, 2:55 pm

      Hey Irish, I remember those storms also. I’m from Lanco/Berks and formerly from Lehigh. You know what they say, “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much”, but we’ll give you a pass on the Irish part.
      1970 was a good one
      Lot’s of outfitters should be selling off their winter gear, so you may find a good deal on crampons, or check out e-bay.

      Reply
      • Anonymous April 6, 2012, 9:17 am

        yeh, i guess ’70 was the main one i remember.
        my old neighborhood in “County Delaware”, is often called the 33rd county of Ireland. living up in Montco now.

        so many good places to buy gear here. i got a good pair of snow shoes last year from EMS. i’ll make my usual rounds, and see what i can find. I bought the ice booties in town at the “original” I. Goldberg. i don’t need glacier climbers,
        just something for the occasional ice storm. secure, but easier to put on/ remove would be a real plus.

        several years back we had an ice storm here, and some enterprising “youths” down in West Chester put on their “track shoes” . they went on a purse snatching spree. naturally, the police were caught “flat footed”. lots of people in the local Emergency Rooms that day, with broken bones from falling on the ice. glad i wasn’t one of them.

        Reply
  • Josh April 5, 2012, 2:49 pm

    I am in Denver and we just got snow two days ago.

    Reply
  • Morghan April 5, 2012, 3:26 pm

    It’s been snowing for two days here but I’m so far north it’s practically Canada.

    Reply
  • Michael April 5, 2012, 5:37 pm

    Portland Oregon got a dusting of snow this morning.

    Reply
  • izzy April 6, 2012, 4:39 am

    I think this possibility is very probable this year – it has already happened in Scotland this week, which went from seventy degrees to snowing within a couple days, and people out enjoying the nice weather had to be rescued ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/apr/03/scottish-walkers-rescued-sudden-weather-change ). Meanwhile “rainy England” to the south is suffering a 100-year drought – the worst there since 1888. Spring of 1888 was also when New York went from being summery weather to a blizzard within a day – in March – with snow was up to 50 feet high! That ‘great blizzard of 1888 ‘ also produced severe winds – like in Japan this week. They’re having 90 mph winds and snow in Tokyo…

    Thanks for warning everyone that if it’s unusually warm, it can also be followed by unusual cold – get your loved ones to carry a jacket!

    Reply
  • Anonymous April 6, 2012, 11:15 am

    Back in ’87, we went swimming in the creek one weekend in April. The next weekend we had about 3″ of snow on the ground. And that was in Mississippi.

    Reply

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