On This Day

On January 12, 1888, one of the worst blizzards to strike the Great Plains hit the sparsely populated states of Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa, as well as the Dakota Territory. The mark it left on the people of the prairie and in history was carved as much from of the sheer surprise by which it took the pioneer settlers as from the severity of the storm itself.
“Even in a region known for abrupt and radical meteorological change, the blizzard of 1888 was unprecedented in its violence and suddenness,” wrote author David Laskin in his award-winning book The Children’s Blizzard. “There was no atmospheric herald. No eerie green tinge to the sky or fleecy cirrus forerunner. One moment it was mild, the sun was shining, a damp wind blew fitfully out of the south—the next moment frozen hell had broken loose.”
The storm came to be known as the Schoolhouse Blizzard, the Schoolchildren’s Blizzard, or simply the Children’s Blizzard for the large number of students who were stranded in the storm—many of them after venturing home from their one-room schoolhouses.

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8 Responses to On This Day

  1. kennymac says:

    People always seem to feel the need to try and “get to safety” in a winter storm, when safety is usually provided by just hunkering down.

  2. Soapweed says:

    Sir: for a more recent variant, check out the Pleasant Hill blizzard [Towner blizzard] of Mar 1931.
    It was also a similar regional blizzard starting on a nice spring day.

  3. I read that book. Some kids tried to crawl into a haystack to keep warm. I think one of them lost his/her foot because she didn’t crawl in far enough (I think it was a girl). Scary to think it can happen so fast. Always be prepared, always. Warm and waterproof coat, boots, mittens, scarf, water, a chunk of plastic or a tarp, etc.

    • pdwalker says:

      I was on a scout trip one year at the end of April. The evening was warm and sunny, temperatures around 21C (70F). Went to bed around 3am as the temp started to drop. Woke up in the morning to 3 feet of snow on the ground. By noon? over 6 feet.

      It was kinda cool, in both meanings of the word. Fortunately, we were prepared.

    • fjord says:

      The really bad part of that storm was that they were having a freak warm Indian summer day. Most of those kids went to school dressed for mild weather. and they didn’t have weather warning systems.

  4. fjord says:

    The freaky thing about hypothermia is the paradoxical undressing.

    Close to death (from freezing) your body tricks you into thinking you are burning up. Some of those people in that storm were found minus clothing.

    That and the burrowing behavior, which seems like a survival instinct. Or primitive instinct. I’m not sure what you’d call that. A lot of animals tend to do this too, when they are terminal. The other day I found a dead cat in my tack room stuffed behind a tack box.


  5. markm says:

    Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about this storm in The Long Winter.

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