This is a book I've wanted to read for some time. Compiled by Mrs. Walter Hellman, it contains the experiences of people who lived through one of the worst winters recorded.
A brief recap to set the stage: in November 1951 the winter storms began and grew progressively worse until the first major blizzard on December 6 which blocked roads and left large snowdrifts. On January 11 the drifts (and everything else) were coated with a thick layer of ice. During this time the roads were only clear for one to two days at a time before drifting shut again. Thus, when January 21 started as a warm, sunny day, many people headed to town for supplies and children were in school. The first storm reports caused some to fetch their children home (or attempt to).
My mother remembers when the blizzard hit it was like a 'wall smashing into the house'. Zero visibility and strong winds left dozens of vehicles stalled or stuck and the occupants had the option of sitting it out for what became 48 hours or attempting to walk to the nearest farm. Eight people died of exposure and many more treated for severe frostbite.
Digging out after the storm presented new challenges. Clearing the roads overwhelmed the equipment available in the counties. Supplies had to be flown to some who couldn't be reached by road. One farmer had to dig down through eight feet of snow to reach the roof of his chicken coop.
|Drifts higher than houses.|
|Hundreds of cattle died.|
|Heading in for supplies.|
We are currently in the middle of another unusually mild winter here in South Dakota. It's best if we remember that extreme winters have struck in the past and will again. The short-sighted (and rather stupid) people who ran out of food during the ONE day blizzard we had a few weeks ago would do well to learn from their experience.