When the storm hit, it caught so many settlers by surprise that between 250 and 500 people died that weekend, according to estimates by newspaper editors in Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and the Dakota Territory...I first learned about this event about ten years ago when I read David Laskin's The Children's Blizzard. It is a compelling, if sometimes unsettling, read.
Carl Saltee, in Fortier, Minn., remembered that “A dark and heavy wall builded up around the northwest coming fast, coming like those hevy [sic] thunderstorms, like a shot. In a few moments, we had the severest snowstorm I ever saw in my life with a terrible hard wind, like a hurrycane [sic], snow so thick we could not see more than 3 steps from the door at times.”
This was not a storm of drifting lace snowflakes, but of flash-frozen droplets firing sideways from the sky, an onslaught of speeding ice needles moving at more than 60 miles per hour. Even without the whiteout conditions — climate experts call this zero/zero visibility — many people couldn’t see because the microscopic bits of ice literally froze their eyes shut...
Schoolchildren, many of whom had left for school without coats, hats and mittens — the better to bask in the comparative warmth of a January thaw — were overcome by the blizzard. In many places, the storm made its debut just as students were walking back home from school. The air was not only filled with blowing ice, but temperatures plummeted to frightening lows. By the afternoon in Moorhead, it was 47 degrees below zero...
15 January 2017
The "Children's Blizzard" of 1888