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December 26, 2016

North Dakota: The Historic Blizzard of March 1966

One of the most severe blizzards on record to impact the Northern Plains occurred 50 years ago between March 2-5 of 1966. The blizzard was particularly memorable for its long duration, as well as for its very heavy snowfall totals of 20 to 30 inches in some locations and wind gusts exceeding 70 mph at times. Snowfall totals reached as high as 38 inches, with drifts 30 to 40 feet high in some locations.

News accounts vary... but at least 18 reported deaths occurred across the Great Plains states due to the blizzard. At least nine people were killed across North Dakota (5) and Minnesota (4), and at least another 6 (possibly more) people died in South Dakota. A few of the fatalities were from overexertion from shoveling snow, while other deaths occurred as a result of becoming disoriented while out in the treacherous blizzard conditions. In addition, tens of thousands of livestock perished in the storm.

Transportation became impossible, with schools and businesses shut down across the area, and power and telephone service outages which lasted for many days.

The iconic photo of North Dakota DOT employee, Bill Koch (above), standing next to a set of power lines, was taken by fellow ND DOT employee Ernest Feland on 9 March 1966. This photo and many others which were taken by Bill and Ernest in the days following the storm are available in the North Dakota State Historical Society and NOAA/NWS archives.

(via National Weather Service)



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