BLIZZARDS OF 1888

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Two massive and killing blizzards struck the US in 1888, the first in January.

Blizzard Jan 1888 3

The first of the two blizzards is often called the Children’s Blizzard because it struck Nebraska after sunrise January 12. The children went to school in 50° weather, so they wore lightweight winter clothes. The storm struck with a combination of below zero temps (as low as -40, a 90° drop) and winds over sixty miles an hour. Hundreds of people froze and hundreds more suffered frostbite.

Conditions were even worse in the Dakotas. When the front crossed out of Canada it was moving at 100 miles per hour; not wind speed, but front speed. They were spared the worst because it blew through at night and most were able to survive. Not so in Nebraska.

Charcoal and pencil drawing titled "Minnie Leading the Children" by Omaha artist Watie White for the original oratorio "Blizzard Voices" to be performed with Ted Kooser at the Holland Performing Arts Center in 2008. The oratorio includes poems from 12 finalists about the 1888 blizzard and other notable weather events. 12_Blizzard1888
Charcoal and pencil drawing titled “Minnie Leading the Children” by Omaha artist Watie White for the original oratorio “Blizzard Voices”

Blizzard Jan 1888 2

 

Blizzard Jan 1888 clearing the tracks     Trains were halted as far south as Indian Territory (Oklahoma).

Blizzard Jan 1888 4

Blizzard Jan 1888

The storm killed most of the remaining cattle in the northern plains, many having already died in the 1886 blizzard and the 1887 drought. The Blizzard of ’88 finally put an end to the open range system everywhere but Texas, as cattlemen put up fences and mowed hay to store for winter feeding. Modern cowboys spend their time mending fences and putting up hay.

The 1888 Blizzard Club "In All It's Fury" Members of the Blizzard of 1888 pose at a historical marker in Valley County in 1967. From left, State Sen. H.C. Crandall of Curtis, Horace M. Davis of Lincoln, Oliver Bell (of Minnie Freeman's school), H. Greeley, Besse Davis, Ora Clement and Leslie Markel. 12_Blizzard1888
The 1888 Blizzard Club
“In All It’s Fury”
Members of the Blizzard of 1888 pose at a historical marker in Valley County in 1967. From left, State Sen. H.C. Crandall of Curtis, Horace M. Davis of Lincoln, Oliver Bell (of Minnie Freeman’s school), H. Greeley, Besse Davis, Ora Clement and Leslie Markel.

 

The other 1888 blizzard struck the Northeast March 11-14, hitting NYC the hardest with drifts as high as fifty feet. As a result of the storm, the city decided to move electrical power and the train system underground.

New York Blizzard 1888 2 New York Blizzard 1888

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