Friday Flashback: The Blizzards of ’49 in Nebraska

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Friday Flashback: The Blizzards of ’49 in Nebraska

If you live in the Midwest, did you survive the blizzard this week?  Actually while we were out Tuesday morning/afternoon, by the time that the road conditions were blustery and dangerous later on in the day, we were snuggled in safe at home .  Our limited amount of snow was nothing compared to the foot of snow our cousins in Kansas received.  Snow certainly can beautiful – seeing snowflakes fluttering down on our way home tonight was lovely.  But I am pretty certain that the Midwesterners who lived through the winter of 1948 to 1949 did not feel that way about snow.  Evidently if you lived through season, you had something to be proud about!  Snowstorm after snowstorm pounded the area.

According to articles found at Nebraskahistory.org, the snow started in December and really was never fully cleared until April.  Not that the snow fell perpetually during that time span, but the snow came often and came in many inches at a time.  The snow would freeze and become impossible to clear. At one point, even dynamite was used to try to clear roads.  The hardest part: people were stuck without food and supplies.  Rough on people, rough on livestock.  Airlifts began to try to help those stranded survive.

File:Airplane making a mail delivery - NARA - 285334.jpg

This is a picture from Wikimedia Commons of one of the planes used to help the Midwest during that very long winter!

Getting supplies was definitely a challenge.  They would try to get  supplies to different towns via railcarts even.  And I have a feeling that sleighs were suddenly popular again – that is if parts of the ground were frozen enough for horses to safely travel across.  Knowing what to do with all of the snow also created difficulties.   At one point, people began to run out of room to even put the snow if they attempted to clear sidewalks.  So, they just walked over drifts -that became their “new” normal.  A total of 90″ fell that winter, resulting in some drifts being as high as 25-30 FEET!
Once you completed this winter, you could definitely call yourself a survivor!

My parents were both born in ’48.  Obviously as infants, they do not personally recall the experience.  My Dad does not remember his parents mentioning that time at all.  He does recall getting more snow up in Northeast Nebraska, but they lived in town, so they would simply just stay home and wait to be plowed out. Having been snowed in once without electricity on my grandparents farm I can verify that being stuck on a farm is definitely different than getting snow in the city where you are plowed out within a day or two.

My Mom’s family did have a different experience that winter.  As central Nebraska farmers, this storm affected their livelihood.  They had livestock to take care of, so staying inside did not happen, especially for my Grandpa.  But, my Mom remembers that my Grandma mentioned that they did not go beyond their farm for months.  That had to have been challenging with a newborn!  (My Mom said their family album has pages chronicling the event – at some point, maybe I will have to have a “Friday Photography” post on this.)

Evidently the January storm affected my Grandpa’s cousin’s family even more directly.  Cousin Rae gave birth to a healthy boy, but then was stuck in the town hospital for an extra week or two since no one could come and get her.  Having another child at home and a farm to help with, she begged her husband to come and get her.  They stocked up on groceries and started on the trek home.  They almost made it before getting stuck.  Thankfully, they were stopped by my Grandpa’s farm – he towed them with a tractor across the fields to their house.  I am sure the sight of home had never filled them with more gratitude.

If you would like to read more personal reactions to the Blizzard of ’49, here are several excellent links.  Snowbound is a 59 page article complete with pictures and narratives chronicling those who lived through this white time!  You can also read a shorter  version of the article to get some of the details if you have less time.

Enjoy watching history instead?  On a recent, “Nebraska Stories” episode, they had a segment on the blizzard of ’49.  A few people give first hand accounts of living through the experience.  You can watch the segment by going to this site.  “Nebraska Stories” always does a great job of introducing Nebraska people and history!  They actually have a brand new episode coming out on Sunday – I will be previewing the show tomorrow on the blog!  Stay warm!

By | 2017-06-17T16:42:11+00:00 February 7th, 2014|Metro, Nebraska History, Region or City|0 Comments

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