Snowstorms & Blizzards!

Aftermath of the great North Dakota Blizzard of 1966

So, it turns out that we do get snow this winter.

Until that snowy first weekend of February, things were looking pretty bleak for winter snowpack. We needed snow, though it was a nasty surprise to get up on Sunday, February 7, with a foot of snow. We’d had snow the day before and we got things cleared and then had to start all over again on Sunday.

I took it easy that morning, having a better plan. I’d crank up my snowblower, which usually gets used about once a year, and move the snow without the big workout. 

I had it gassed up and ready to go, but the machine didn’t get the memo, and for the first time in the 30+ years I’ve had it, it refused to start. So, it was back to Plan A, and shoveling, with that Kenny Rogers tune, “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille, “ running through my head.

Not too much snow for Kiri, our black Lab, to want to play ball.

The biggest snowfall we’ve had during the 32 years we’ve lived here in Butte was the Christmas Eve of 1996 snowstorm that dropped an official 16 inches, though it seemed more like two feet.

When it comes to heavy snow, I vividly remember a storm that hit southern Iowa in December 1961. We were living in Des Moines for three months while I was going through a new employee training course with the Social Security Administration. I drove to work on a Friday morning at the end of that three-month period. It started snowing in the morning and it snowed all day. There was even thunder and lightning during the storm. At the end of the work day I tried to drive out of the parking lot and promptly got stuck. I gave up on that and started walking towards home. Luckily, somebody picked me up and gave me a ride. 

It stopped snowing by morning and my wife and I walked several miles to downtown. I was able to buy a snow shovel in a pet store, of all places, and found our car where I’d left it, with snowdrifts just about up to the level of the hood. It took a couple hours, but we shoveled a path out to the street. Then we went to a tire store and got a set of chains so I’d be able to drive into our apartment house, three blocks off from the nearest through street, with the U-Haul trailer we’d rented for our upcoming move to Fargo, North Dakota.

We spent the weekend packing and on Monday, Christmas Day, we ate a can of chicken noodle soup, right out of the pot, for our first Christmas Day dinner together, then got in the car to leave town. Six blocks later, I took the chains off and never used them again.

The biggest storm we’ve experienced was in March 1966, when a monster blizzard hit North Dakota. I was on crutches at the time, having fractured an ankle on my first try at downhill skiing a few weeks earlier. On a Wednesday, it started snowing. Co-workers gave me a ride home after work, promising they’d pick me up the next morning. The next morning, the snow was knee deep and nothing was moving. Then the wind started blowing, and for several days we could barely see across the street. 

Strange things happen in blizzards. Our landlord had a basement apartment in the house we rented and his son, who lived in California, was visiting, and parked his new Ford Mustang in the driveway. He’d grown up in Fargo and was there for a reunion with old high school friends, and while the winds howled, he stood by the back door looking out, muttering, “I’m never coming back here again.”

On Sunday, the winds subsided and people started digging out. As for that Mustang, the wind had blown the driveway clear, but the engine compartment was packed solid with wind-blown snow. 

That wasn’t bad. At married student housing at North Dakota State University on the northwest edge of town, drifts were up to the rooftops. 

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