Blizzards from Dakota Datebook
By MERRY HELM
February 5, 2018 — It was on this date in 1949 that the North Dakota Air National Guard was called up to drop feed for stranded starving animals in the western part of the state, where a storm had dumped 16 inches on top of the 14 that were already on the ground.
In terms of duration, the worst blizzard on record blasted the entire upper plains March 2-5, 1966. In Bismarck, visibility was zero for 42 consecutive hours, and a new record for single storm snowfall was set at 22.4 inches.
The most deadly blizzard in North Dakota’s modern history hit on March 15, 1941, killing 79 people—39 in North Dakota, 32 in Minnesota, and eight in Canada. Hitting on a Saturday night, the storm caught many travelers by surprise. Winds gusted to 85 miles per hour at Grand Forks, and snowdrifts reached 12 feet in north central Minnesota.
The term “blizzard” was used for the first time in 1870 by an Iowa newspaper, the Estherville Vindicator, to describe a severe snowstorm that hit Minnesota and Iowa. Early settlers were particularly vulnerable to these storms.