Some storms leave a lasting impression. That was the case for one South Dakotan who, even as an elderly woman in 1960, could recall vivid images of a raging blizzard in1888.
Hi. I'm Dave Thurlow and this is the Weather Notebook. Correspondent Curt Nickish recently discovered an archived interview with one of the 1888 storm survivors. He files this report.
The most famous blizzard in Great Plains history hit on January 12th, 1888. "It was a mild morning, and then it began snowing very heavily."
Lena Tetzlaff was twelve years old that day.
"And blowing, until it was impossible to see more than about six to ten feet ahead of you. And kept it up all day and all night."
Tetzlaff remembers the storm in the 1960 recording made when she was 85. She survived the storm in her parents' home on a farm in what is now northeastern South Dakota She recalls that within hours, the temperature dropped from seventy-four degrees to minus forty. The storm was named the "Schoolchildren's Blizzard," because many children were caught in one-room schoolhouses, including Tetzlaff's classmates.
"Two men tied a rope to the last house and went in the direction where the schoolhouse stood. And when they got to that place they tied it to the railing and made each child take a hold of the rope and walk down to the end of the rope, where parents came and took the children on home."
Tetzlaff's seventeen-year-old cousin George was among the unlucky when he froze to death returning from town on horseback. All told, two hundred people and tens of thousands of cattle died in the blizzard that stretched from Canada to Texas, freezing the ice of the Colorado River to a foot thick.. The SchoolHouse Blizzard was one of the most devastating to hit the heartland, stirring sharp memories for at least one survivor,Lena Tetzlaff, even after 72 years had passed.
Thanks today to correspondent Curt Nickish of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. And Thanks to Subaru of America and the National Science Foundation for providing their generous support of the Weather Notebook. Check us out on the web at www.weathernotebook.org.