Worst Blizzard on Record

Creates Many Emergencies

March 10, 1966 - Emergencies by the score faced Foster County and most of North Dakota this week as result of one of the worst storms of recorded history, which held the area in its grip last Thursday and Friday, causing tragedy, heavy property loss, desolation, deep snow drifts, and paralysis of traffic.

Throughout the county and elsewhere people were literally digging out of the snow drifts, beginning early Saturday, and continuing through this week. The storm had caused virtual standstill to any activity except attending to the home chores, for few people ventured out in the storm which combined heavy snowfall with a high-velocity northeast wind.

As far as can be ascertained there was no loss of human life in Foster County, although there were some close calls. A Woodworth girl, Betty Deede, age 13, lost her life when she failed to return to the house after going to the chicken house to close a door, and little Carleen Welk, age six, of Strasburg died when she wandered away in the blinding snowstorm after having followed her brothers out of doors. Two men in the state also died from exposure, to the fury of the March gale.

Loss of livestock was quite heavy in Foster County, but accurate count was impossible because many of the dead cattle were believed covered by the deep drifts. Distress was being felt on the farms this week as farmers tried to get the snow away from buried silage and hay stacks to feed their cattle.

The office of City Auditor Wallace Emerson, who is also Civil Defense director in Foster County, became the clearing house for calls for help in town and elsewhere. As the calls came in, members of the National Guard, in crews of eight to 13, assisted by firemen and other volunteers answered by performing acts of mercy and assistance. During the storm they helped to bring medicines to the hospital and senior citizens homes, they assisted Knott Funeral home personnel in their duties, they helped bring Dr. H. A. Fandrich to the Ben Will home, at the height of the storm, where Mrs. Will was seriously ill.

Early Saturday all of the relief agencies were on the job, getting messages from families which needed fuel oil, groceries, medical attention, medicines, and relief for marooned livestock. The city auditor's office was open day and night from the storm days on through this week, and the telephone was managed continuously to fissure the best communication possible.

The snowfall, which began here late Wednesday and continued until early Saturday, dumped a total of 19 inches of new snow on the Carrington area. Accompanying the snowfall was a brisk northeast wind which whipped up gales to 50 and 60 miles per hour. Some freakish work was done by the wind, in piling the snow high inside sheltered areas. Much of the distress on farms with livestock came when the snow blew in under shelters, packing in, and closing up doors. Many farmers had to work during the storm to keep the shelters open enough to keep their animals from suffocating. Cattle in feedlot pens stamped around in the new snow, helping to pack it, until the piles of snow were higher than the fences, and the cattle roamed out. Losses were counted among some of these animals. Many cattle died of suffocation because of their mouths and nostrils filling up with ice. Many of the cattle were exhausted by being driven by the strong wind.

In attempting to learn of the numbers of cattle lost on individual farms, the Independent was informed the exact count could not be made because some of the cattle were thought to be buried under deep snow. A relatively heavy loss was recorded at the Robert Montgomery farm, where a number of cattle left their feedlot pens when the snow piled high. Guardsmen and firemen were there Sunday to assist in checking the losses, and in bringing feed to the hungry animals. Their estimates on the loss were from 15 head up. An undetermined number, 12 or more, died at the Lloyd Butts farm where some of the cattle also left the feedlot pens. Carlton Larson of rural Sykeston, reported losses of seven or more.

Marvin Johnson of north of McHenry reportedly lost 97 hogs and a heifer. Warner Neuman of south of Carrington lost about 12 head of cattle and some sheep. Leonard Geske, Edmunds, reported six cattle dead and some missing. At the Warren Willyard farm, Melville, about 50 sheep perished when a roof collapsed. Lester Lien of Heaton lost over 90 sheep which were trapped in a pen. Chester Meier of near Cathay reported a bull was injured when a barn roof collapsed. Two cattle were reported lost on the Raymond Klein farm, Carrington.

Joe E. Carr of rural Bordulac reported eight to nine head of cattle lost, and James Seitz, also of Bordulac said his losses total about 10 head. Avolt Greger, Carrington, lost some cattle but he was unable to state how many as he was sure some were buried under the snow. Jack Garrett was missing two cows, deciding they must be under the snow banks.

Rescue Services Active

During, After Blizzard

March 17, 1966 - (By Wallace Emerson, Director, Foster County Civil Defense)

The snows of the blizzard of March 3 and 4, are quickly melting to history as a cosmically proper sun tracks higher and higher in an aloof sky, but the final audit of the privatin and ravage of wind, snow and cold had not yet been taken nor the last testimonial of individual experiences recorded.

The need of rescue services may have seemed ludicrous to you if you were sitting in your home, when the storm struck with a comfortable supply of fuel and groceries and you had just refilled a prescription you needed. Or if you lived on the farm and your livestock had adequate shelter and a supply of feed and water that wasn't in jeopardy. Yet in spite of excellent dissemination of the storm warning by the media of communication there was a descending suddenness about the storm that precluded total preparation. The heavy snow and driving wind trapped people on the highways and railways. Farm and village and city became snowbound.

In Foster County, when the storm had subsided on the morning of March 5, distress calls began to arrive at various departments of city and county and state services. An emergency operations center was set up in the office of the city auditor in the Carrington armory and radio station KDAK announced that all emergency calls be directed to this center. State and county plows began to open the roads in the dark of early morning.

Among the first to be aided in the city were some of the fuel oil dealers. In cases where they couldn't get to their equipment or supply, pay-loaders were employed to dig them out so that they could take fuel to homes that needed it. National Guardsmen had been assembled and a squad of them using shovels and a 3/4-ton four-wheel drive truck began delivering emergency needs to farm and city homes. Calls from the country from farmers that couldn't get to their feed supply or to their equipment to help themselves dig out of the snow began to fill the log.

A telephone call to Lt. Col. G. W. Gagnon, state disaster director, indicated that there were only 34 pieces of National Guard equipment available to the 52 counties in the state and that Foster County had been assigned one "cat" for their assistance, the Foster County Commissioners authorized the hiring of two additional cats from private contractors. One of these was directed by county commissioner Inar Wold of Grace City in the eastern part of the county and other two were directed out of Carrington. Funds of the Foster County Chapter of the American Red Cross furnished shovels, chains and needed small supplies.

Guard units helped farmers round up livestock that had been driven by the storm. They carried range cubes to others that had been isolated by snow. Shovel crews, moving ahead of fuel oil trucks, delivered fuel to snowbound farms. Drifts were so high that cattle were walking over fence lines and straying. Shovel crews helped farmers remove snow from barn roofs that were threatened by the weight of the snow. The heavy (20% moisture) snow had collapsed roofs of other buildings. Air holes in the snow located sheep that were buried beneath. In many cases they were dug out, shook off, and released to run to food and water.

A reconnaissance truck moved ahead of the "cat" lo visually determine the farmers' need and his subsequent position on the emergency list.

County Agent Duaine Dodds, in a preliminary survey, estimated 200 head of cattle, 200 head of sheep, and 100 head of hogs were lost in Foster County during and following the storm.

It takes many services to facilitate rescue and restore order following a bad storm. Both city and county can appreciate the long hours put in by county and state road crews, electric and telephone linemen, National Guardsmen, firemen and police, street department personnel, the Red Cross and the government officials of state, city and county, to name but a few.

Source:  Glenfield History 1886 – 1987 Page 95

 

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