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Recollections from North Dakota Living readers--Blizzard '66

March ’66 blizzard – vivid memories, 50 years later
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From Ardis Ringdahl Taylor, Lisbon
As the storm hit, our electricity went out. Harve made a pen in a kitchen that still had a wood-burning stove in it. Since we had no other heat source, we, our old hired man, Henry, our 3-year-old son, Miles, a big German shepherd dog, Smoky, plus Harve and I all moved out to this kitchen.

Harve and I raised cattle. We had about 100 cows that were due to start calving the first part of March, which of course, they did. Five of the cows calved that day, and with the only heat source at that time, Have started bringing the new baby calves into the kitchen to keep them from freezing.

Also, a short time after the electricity went off, my brother, Russell Ringdahl, called and asked me if we had any heat. I said yes we did and he said, “We’ll be right down.” He had an old snowmobile which he and his wife rode down on. Their kids had been staying in Milnor because the roads had not been good for some time and they were in school.

And so my brother, his wife, our young son, the hired man, the dog, 100 baby chicks, five baby Hereford calves, Harve and I all survived the worst blizzard we had ever been in before.

From Ruth Johnson, Wilton
Thursday morning, we were unable to see anywhere so we did not go out all day. Friday morning was no better and by then Raymond was worried about some cattle in a shed off the big barn.

About 11 a.m., he said he would go out and give them some hay from the loft of the big barn. I said I'd go with him so we specifically told her two sons John, nearly 11, and Leland, 6, to stay in and we'd be back.

We dressed and left the house, going to a windmill 20 to 30 feet from the house; from there we could see the truck parked a very short distance. When we got to the truck, we could see the corral gate a short distance from the truck. We got to the corral gate and rolled under, then into the barn. He climbed up in the loft and then down some bales and we went back to the house the same way we came.

When we got into the house John said, “I was going to come out and look for you.” It just made me sick to think what could have happened if we had not come in just then.

Saturday morning, we woke to the sun shining. But everything was completely buried. We did lots of shoveling to find the pickup area on the north side of the house and a tractor a short distance completely buried.

 From Phyllis Peterson, Aneta
It was Wednesday evening and we had had a birthday party for our daughter and luckily we had put our car out of the yard to make room for party guests. If we hadn’t, we would not of had a car for a long time. We were supposed to take one of the girls attending the party with us back into Aneta when we went for Lenten services. But the storm started coming up before we left, so we didn’t go in. So, of course, the girl, Jolene, spent the three days with us at the farm.

From Diana Drees, Grand Forks
The night before the blizzard started, I went to Thompson to teach a ceramics class. When I went out to go home, which was two miles north of town, the snow was already deep, but I thought that I would try to get home. When I got to the Thompson city limits, I couldn’t see anything. I turned around and drove to a friend’s home. I reached the end of her yard, but I couldn’t even get up to the house. My car was buried and stayed there for four days.

My husband, Don, was home with our three kids, two sons who were 5 and 2 ½ and an 11-month-old baby girl. The night before it started snowing, he brought home gas for the kitchen stove, but didn’t hook it up so he couldn’t use the stove to cook on. One day, he made a hot dish by using the electric frying pan to brown the hamburger and the deep fryer to cook macaroni.

I tried to get home Saturday, but my car was buried and the roads were not plowed. Don tried to get out the back door, but there was a wall of snow. He shoveled his way out by making a tunnel, then shoveled the snow back into the house and down the stairs into the drain to melt. The boys helped him.

On Sunday, a nice man gave me a ride home. The snow in our yard was higher than the roof of our house.

From Betty Smokov, Steele
We had just moved into our new home three days before the blizzard hit. Our family included my husband, Paul, our daughters Bonnie, 11, Connie, 10, Nancy, 8, Kathy, 6, and our son, Terry, who had just turned 2 earlier that month.

The gables on the east and west ends weren’t sided yet so the wind blew the snow through every little crack and the suction that it created through the eave vents brought more snow into the attic. We were afraid the ceiling might collapse from the weight.

Paul was very concerned about the water for the cattle, but was able to give them hay and hoped they would get by with snow until he could open the water tank. The windmill wouldn’t run as the brake had automatically shut it off when the wind got too strong and the tank was filled with a mixture of snow and water, which then froze.

Paul heard some cows bellowing near the old house, but couldn’t get them to move away from the warmth of the parlor heater which was still running to keep the water pipes from freezing. By the time the storm was over, they had broken the door and were standing in the living room, as warm as you please.

When the storm let up a bit, I crawled into the attic with a big soup ladle so I could scoop the snow away from the eave over-hangs. The girls and I created an assembly line to take care of the situation. I scooped the snow into five-gallon pails. Then Bonnie or Connie stood on a ladder to reach the pails from me. They would hand them down to the next girl who would carry them to the front door and the last girl would dump the snow outside.

From JoAnne Christianson, Jamestown
 At the end of January that year, we had just moved our mobile home from Bismarck into Gaslight Trailer Village (where Newman Signs is now located), Jamestown. Due to the extremely cold weather, we hadn’t had time to completely attach the “skirting” around the bottom of the home. So, when the blizzard hit on March 3, we were unprepared for the 55-mile-an-hour winds and 12 inches of new snow. But, luckily, we had heat and kept the children off the cold floor as much as possible.

 By the end of the three days, some of the drifts were higher than the tops of the mobile homes. One popular song during that time was “These Boots Were Made for Walking” by Nancy Sinatra, which we listened to on the radio. The radio stations, KSJB and KQDJ, kept their listeners informed of the weather, as much as they could. Gordie, my husband, had just taken the job of city assessor. He managed to go out every day of those three days of blizzard to check on our neighbors. n