Historic snowstorms, survival, and death
I've heard many stories about the bad winter of 1948-1949 in Nebraska, when some snowdrifts reached second story windows and shed rooftops. My parents told of being snowed in for weeks at a time.
However, I am not at all familiar with the Blizzard of 1952 in South Dakota. The South Dakota Office of Emergency Management (OEM) compares that weather event to the infamous Schoolchildren's Blizzard of 1888:
Jan 1952 Blizzard -- This blizzard had many similarities to the one of 1888. The temperature dropped from 40°F to -8°F in a short period of time. The wet, driving snow clung to everything. Cattle were blinded and suffocated as snow covered their mouths and noses. Young country school children lost their way home and died of hypothermia. A few ranchers died when they tried to gather their livestock. Snow piled up to a point that people could walk along tops of REA power lines. In some isolated areas, people were snowed in for 4 months off and on throughout the winter. Planes were used to deliver mail, groceries, fuel, and feed for livestock. Snowtrack vehicles were used to transport doctors to isolated farm areas.
Source: South Dakota OEM Listing of Past Natural Hazards, Occurrences, and Disasters
We were living south of Johnstown, Nebraska, in Brown County in 1952, just 30 miles or so from the Nebraska and South Dakota state line. Surely, we had a significant snowstorm, but I've never heard any stories about it.
Just north of us in south central South Dakota, the blizzard was so intense that Mrs. Walter Hellmann wrote a little book about it: Blizzard Strikes the Rosebud, 1952, Winter of Disaster. The book is said to contain many photographs of the massive snowdrifts as well as the stories of the area residents.
An excerpt from Mrs. Hellman's book has been reprinted on a Longcor family history webpage. (Scroll down to "Ducks for Company in a Grain Bin", slightly past half-way down the page.)
The excerpt is the story of Clarence Longcor, who left home to purchase supplies at noon and was trapped on the road by the storm. He was unable to return home or to go forward, so he finally decided to follow the fences to a neighbor's house. He didn't find the house, but he came to a grain bin where he spent a very cold night with some ducks, afraid to sleep because he might freeze to death. This happened in the Millboro, South Dakota, area, just north of the Nebraska state line, northwest of Springview, Nebraska, and southwest of Colome, South Dakota.
When reading storm stories like this, one should remember that weather forecasts were not nearly as accurate 60 years ago as they are today.
"Young country school children lost their way home and died of hypothermia," the South Dakota OEM says in the storm description above. It's very sad that school children lost their lives trying to get home in a 1952 blizzard. I can't find any additional information about it, but surely the South Dakota OEM is a reputable source.
In northern Nebraska in the 1950s and 1960s, our teachers always had us bring cans of soup to keep at our country school. We were ready to wait out a blizzard at the schoolhouse if we had to do so. I didn't realize that this emergency preparedness was probably in response to the 1952 tragedy of South Dakota school children as well as the terrible loss of life in the Schoolchildren's Blizzard of 1888.
Related post: Blizzard of 1949 Stories