Credit: Underwood Archives/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Historical Insights The Blizzard of 1948–1949

In the midst of the blizzard, travel by rail came to a screeching halt—the snow buried miles of train tracks and left passengers stranded. USA. Credit: Underwood Archives/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The Blizzard of 1948–1949

In the mid-1900s a blizzard punished the Great Plains with record temperatures and snowfall that didn’t melt until June.

Though a warm fall produced a bountiful harvest in the Great Plains, by November 1948 winter had suddenly set in. Temperatures dipped below zero and storm clouds filled the skies across Nebraska, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. On the 18th, 70-mile-per-hour winds rattled farmhouse windows as heavy snow began to fall, blanketing fields with up to 24 inches. Snowdrifts 30 feet high and more than 100 feet long buried livestock, houses, and entire towns, and cut power and all routes of transportation. Though radio and newspapers warned residents of incoming storms, no one was prepared for its magnitude. Storms continued to cripple the region through February as seasoned residents hunkered down. But as supplies dwindled and families ran out of fuel and food, aid workers got creative. Through Operation Snowbound, relief workers teamed up with the U.S. Air Force to drop groceries and hay to homesteads in need. The spring brought sun, but not before the Blizzard of ’49 buried many regions with more than 100 inches of snow.