2019 JAN FEB DOWN COUNTRY ROADS MAGAZINE DCR Jan.Feb.2019 web - Page 28

Right, Margaret Blundell took snapshots of her family’s west- ern Nebraska farm following the first week of blizzard weather in 1949. She marked the location of their home stovepipes that stand above the drift that covered their house. The wind charger atop the wooden tower failed the first night of the storm. [Photo­cour- tesy­ of­ Connie­ Thornton,­ Rapid City] About 20 miles southeast of Chadron, Neb., after several days of digging, the family of Joseph R. and Margaret Blundell finally uncovered the entrance to their basement-style farm house. [Photo­courtesy­of­Con- nie­Thornton,­Rapid­City] engine­and­whirling­blades­provided­unexpected­entertainment for­the­Spargurs.­Jerry­remembers­how­he­and­his­brothers would­stand­in­or­near­the­plume­of­plowed­snow­during­the few­sunny­days­after­the­first­storm. The­Spargurs’­Model­A­Ford­sedan­remained­mostly­unused. Irvin,­a­feldspar­miner,­built­a­V-plow­out­of­planks.­­ “My­dad­would­hook­that­thing­up­and­go­all­over­town,” with­the­team­of­Pet­and­Bess­providing­live­horsepower­for­the necessary­ invention.­ Jerry­ concludes,­ “People­ helped­ other people.­We­all­lived­through­it.” The­18,000­residents­of­the­Pine­Ridge­and­Rosebud­Indian reservations­were­especially­hard­hit.­Many­roads­were­not opened­for­six­weeks.­Food­and­fuel­ran­low.­Schools­became the­focal­point­for­relief­efforts­in­addition­to­serving­as­warm- ing­places­and­bunkhouses­for­snow-removal­crews.­A­note­in Pine­Ridge­records­illustrates­the­difficulties­for­Native­peo- ple­in­nearby­towns­like­Gordon,­Neb.,­where,­“There­are­24 tents…­each­family­was­given­a­bushel­of­coal­and­a­[railroad] tie.” While­the­residents­suffered­through­weeks­and­then­months of­winter,­the­rest­of­the­nation­and­others­around­the­world followed­events,­mostly­through­newspapers.­Farm­wife­Mar- garet­Blundell­of­rural­Chadron,­Neb.,­was­one­of­several­bliz- zard­correspondents­who­kept­the­perspective­local. Excerpts­from­her­Feb.­5,­1949,­story­in­the­Lincoln­(Neb.) Star:­“We’ve­just­been­dug­out.­Three­bulldozers­reached­us late­Friday­afternoon…­It­had­been­five­weeks­since­I’d­been to­town…­We­didn’t­run­out­of­food.­We­had­lots­of­canned stuff…­There­was­one­consolation­—­most­of­our­neighbors 28 DOWN COUNTRY ROADS were­snowed­in,­too,­and­we­did­a­lot­of­talking­on­the­tele- phone.” Margaret,­her­husband,­Joe­R.,­and­six­other­family­mem- bers­became­trapped­in­their­basement-style­farmhouse­the­first night­of­the­storm.­Their­wind­charger­broke­and­they­were­un- able­to­dig­out­any­of­the­ground-level­windows­for­four­days. A­herd­of­100­cows­survived­the­first­blast­of­the­blizzard,­but showed­signs­of­distress­after­enduring­a­week­without­food­or water. After­her­storm­account­was­published­and­circulated­widely by­wire­services,­several­strangers­wrote­to­Margaret­from­as far­away­as­North­Carolina,­asking­for­copies­of­pictures­she had­taken­once­recovery­was­under­way. In­1949,­forecasters­at­the­Rapid­City­Weather­Bureau­did- n’t­miss­the­arrival­of­the­storms,­but­their­equipment­and­pro- cedures­limited­the­precision­of­their­work­and­ability­to­notify the­public.­The­storm­also­left­them­stranded­at­their­Rapid­City Airport­office.­Seventy­years­later,­weathermen­like­the­late Fred­McNally­and­Ed­Zion­and­their­colleagues­might­use­the word­ “magic”­ to­ describe­ the­ capabilities­ of­ the­ National Weather­Service. The­regional­office­sits­atop­Signal­Hill­in­central­Rapid City,­not­far­from­the­School­of­Mines­and­Technology­campus where­several­of­the­23­staff­members­have­earned­degrees­in atmospheric­sciences.­The­forecasters­and­scientists­all­have college­educations,­nearly­half­at­the­master’s­degree­level­and two­with­doctorates.­Their­area­of­responsibility­includes­16 counties­ in­ western­ South­ Dakota­ plus­ three­ in­ eastern Wyoming.