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Blizzard of 1984

Every part of the country has its own types of natural disasters. In the south they get hurricanes, in the west earthquakes, and here in the north we get blizzards that have miles of flat plains to blow through.

One memorable storm is the blizzard of 1984 which swept across the Great Plains with 60 mile-per-hour winds. It hit Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and of course, North Dakota. The cold air even went as far south as Texas.

A New York Times article from this date that year described the situation. In one 50 mile stretch, the storm had stranded about 800 motorists along Interstate 90. A Minnesota State Patrol spokesperson said, “I'd say it's the worst storm so far this year, due to the fact that it came upon us so fast.” This is why many motorists were stranded – they were caught off guard.

The temperature dropped to -16 degrees, and while the National Guard worked tirelessly to rescue people, 23 still died. Four of those deaths happened on 19th Avenue North in Fargo, where they became stranded in a snow-clogged underpass. Running they car to keep warm, they succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning as the car’s exhaust became blocked by the snow.

Their deaths have served as a long-lasting lesson. Ben Dow, the current Fargo Public Works director said in a recent article that the city has completely changed its protocol. Now they don’t hesitate to close roads, and they will have crews periodically check those roads. Mark Williams, manager of Public Works Services, also said they will make sure to run snowplows through roads before they close them to ensure there’s no one already stranded. To close roads, the city has installed snow gates at several vulnerable locations. The city is also using snow screens to lessen the amount of snow reaching those roadways.

Throughout North Dakota, such safety measures have made our blizzards much less deadly.

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas




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