Thanksgiving Blizzard of 1896
Blizzards are a bookmark in history for many North Dakotans. There’s the blizzard of 1920 that claimed the life of Hazel Miner near Center. She gave her life to shield and warm her two siblings from the cold. There’s the March blizzard of ’66, and then Blizzard Hannah, which preceded the Red River flood of ‘97. That one is comparable to BC and AD for Grand Forks residents – a true marker in time.
Passed from living memory is the Thanksgiving Day blizzard of 1896, which struck northern Minnesota and eastern North Dakota on this date in 1896. In Jamestown, the drifts reached fifteen feet high in streets and alleys. One drift east of town was more than 20 feet deep and needed a rotary plow from Fargo to clear it.
One man died in Fargo. Another went missing there. Another man died at Devils Lake. Six people died in Grand Forks, where it took five days for the railroad to resume operations. One woman in Grand Forks remembered her father tying her to the porch as a child so she could play in the snowdrifts. The storm also forced wedding guests in Northwood to stay put as transportation ground to a halt.
“It was fine as flour, that snow,” said one Carrington settler stranded at a hotel. “It would form a crust over your eyes in minutes.”
Deeply cold temperatures hit the region. At the Pokegama Dam near Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the temperature dropped to 45 below.
The Thanksgiving Day blizzard blew for three days and was a factor in the Red River flood of 1897, which hit a record high crest that stood until 2009.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura
Foster County History Book Committee. (1983). A history of Foster County, North Dakota.
Grand Forks Centennial Corporation. (1974). They came to stay: Grand Forks, North Dakota centennial 1874-1974. Jet Printing, Inc: Grand Forks, ND
Northwood Centennial Book Committee. (1984). A century of progress 1884-1984, Northwood, North Dakota.