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November 22: A Rough Winter

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Severe winter weather is no big surprise in North Dakota. The state can typically expect 50 days per year with below zero temperatures. The record low, in 1936, was -60 degrees.

The state can also expect plenty of snow, with an average snowfall of 26-38 inches. The 1966 blizzard dropped over thirty inches in just three days, with high winds blowing the snow into drifts 20 feet high.

In 1930, November was holding up North Dakota’s reputation for severe winter weather. Snow and cold were predicted for much of the month. Travelers were warned to be cautious. Some failed to heed the warning. On this date in 1930, more than 40 people were relieved that their winter ordeal was over. They had to abandon their cars when snow made the roads impassable. By ones and twos, they set out on foot to look for shelter. They found a flimsy tarpaper shack that grew more and more crowded as stranded travelers continued to arrive. The little shelter became so crowded that there was no room to lie down to sleep. Women and children were given priority, with the men crouched along the walls wherever they found a little room.

Several of the men decided to go for help. They set out early the next morning and hiked through the snow to Bismarck. The county commissioners immediately ordered a snowplow to hurry to the rescue, but the large snowdrifts slowed progress. As the rescue party made its way, it passed about 60 abandoned vehicles.

It was late in the afternoon before they arrived at the shelter. The Red Cross had been notified and stood ready to provide assistance, but it wasn’t needed as the stranded travelers were transported to safety.

Winter took a quick hold across the northern tier of states in 1930. Just a week before, 50 travelers were stranded in Glacier National Park. A week later, a South Dakota man died 10 miles from Fargo when he was stranded. He was only a quarter of a mile from reaching help.

The winter of 1930-31 definitely got off to a rough start.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher


  • Bismarck Tribune. “40 Motorists, Marooned by Storm, Freed Friday.” Bismarck ND. 11/22/1930. Page 2.
  • Bismarck Tribune. “Temperature Rise for North Dakota Forecast for Tonight.” Bismarck ND. 11/15/1930. Page 1.
  • Bismarck Tribune. “Exposure Fatal to South Dakotan Ten Miles from Fargo.” Bismarck ND. 11/29/1930. Page 1.
  • Only in Your State. “North Dakota’s Largest Single Snowfall.” https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/north-dakota/largest-snowfall-nd/ Accessed 10/26/22.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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