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March 8: In Like A Lion

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The winter of 1887-1888 marked the end of the Little Ice Age, an unbroken six year stretch that featured abnormally cold weather. The Little Ice Age seemed determined to go out with a bang. The year began with a severe blizzard that affected the Great Plains from the Canadian border to Texas. On January 12, an extremely cold storm hit. As many as 300 people died. It is still considered the worst storm in North Dakota history.

But winter wasn’t ready to call it quits. On this date in 1888, North Dakotans were digging out from yet another storm. While it wasn’t a blizzard, it caused plenty of aggravation and inconvenience. The wind was called hurricane strength, and although that may have been an exaggeration, traffic was snarled and trains were delayed.

One train arrived at a station with the glass in every window blown out. A train due at 10:30pm finally arrived in Jamestown at 9:00 the next morning. An eastbound train and a westbound train were both stuck in the snow. Crews of snow shovelers were being organized to dig the trains out.

The severe winter weather was not confined to the west. The east was also hit with a major blizzard that March. It was said to equal the January 12 storm, but the Dakotas were still more noted as for having miserable winters. One gentleman suggested avoiding the name “Dakota” for the new state, as that name was synonymous with “howling blizzards, arctic cold and winter for nine months.”

True to that reputation, winter was not yet done with the Great Plains. There was plenty of snow still to come that March. At the end of the month one newspaper noted that a late winter storm “was worthy of New York,” a reference to the eastern blizzard. It was apparent that in 1888, March not only came in like a lion; it was also going out as one.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher


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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