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July 12: Burning Under a Torrid Sun

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1930 was not kind to North Dakota when it came to the weather. The winter of 1929-1930 was described as long and hard. As of April, it was reported that North Dakota cattle still showed the effects of severe weather. Yard feeding continued as ranchers worked to put weight on their herds. Even when winter was not inflicting snow or sleet on the state, North Dakota suffered with temperatures that plunged to 30 and 40 below zero.

The weather began to ease in February and it began to feel like spring might make an early appearance, but it was way too early, and reality returned with a bout of snow and subzero temperatures. Summer seemed far away as North Dakotans longed for warmer weather.

Warm weather finally made an appearance, but it turned out to be too much of a good thing. Before long, the state was suffering under an unrelenting sun. By the beginning of July, the temperature hovered in the high nineties. Hettinger and Beach both reported a temperature of 101 degrees.

Temperatures in the high 90s were common throughout the state. On one occasion, Pembina had the lowest high temperature at ninety degrees! Livestock and crops suffered from the heat and the lack of rain. Several deaths across the Great Plains were blamed on the extreme heat. Swimming pools and soda fountains were popular destinations.

Newspapers assured North Dakotans that relief from the heat would arrive in July. Indeed, on this date in 1930 the Bismarck Tribune reported that relief was at hand. People cheerfully pulled up the covers to sleep at night and a cool breeze from the east made for a comfortable and pleasant summer day.

North Dakotans breathed a bit easier, but the damage was done. Farmers and ranchers anxiously scanned the skies for signs of rain that didn’t come. The excessive heat had already caused extensive damage to agriculture in the state. It was the beginning of the Dust Bowl. Three words became the mantra of North Dakota farmers and ranchers: “if it rains.”

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


  • Bismarck Tribune. “Long Hard Winter Effects Are Seen in Herd Leaness.” Bismarck ND. 4/17/1930. Page 1.
  • Bismarck Tribune. “Missouri Slope Cheered by Cooler Weather.” Bismarck ND. 7/12/1930. Page 1.
  • Bismarck Tribune. “King Winter Looses Sleet Scourge Over Vast Plains Region.” Bismarck ND. 1/8/1930. Page 1.
  • Bismarck Tribune. “Relief from Heat Promised.” Bismarck ND. 7/9/1930. Page 1.
  • Bismarck Tribune. “Dry, Hot Wave Brings Spotted Conditions into Harvest Outlook.” Bismarck ND. 7/16/1930. Page 2.

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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