© 2024
Prairie Public NewsRoom
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

February 28: Severe Weather

Ways To Subscribe

North Dakota is located in the center of North America and experiences what is called a continental climate. One feature of this climate is the unpredictable weather patterns.

A cold Alberta clipper can occur in early spring or late autumn. Hot summer weather can turn up as early as May or as late as October. North Dakota is far enough north to experience -60 degree temperatures in the winter, but far enough south for temperatures in the high 90s during the summer. In some winters, North Dakota has to endure the polar vortex that sends frigid Arctic air over the state for extended periods, while other winters are notably mild.

In the early part of the twentieth century, this reputation for extreme weather was seen as discouraging for development in the state. Stories of frigid winters were blamed for deterring people from relocating to North Dakota.

On this date in 1907, the Williston Graphic applauded the newly formed Northwestern North Dakota Federation. The purpose of the group was to counter reports of severe weather that led to deaths by freezing. These reports had been broadcast across the country, gaining national attention.

Members of the federation acknowledged that the recent winter was unusually severe, but most of the reports of death by freezing were false and gave people the wrong impression of North Dakota. In several cases, people who were supposedly frozen to death were found to be very much alive. While acknowledging the severity of North Dakota winters, the newspaper noted, “The purpose of the organization is an excellent one and every citizen of North Dakota who has the welfare of the state at heart, should assist in running these fish stories to earth.”

The National Weather Service has been tracking storms since 1890. Many winter storms have plunged temperatures into the frigid range, dumped large amounts of snow, and resulted in massive damage as well as loss of life. While reports of the North Dakota winter of 1906-1907 may have been exaggerated, the state turns up several times on a list of the most devastating winter storms. The state’s winter reputation is not, however, one sided. One travel site describes North Dakota winter as a “wonderland with light snowfalls throughout the season.”

 Dakota Datebook by Dr. 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.

Related Content