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A Hot One for North Dakota

7/6/2006:

North Dakota was in the midst of the Great Depression when on this day in 1936, temperatures reached a record 121 degrees in the small town of Steele. That day was just one of twelve straight blistering days for the drought-stricken area. That week, crops and gardens dried out, poultry and livestock died in the extreme temperatures, and a prairie fire broke out the day before this record-setting day.

The fire, started by a spark from a freight train, was only fueled by the high winds and the scorched grass of that dry, hot week. The fire ravaged a large part of the country just west of Steele, devouring valuable stacks of hay and pastureland for cattle. It would take years, reported the Steele Ozone, for those lands to recover, thus hurting cattle operations even more.

Around that same time, the government was beginning to implement drought relief plans for the state of North Dakota. On that same day, in fact, the Work Progress Administration established an office in Bismarck to aide farmers in their struggles during the drought. William Langer wired President Roosevelt just two days after the scorching day asking for federal relief for North Dakota, and on July 16th, a four point program to offer immediate aide to North Dakota farmers was announced.

The summer months, however, were not the only difficult times for North Dakotans. The hottest day in North Dakota was preceded only five months earlier by the coldest recorded temperatures. On February 15, 1936, the residents of Parshall endured a record low of -60 degrees. 1936 was a year that did indeed prove difficult for North Dakotans, especially on February 16th and on this day just 70 years ago.

by Tessa Sandstrom

Source: The Steele Ozone. July 16, 23, 30, 1936.