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North Dakota Storm


OK—stop me if you’ve heard this one:

When it’s 60 above zero: Floridians turn on the heat. North Dakotans plant gardens.

50 above: Californians shiver uncontrollably. People are sunbathing in North Dakota.

40 above: Imported cars won't start. People in North Dakota drive with the sunroof open.

32 above: Distilled water freezes. The water in North Dakota gets thicker.

Zero: People in Miami all die. People in North Dakota close their windows.

25 below: Hollywood disintegrates. Girl Scouts in North Dakota are still selling cookies door to door.

100 below: Santa Claus abandons the North Pole. People in North Dakota get upset because their Mini-vans won't start.

500 below: Hell freezes over. North Dakota public schools open 2 hours late.

It’s a common thread—a forward that gets e-mailed around, a joke with bits of twisted, bloated truth. Most North Dakotans probably really do love the cold and the winter weather. They love to hate it, and they love to survive it. They can wear it as a mark of pride. But just imagine what it was like a century and more ago—when the indoor conveniences we have today were not really all that convenient. But then, convenience has nothing to do with the North Dakota winter ethic.

At the beginning of February in 1908, six to eighteen inches of snow fell throughout the east portion of the state in just 48 hours. It was the heaviest of the winter, a situation old-timers recognized as just right for a blizzard had the winds picked up.

But there were still things to do, and regardless of Mother Nature’s habits, life generally does not stop just for one storm. On this date, the Grand Forks Herald reported that despite the piles of snow, the trains of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific were reaching their destinations, and staying mostly on time. The railroad companies had added extra plows, and the section hands had been able to handle it themselves, without hiring additional help.

Perhaps they had gained added experience from the prior year, which had been much colder, with more storms, and more snow-covered tracks to clean. It was just a little snow, after all.

Jokes about the weather are common, but they stem from such moments as these.

Perhaps the truth is not quite so twisted, after all.

By Sarah Walker


Grand Forks Daily Herald, Thursday Morning, February 6, 1908