Avid fans of weather history and of Dakota Datebook may recall that in mid-March of 1941, a blizzard swept across the upper Midwest, reaping death in its wake. Out of more than 70 victims, at least thirty-five fell in North Dakota.
Reports of the dead and the close calls flew everywhere. The Northwestern Bell Telephone Company in Fargo reported that 2500 long-distance calls were placed following the blizzard—the greatest number of long distance calls placed in a single day in the history of the office.
On this date, only ten days after the storm, North Dakotans were trying to deal with what had occurred.
In Devils Lake, hundreds of motorists were marooned in their cars overnight. In Grand Forks, at least eleven people were still listed as missing two days after the storm. Near Fort Ransom, a father and son froze to death while out walking. Two cousins near Hannah died while walking home from a 4H Club meeting.
The Weiner family, from near Langdon, had just arrived at their farm home when the storm broke. Their driveway was blocked, so they parked along the highway, but upon opening the car door, the oldest daughter was swept away by the wind. By the time her parents caught up with her, they were all lost. They did eventually bump into a fence post that Mr. Weiner recognized as his own. He left his family behind and followed the fence to his sheep shed. He returned, but his wife was unable to move, so he took his daughter and young son to the shed, then returned once more and half-dragged, half-carried his wife to safety.
Four brothers from near Dazey, aged seventeen and younger, had been out roller skating, and on the way home were caught in the storm. Donald, Lee and Dickie perished. Only “Bobbie” Taylor survived—and only because his twin brother Dickie had been holding him in the snowdrift in which they had sought shelter.
Bobbie was in the hospital for a while. He lost his left foot and the toes and heel of his right foot. However, he kept a good attitude, telling his nurse, “I don’t think I will be able to play football because of my feet, but I think I will make it alright in basketball.”
The reports of the Taylor family tragedy spread far and wide, and Bobbie unexpectedly received an autographed photo from movie star Robert Taylor—written on the photo was “To Robert Taylor from Robert Taylor. Best wishes.”
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
“Fatal Forecast” by Jayme Job, http://www.prairiepublic.org/radio/dakota-datebook?post=48166
Valley City Times-Record, March 17, 1941