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Dire Winter Weather

2/17/2015:

If you were listening yesterday, you heard about the dire winter weather conditions that the Williams County area suffered in the first few months of 1936. Paths of communication were cut as telephone lines fell, roads were blocked by snow, and temperatures dropped to new record lows. It was one of the worst winters ever in Williston. Business and travel slowed. Foremen laid off WPA workers who did not have the clothing to stand out in the cold.

Williston County's board of commissioners had other ideas in mind for the WPA workers, however. The board officially requested permission from WPA headquarters in Bismarck to convert WPA trucks for use in the snow and give workers the task of delivering coal from county mines "should an emergency arise as a result of the snow blockade and continued cold." At the time of the request, it had already been established that "deliveries to needy families were already well-nigh impossible." They guessed more inclement weather could blockade the roads entirely.

On this date, fears were heightened as a bad situation turned worse. With no end to the cold in sight, one the winter’s most severe storms occurred.

An emergency committee had already formed in response to the extreme conditions, heading activities to search for families who might be suffering. County plows, state plows, and WPA workers were mobilized to alleviate the emergency situation resulting from blocked roadways and downed communication. These men were busy opening state highways and roads, allowing "the hauling of coal to shivering town and country residents."

The winter was one of the worst reported in Williston in 58 years of weather observation; as the Williams County Farmers Press reported near the beginning of February: "Activity throughout the territory waited upon a 'break,' stirring only in feeble paralysis of the prolonged cold spell."

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker

Sources:
Williams County Farmers Press, February 6, 13, 20, 1936