March 1966, South Dakota Was Hit With one of the Worst Blizzards In History
A record-breaking storm hit the upper Midwest, including South Dakota, on March 2 through 4, 1966. The storm paralyzed all citizens in its path.
Today the Weather Channel tends to name storms that may have a big impact. Not back in 1966. But the storm that packed 70 mph winds and dumped several feet of snow in South Dakota had a name: The Northern Plains Blizzard.
The morning of March 2, 1966, started with a forecast of perhaps 4 inches of snow. But within a few hours, it was updated to include heavy snow and high winds. Freezing drizzle hit next icing everything up and visibility dropped to near zero.
This was not a short-lived storm. In fact, according to the National Weather Service, the storm didn't lift for three days.
Windows were not built to withstand those kinds of winds and pressure like the windows of today. As a result, several windows were blown in leaving snowdrifts in living rooms.
The March 2 - 4 calamity claimed six lives in South Dakota and over 100,000 cattle and sheep were killed. The economic impact was disastrous. It's was estimated that the value of the livestock lost topped $20 million. To put that into perspective, today, with inflation, would amount to a staggering $156 million.
A Rapid City man was found in his car near Faith and a Yankton man’s car was completely buried west of Madison. A rancher was found dead of exposure outside his house southwest of McIntosh. A man in Wall was asphyxiated by gas fumes from an oven used for heating. One resident of Fort Pierre and another in Sturgis suffered heart attacks while shoveling snow. - National Weather Service
Finally, late in the day on March 4, the storm finally subsided in South Dakota. But for North Dakota and Minnesota, the blizzard stayed in place continuing to wreak havoc.
You can see the timeline of the blizzard here on the National Weather Service archives. It's a fascinating read.
This video shows a highway department worker standing on top of a snowdrift in Jamestown, ND.
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