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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Wenzel

The Blizzard of '49: Why we Should Remember it

The Blizzard of '49 is a fascinating part of our US history. The storm rocked the great plains for almost two months, nearly 80 people died, and travelers were stranded as all transportation screeched to a halt. Children did not go back to school for six weeks! How were these communities able to survive such harsh conditions?

For starters, in 1949, it wasn't uncommon for families to have what we now call prepper pantries. They were likely just called pantries or storehouses. It was a way of life, and storing 6-12 months of pantry supplies WAS the norm. Today we're being conditioned to think that preparedness is crazy and unnecessary. But were the people in 1949 crazy extremist? No. They knew that they could not depend on a good crop, supplies at Target, or a government handout to feed them when things went south. To survive, they had to grow, can, and preserve all the recourses that they accumulated in the growing season. While stores did exist, Walmart supercenters did not. Items were available to purchase all year round but nothing like we see today. If supplies ran out at home and your local grocer didn't have it, you went without. There wasn't any 2-day shipping to save you either.


Because the folks in 1949 were well prepared to weather a long winter, families were able to bring in strangers traveling through the town when the storm hit. There was NO way out as trains came to a complete halt. And it wasn't just a few nights. This storm rattled communities across the great plains for several weeks. Families cared for weary travelers for almost 2 months! As devastating as the storm was, it was beautiful seeing how everyone came together to care for each other.


Supply chains were broken. Although people were shoveling and attempting to keep the roads and rails clear, their efforts were only a feeble attempt to tame the wicked winds. Snowdrifts were up to 30 feet high and 100 feet long! Roads were impassable, and it was impossible for trains and trucks with supplies to get into these communities devastated by the storm. Airplanes were dropping hay and other goods to attempt to feed livestock with nothing to eat. It wasn't enough. The government did what it could, but many livestock stilled died.


While I understand that the circumstances were vastly different in many ways, some things remain the same. Today, even though governments have programs like FEMA, they still might not have all the supplies, answers, or manpower needed to help in dire situations. While government aid certainly has its place, and we can all be thankful that it's there, it might not be enough.


Remember when healthcare professionals didn't have enough masks and other PPE during the beginning of the Covid pandemic? Locals made masks for our healthcare providers and even donated other PPE on hand.


Preparedness isn't just for your own home. It's also for community outreach. When families prepare as a community, everyone is better off. If the people of 1949 only had government aid to lean on, most would have died. But because they were well-stocked AND had the government's help, communities could stay strong throughout the blizzard.


What would happen today if this event were to repeat itself? Would your community be prepared? How many people would you be able to help? Thanks for reading! Keep on prepping! Watch the documentary on PBS Wyoming- Storm of the Centry- the Blizzard of 1949- It's worth it!


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