Tales from the 'Ides of March' blizzard that pummeled region, killed dozens in 1941
On March 14, 1941, in western North Dakota, the temperature suddenly dropped from 33 to 7 degrees below zero, and winds picked up to 40 mph.
The Dickinson Press reported, “As sudden as the dropping of a curtain, a black fog of churning dust and snow blinded the prairies a thousand miles... With trepidation, northwest citizens kept close to their radios and exhausted newspaper supplies...to hear or read of the fate of communities and persons with whom they were familiar.”
Out near Wing, Emil Erickson hitched a ride part-way home with a neighbor. Living only two miles from town, Erickson got out to walk the last mile. The storm came on so suddenly, he lost his way and died just 200 feet from his farmhouse.
Near Newburg, Edwin Berentson got out and rode on the front fender of a car to help guide the driver when they were struck by another car. He was lucky. He got away with only a broken leg.
Near Langdon, Harold Weiner, his wife, his daughter and infant son made it to the driveway to their farm, but when they got out of the car, the wind swept away the 8-year-old, and her parents ran to catch her. They lost their bearings, but finally came across a fence.
Weiner scouted ahead and found his sheep barn, but when he went back for his family, his wife could no longer move. He dragged her and the children to the barn, where they spent the night. Weiner and the children recovered, but Mrs. Weiner died two weeks later.
That afternoon in Dazey, 17-year-old Leo and 15-year-old Donald Taylor were treating their 10-year-old brothers to an afternoon of roller staking. As they were driving the four miles back to their farm, their car stalled and they got out to walk.
The following morning, the two teenagers were found frozen to death. A searcher saw an arm waving from a snowdrift, but it was the last gesture young Dickie Taylor made. He died minutes later, having protected his twin brother, who survived.
By the time the Alberta Clipper reached the Red River Valley, it was a bonafide killer. In all, 79 people died – 40 in North Dakota, 31 in Minnesota, and 8 in Canada.
“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from Humanities North Dakota. It is edited for presentation on Forum Communication Co. sites by Jeremy Fugleberg, editor of The Vault. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast, or buy the Dakota Datebook book at shopprairiepublic.org.