DISCUSSION: As we look very far back in weather history (i.e., more than 120 years), there was quite a historic weather event by way of the January 1886 blizzard. Here is a neat excerpt from some of the first-hand accounts from this true event which will be remember for centuries to come!
"Two great blizzards hit western Kansas the first week of January 1886. The first blizzard began on the 1st around noon at Dodge City and continued until the early morning hours of the 3rd. During this time, seven and a half inches of snow fell (Although it could be argued that much more than that fell based on "melted snow" observations that were taken. See meteorological discussion below) and wind speeds averaged 20 to 30 mph from the north to northwest. The lowest temperature was 12 °F on the 3rd. A second, more severe blizzard followed on the 6th and 7th and was accompanied by Arctic air that sent temperatures plummeting to well below zero. Even though only two inches of snow fell, the wind combined with the brutally cold air made this one of the coldest periods on record. The temperature did not rise above 10°F at Dodge City until the 11th. The coldest temperature was 16°F below zero on the 8th.
There was no advance warning for the cold wave and 2nd blizzard that hit on the night of the 6th. The Chief Signal Office sent a notification for a cold wave. However, because of the conditions, the telegraph office in Dodge City did not receive it until the storm came to an end. It is not clear how many more cattle were lost across Kansas during this time. It was estimated that 75-80 percent of cattle had been killed in some counties. What is known is that this was the worst natural disaster for the entire stateof Kansas. There was a livestock fence north of the Union Pacific railroad tracks in northern Kansas. Cattle would drift south with the storms and eventually wound up dying of starvation and exhaustion along the fence. It was said that a man could walk along the fence over bones all the way to eastern Colorado. South of the railroad, cattle would march south until they ended up falling into ravines or small canyons. Other cattle would follow and eventually would wind up on top of the cattle in the ravine. The cattle would die by smothering, starvation or freezing. There was also a newspaper account of cattle trains headed east across Kansas. The trains were rushed to Dodge City which was a feeding station at the time for cattle. The next morning less than 25 percent of the cattle that were unloaded were alive. Cattle also died tried trying to cross the Arkansas River, creeks and water holes. A man who came in to Dodge City from his ranch told of seeing cattle standing on their feet, frozen! The blizzard and Arctic air mass also affected the southern plains. Cattle had drifted several hundred miles south into northern Mexico."
To learn more about other past historic weather events, be sure to click here!
©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz