“It Happened Once, It’ll Happen Again”: The Blizzard of ’66, Part 2

The Blizzard of 1966 ranks as the strongest modern day storm in North Dakota.

Last night we brought you stories of the storm hitting.

We’ve had dozens of stories shared with us on social media and when you see these photos you’ll understand why.

But if you do a Google image search on the 1966 Blizzard, this photo will be right near the top and we’ll introduce you to the man that took it.

The dig out was underway across North Dakota and Minnesota on Sunday in March of 1966.

These are home movies from Devils Lake.

The storm dumped a long swath of around 30 inches of snow through Eastern North Dakota and the strong wind for three days made mountains of snow across the Red River Valley.
“One of my friends lived on the far north side of Casselton and his house was a one story, it was a ranch style house, was completely covered in snow. So they had to dig their way out of a window because they could not open a door, so they opened a window, because you could do that vertically then they tunneled their way out and then came around so they could open some doors with some shovels,” said Cole Carley, who lived in Casselton.

The North Dakota  D.O.T began the daunting task of trying to reopen I-94.

These shots are from just west of Fargo.

In Horace, the train clears the tracks into town.

In Fargo, the newly built arena at North High collapsed in from the weight of snow on the roof.

In West Fargo, a couple of lanes of traffic are opened up on Main Avenue.

The dig out was also underway in North Moorhead, where residents went out to try and find their cars buried under the mountains of snow.

Ranchers were counting losses from the storm in the tens of thousands of cattle and sheep.

But of all these incredible photos, this one shot has come to define the blizzard of 1966.

“That was probably…that was probably the best one all day you know.”

This is Ernest Feland and he is the photographer that shot the famous photo and many more after the storm.

“I was a photographer with the North Dakota State Highway Department and I worked with another fellow Bill Cook. We went out and did photography,” he said.  “This train was stuck so we walked over there and got some pictures. Bill stood there and I just took the picture of him and you can see there’s a train in the background. The snow had to be, oh man, had to be 20 feet deep there.”

Bill even returned the favor with a photo of Ernest and the photos even helped in future DOT construction.

“We took pictures of the bridges…how they held snow,” Ernest said.  “Because if you look at the bridges here in the east, they’re wide pillars.
They held more snow and as you go west, the bridges are more of a round pillar that holds less snow.”

Looking at these amazing photos, could we see another blizzard of this magnitude?
“Oh I would say if it happened once it’ll happen again,” said North Dakota Asst. State Climatologist Daryl Ritchison. “The scenario that caused that to happen will happen again. You know it’s come close to that at times.
There have been areas in South Dakota that have gotten 20 to 30 inches of snow before, so it’s just getting it all together.  Our track record is 130 years, so if a storm like that occurs every 100 years approximately then we are going to get one.”

I want to give a special thanks to the Clay County Historical Society for all those color photos and a couple of extra things to point out about the storm.

First, it warmed back up fairly quickly after the storm and within two weeks, most of the snow had melted, which of course caused flooding, mainly in the northern end of the valley.

The second interesting fact is that, like this year, there was an El Nino going on.

So that just shows that big snow events can occur even during a mild winter.

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