Monday, February 08, 2021

The weather report (for mid-February 1881)

It looks like we've settled into Mother Nature's deepfreeze for at least a full week. Snow, I'm generally fine with; cold, that's OK, too; but intense cold like this makes me anxious. 

But Iowa's weather always has veered from one extreme to another, and snow and cold are not new.

The Chariton Patriot of Monday, Feb. 16, 1881, carried this report of conditions during the days just past on its local news page:

"The oldest inhabitant was busy this morning digging his way through snow drifts the like of which has not been his to see ever before in this section. The telegraph reported thirty-three inches of snow in northern Minnesota, up to Thursday,  and the storm unabated. It is quite evident that we have been included in the storm belt, which has its center north poleward.

"The storms during the present week have generally taken in the whole area of the United States, rains on the Pacific coast, snow on the Atlantic, and snow, sleet and rain for variety between the two oceans.

"The winter has completely overcome the old settlers, and the assertion is ventured that the state of Iowa never was as deeply covered with snow since the glacial period, as during the present week. The trains on the "Q" main line were all snowed in this morning despite snow plows and shovelers, the wind blowing so hard that it was a waste of steam and muscle to attempt to work passages through the drifts. The morning trains on the branch roads did not go out. The wagon roads are doubtless full of drifts rendering travel almost impossible."

Reports published in The Leader three days later, on Thursday, Feb. 19, were shorter --- and included a dose of editor Dan Baker's outlook on life, and weather:

"Seventeen degrees below zero on Thursday morning, but then we are used to it."

"Though no trains ran on Saturday and Sunday, yet the railroad men had a terrible time of it. The C.B.&Q. said clear the road, and when they say a thing they mean it. Mail trains went through on Monday, and freights followed Wednesday, though the number was small. The (Burlington) Hawkeye says it was the worst storm ever seen in Iowa, and we cheerfully agree with it."

And finally: "The great blizzard of Friday and Saturday of last week, by which all the roads, railroads, streets and sidewalks of the towns and country in the West were blocked, will afford an entertaining subject of conversation for the oldest inhabitants fifty years hence. Fortunately for us, we'll be dead by then and won't be compelled to listen."

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