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Postcard from the Past - A Fearful Spring Blizzard

Written by Dick Perue

A Northern Visitor Who is Not Very Welcome at this Time, but We Can Stand it.”

“A Large Amount of Snow, which Blockades Travel, Stops Business and is Very Detrimental to Sheep Interests.”

These headlines appeared on the front page of the Thursday, April 1, 1897 “Saratoga Sun” and reminds us that the wet, heavy spring snow storm we experienced last week is nothing new. 

The 1897 news article notes:

“A northern snow storm set in early Tuesday morning and lasted until Wednesday night. It was from the north and was of such a fierce character that it completely blockaded travel, and all business was suspended during its continuance. A large amount of snow fell which the wind piled up in huge drifts five and six feet deep everywhere in the roads and streets.

“The mail coach for Rawlins started out early Tuesday morning but only got as far as Jack Creek, when the horses refused to go further. The road, being a long and rough one at best, the driver thought best not to attempt to face the storm and so came back.

“Word received from the railroad by telegraph Tuesday evening was to the effect that the storm reached east beyond Cheyenne and as far west as the state line; also no freight trains were running, and that passenger trains found it very difficult, with the assistance of snow-plows and extra engines, to get through on any kind of time.

“The mail from Bennett, due here Tuesday afternoon has no yet arrived. The mail from Collins, Wyo., and Pearl, Colo., also due here Tuesday evening, arrived last evening. The mail from Rawlins arrived about six o’clock Tuesday evening, after a fearful trip. It started out on line yesterday morning with the same driver who made it through from Rawlins Tuesday morning, but after getting out a couple of miles he found the storm so severe and the drifts so numerous and deep that he was compelled to abandon the effort and returned to town. Another effort was made about two o’clock, which was successful, and the mail probably got as far as Rankin last night. The mail arrived from Rawlins on a two-wheeled cart, about 5:30 last night.

“Reports from the railroad yesterday were to the effect that all trains west of the Nebraska line were laid up on the account of the storm. The storm was one of the worst known for years, and completely blockaded travel throughout the state. The snow was very light at first and drifted badly before the heavy north wind. On Wednesday about noon the storm let up a little, and the temperature warmed up, causing the snow to pack.... 

“Once cleared of snow the roads should remain open as the warm weather will soon melt it out of the way. No freight trains were started out on the line during the storm as it would have resulted in their being stuck in the first heavy drift they came to. The road is reported clear this morning and all trains moving.

“The storm, while very detrimental and destructive to sheep, will not injure the cattle of the valley, as they are all in good condition and able to stand a siege of several days of such weather. The snow will disappear almost as soon as it came, and the warm condition of the ground will absorb it almost entirely and assure a fine range.

“The snow fall amounted to about two feet on the level, perhaps more, but it was so badly drifted that an accurate measurement could not be obtained. The drifts were everywhere so deep that roads were entirely obliterated.”

A “Saratoga Chip” in the same paper states, “The author of  ‘Beautiful Snow’ was in town the first of the week and offered us an ‘Ode to Spring.’ We didn’t do a thing to him but jam his hat down over his eyes, rip his coat up the back and help him to get out of the front door as quick as he could.”

But, then, that’s a weather report for the next “Postcard.”