12 Ways to Survive a Blizzard
#1: Build A Sturdy House
We moved into the frame house in April. The nice spring weather made it comfortable, but we were not prepared for the fierce onslaught that the weather had in store for us a few days later. On Saturday, April 12, the day before the storm, father made a trip to Sutton for supplies. The wind blew very hard from the south and blew harder all the time until about 6:00 Sunday evening, when the storm broke in all its fury. The family was greatly frightened by the approaching storm. The clouds were the darkest they had ever seen, a few minutes before the wind changed from the south to the north. Then there was a death-like calm which added to the tenseness of the stiuation.
#2: Stay Indoors
When the storm broke, there was hard wind with rain, which soon had everything soaked. Father had gone to the sod barn, which was only half roofed, to look after the stock. The storm was so fierce, he was afraid to try to get to the house. He remained there all Sunday night.
#3: Keep Your Inhaler Handy
The rain turned to snow, and by morning, April 13, a blizzard, such as none of us had ever seen before, was in full force. At daylight, two of the men went to the barn and forcibly brought father to the house where he could be fed and kept fairly warm. He was wet to the skin and suffering from asthma, which had him in pretty bad condition.
#4: Never Burn Wet Wood
The men had taken 2 by 4’s and propped the house inside to keep it from collapsing. There were three men besides Father. They were all busy trying to keep the house braced and wood in the cookstove, which was the only means of keeping warm. The wood had to be dried in the oven before it would burn. The women folks had difficulty in cooking enough food for ten hungry people. But Mother, with the resourcefulness of a pioneer, managed some way. To keep the snow off the stove, a large quilt was tacked to the ceiling. All the beds were covered with from 3-6 inches of snow.
#5: Don't be a "dumbague"
Arthur was sick in bed which what the doctor called “dumbague”, during the storm. Contrary to expectations, he seemed to consider the whole experience with less seriousness than did the well ones.
#6: Be nice to your hired help
Monday night the storm kept increasing until Tuesday morning, it was at its worst. Klumb and Condon, our hired men, came again Tuesday afternoon and insisted on us going back with them, as we had gotten to the point where we had no dry wood to keep warm or cook with. So, all bundled up the best they could and trudged to the warm soddy. The sick boy made the trip in fine shape. The one feature that made it at all bearable was the fact that the cold was not severe, it being so late in the season.
#7: Help confused passers-by
Tuesday, a man by the name of Johnson drifted south, lost in the storm, and came within a few feet of the house, but didn’t see it. Clint Condon, who happened to see the shadow pass him, caught the man, and he was taken inside. He lived 3-4 miles north and had tried to get to his house after tending the stock. He was drifting with the storm when Condon, by mere chance, saw him pass. He was still so confused that, after the storm cleared, he had to be taken nearly to his house before sense of direction came back to him.
#8: Look out for smoke signals
Condon went as soon as possible to see how the Splinter family fared. He found the side of the draw completely filled with snow where the dugout was, and had difficulty in locating the place. finally, he noticed a thin column of smoke coming out of a drift. He went to the spot to find it was the stove pipe. He called to Fred, then soon dug them out, freed from their imprisonment.
#9: Sharpen your ice skates
At the east line of Hamilton County where the high bank was, the snow drifted across the river, covering the water until the snow was level across from the high bank. It was packed so hard that folks crossed back and forth on horseback and with team and wagon. The snow was at least 20 feet deep.
#10: Keep your shovel handy
After the storm was over, Elijah Hileman took his shovel and a loaf of bread. He went a half mile west of his place where the Bargers lived in a dugout. The dugout was covered with snow; Mr. Hileman called to them and they answered. He dug out the run-way to the door so that they could get out. They were alright after three days and three nights of being trapped in their dugout.
#11: Don't Forget the Dog
On Thursday, the storm cleared and two of the men went to our place. The house was filled to the ceiling with snow. Clearing out the house, the men happened to think of the dog, which had been forgotten until then. They called his name, and movement in the snow on one of the beds revealed Rover, who emerged, shaking off the snow.
#12: Let Your Rooster Breathe
Nearly two weeks after, they heard a rooster crow. They listened to hear where the sound came from. There was a large snowdrift around the clothesline post. They shoveled into the snow and there was Mr. Rooster. His breath had melted the snow so he had plenty of room.
.... In a few days, the snow had gone and the fields were green with growing grain.
From an interview with Elgie Westenhaver of Hampton by the Aurora News 7/14/1939
Source: The Way Was Long: A Collection of Historical Newspaper Accounts of
Hamilton County, Nebraska by Denny Enderle & Diann Jensen