In 1888, a blizzard so sudden and severe hit the American Midwest and claimed the lives of hundreds, some of whom died just outside the safety of shelter. Weather prediction of the fast-moving storm simply didn't reach people in time to prepare them.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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stuff. You missed in history has worked well and in the media. Will I'm holly frying you have it
This new requests it's one of those new request that came in
immediately after I had already ordered the book
The library I feel real
guilty that I did not write down the name of the person. I was having a conversation about our conversation with about it because it was on Facebook and those are impossible to find weeks later on our Facebook
But if you remember these sad story, but I said I was going to put off
until after the new year. A few weeks ago, when we talked about the site or children, when I said the sound sad, but just wait
there's something way sadder well, yeah welcome further away sadder episode is the School House Blizzard also known as the children's blizzard it was us
warm in eighteen. Eighty eight in which many many children and also many adults froze to death in the snow. Sometime
what right outside of the safety of shelter? This was a tragedy that grew from confluence of fact,
and one of them was our ability to forecast the weather
theme in our episodes on the western frontier days of the United States. Is that whether could cause enormous problems? And it was
because the weather itself, in this part of the north american continent can be unpredictable improved to extremes.
colonists and homesteaders living. There were often newcomers to a region that just didn't have a lot of resources to deal with unexpected extremes list. Western migration of newcomers
into an unfamiliar area, was absolutely deliberate. The United States, the wanted
Populate lands that had previously been inhabited by North Americans, indigenous peoples with its own citizens.
Among other things, in eighteen. Sixty two president, Abraham Lincoln, had signed the Homestead ACT into law in this, provided people with a hundred and sixty acres of land in exchange for a fall, a small fee plus five years of continuous residence on that land soldiers
would serve as a union army had a year remove for each year that they had served during the civil war homesick
there's another newcomers,
necessarily know how to deal with the regions, whether or even had a runner homestead, but they were often.
for it to hang onto that hundred and sixty acres for the required number of years. People road
storms and other events that might otherwise have prompted them to flee, if not for the fact that, if they did, they
lost all their land and all the work they had already put into it. The rest,
save newness of this western expanse and also meant that the region just didn't, have the infrastructure needed to deal with these types of problems for it
people in the long winter of eighteen. Eighty, two eighteen, eighty one such a few years before we're talking about today,
That would have been a lot easier to deal with. It was
They were long and snowy season that we ve talked about and a prior episode and if communities had had a few more years of experience under their belts more time to build roads and improve their homes and businesses and more seasons to try
lay aside extra food and other resources in case of that kind of event. It would have been a while
easier to deal with. This was certainly the case here. Many them
centres living in the American Midwest at this point,
still living in the saw the huts that they directed upon first arriving at their land claim
setters who weren't quite new to the area have also
through a series of setbacks in recent years, including plagues of the now extinct, rocky mountain, Locust, prairie fires, floods
and, of course, other blizzards, an uncommonly snowy winters. Much of this we ve covered in her pocket,
Laura Ingalls Wilder, who grew up in this area during this period of time. So it may come as a surprise to people
What the Mason actually did have at this point was a formal, although imperfect system for tying to predict the weather and notify people of oncoming storms. Basic meteorology
equipment like thermometers, barometers and anemometers had, of course existed for centuries, but the invention of the telegraph was what had made it possible for people to spread the word with dangerous. Whether was approaching. That also made it possible for people who observed and recorded the weather, to talk to each other quickly and compiled
The data in order to use that data to make predictions. The vote
other network. To put this idea into play in the United States started in the eighteen forties, thanks to the Smithsonian institution. This message
indeed, meteor, illogical tools to volunteers, who recorded their observations and telegraph them back to the Smithsonian to be compiled into maps and then studied.
Smithsonian's. Work went on until it was disrupted by the civil war once the war with
over there, with the United States government, recognised the understanding, the weather and being able to predict that was a matter of national importance, particularly
my western frontier, whereas we just mentioned the government, was actively trying to encourage migration and the weather tended to be erratic.
eventually, on February nineteenth, eighteen, seventy you listen
s grant signed a resolution to quote, provide for taking meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent and at other points in the states and territory
and for giving notice on the northern Great Lakes and on the sea coast by magnetic telegraph, hammering signals of the approach and force of store
any sign that in the law this pudding
observation and recording of whether, under the auspices of the Secretary of WAR, under the assumption that military discipline and precision would be conducive to making accurate
timely, whether observations and predictions, these recordings and predictions fell to the Signal service corps.
a school of meteorology with established in which enlisted men and later officers learned basic meteorology, telegraphy, hot
style and maintain telegraph wires and no other signalling equipment and signalling itself
the Signal service core started off, recording and issuing observations and predictions that were relatively general and applied to large chunks of the continent, but it gradually covered smaller areas with greater frequency and for farther in advance. So in eighteen, seventy three the cor was mapping the weather data it received making predictions
distributing these predictions, ass quote farmers bulletins to be displayed at post offices,
Eighteen eighty one signal flags replace or supplemented these paper bulletins. The signal service cores whether predictions definitely were not
perfect, they relied allow more on predicting where existing patterns would move, then, on the conditions that would lead to new patterns emerging, and they also.
to rely on whether folk lore rather than actual science, there was also a huge gap,
whether knowledge that the forecasters that the time didn't even know that they didn't know. That was the idea.
the weather front. We take the idea of a cold front or
front or whatever for granted today, but that concept it did not even arise until nineteen nineteen? Then it wasn't a common part of what
maps until the nineteen. Forty is their basically doing all of this mapping and predicting unaware
the fact that these, whether systems were organised into France well
we figured it out eventually
Currently, the signal service itself was also hit with repeated acts.
friends of mismanagement and embezzlement, along with a lot of internal strife. During these years it was
down with, inter departmental conflicts, bureaucracy pity,
and in fighting in the lot away,
The whole organization was just dysfunctional all that said, though, the signal service, Cor's work made a huge difference in
is the quality of life and whether preparedness especially of people living on the frontier these predictions.
Although they were definitely flawed, were also definitely better than nothing
and that was the state of things in eighteen. Eighty eight. We will get to the details of the blizzard that we're talking about today and how these forecasts failed to warn people about it. After a brief word from one of our sponsors, this episode of stuff, you must than Israel
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On the american Prairie, the winter of eighteen, eighty seven to eighteen, eighty eight was brutal,
men particularly cold, and particularly snowy for weeks can do
and on native american reservations were particularly dire with men.
reporting, a severe lack of food and other provisions throughout that entire winter. The twenty to forty inches of snow there
fallen in December were still there at the beginning of January, when the weather turned again this time, dropping a thick layer of sweet. On top of that now that made
had been merely treacherous and difficult, almost totally impassable. Temperature
in early January were frequently in the double digit below zero. All across the MID West people had been sticking close to home for weeks, the sounds utterly miserable
Why, since I have winter rage, disorder and get really crabby the second like the thermometer
below forty. I cannot imagine surviving something like this. This meant that the Mai,
of January twelve came as a huge relief. It was warmer than it had been in what seemed like ages. The sun actually came out and the temperature gradually rose too close to forty degrees. Fahrenheit. That's four degrees celsius
While a few people were suspicious about this abrupt break in the weather for their most,
This sudden appearance of comparatively sunny warmth was a really welcome change. Almost everyone jumped at the opportunity to get out of
House, children, you haven't been able to go to school in weeks. Sometimes the schools had even been closed completely rushed out in comparatively light clothing, adult struck
from their homes to more outlying areas of their farms and homesteads to take care of chores, the desperately needed doing that they haven't been able to do in a really long time. People who needed to go to town to pick up provisions did animals that had been cooped up in Barnes and stables were led out to stretch their legs now, I'm in ages. I grew up in the south. I know that.
View. Forty degrees does not sound like timed party, but wait. It's been
called for that long and you ve been cooped inside for that long, even forty degrees,
like a luxury. I know this now from personal experience, having lived in Massachusetts last winter, when we got a hundred and ten inches it's no. I,
walk outside in forty two great, whether without my coat on who do not follow these marginal
for rushing out without theirs,
The gloves on this joyously warm forty degree day
yeah, it's all relative and where do you see I was laughin, were, for example like in Florida, visiting Disneyworld or something and it drops below.
sixty, and you see people and handsome scarves. It's all railways,
On the other hand, you will walk down. The street is twenty degrees in Massachusetts, and people are in short, yet
however, back to this particular blizzard, unfortunately
folksy route, frolicking any sudden more.
Whether were mostly ignorance of a weather patterns of the Signal Service Cor had actually spotted on the eleven that was the day before this beautiful day. Lieutenant Thomas Mayhew,
risk of the. U S. Army was the one compiling the forecast in the single office in Saint Paul Minnesota, where he had been stationed since the previous October that first lieutenant Woodruff and his assistant sergeant Alexander my daddy.
I put this unusually low pressure reading at one of the more remote northern signal signal, Corps, asked outpost
on the morning of the eleventh, was just an anomaly that kind of road it off, as maybe
shoddy reading or a fault in some equipment, but as the
We are on the scheduled observations rolled in from all the other signal service course stations. It became clear that an area of low pressure was moving down from Albert Account, Canada and then travelling.
These were the great plains. This is a pretty
if a pattern that Woodruff had observed many times before areas of low pressure, often moved into the nation from Alberta and then traveled so
east and so also based on past experience. He expected temperature.
to rise in advance of this low pressure area and then fall in its wake. So based
all of these observations and his past experiences forecast for January twelve, but he filed just after midnight. Red quote indications for twenty four hours
commencing at seven a m today for Saint Paul, Minneapolis and vicinity warmer, whether with snow, fresh, suddenly win the becoming variable for Minnesota warmer with snow, fresh, too high, suddenly whims becoming variable for Dakota
no warmer followed in the western portion by cold or whether fresh
High winds generally
in northerly. The snow will drift heavily
in Minnesota, in Dakota, during the day and night, the wind
generally shifts to high colder northerly during the afternoon and night, even though he is
acted falling temperatures after the low pressure area, move through Lieutenant Woodruff, didn't think
needed to issue a cold wave warning. He was already seeing above freezing temperatures reported so a cold
if just didn't seem warranted, so that the knight of the eleventh Flash morning of the twelve people had gotten the weather forecast telling them to expect that it would be cool
consumer prevent color, but not anything, really alarming.
However, on the morning of the twelve when Woodruff, go back to work, he once again mapped out all the new. Whether observations that had come in from the other signal Corps field offices were overnight and in the morning the weather system was
still moving along the path that he had predicted and ass. He had expected temperatures in advance if it were warm and behind it were cold, but
It was a lot warmer ahead of the low pressure area and law colder behind it than he had expected. So
and thirty, a dot January, twelve Woodruff issued
wave warning for Dakota Territory, Nebraska Minnesota in Wisconsin,
doing so myths sending extra telegrams out to the Associated Press and other wire services as well.
Other signal service stations in the area that post office
and stations black and white coat.
gave warning flags would be flown from the time they got to know.
Creation until Woodruff issue to take down order, some sort of the area's equivalent of their national, whether service warnings that we get today when there is-
sudden bad weather. That could be an emergency expected. Unfortunately,
though, this morning came too late because of backlogs that Western Union,
this is and various problems along the line. The message to raise the flags did not arrive at many of the outposts had them until after noon. By that point, the storm was eminent and
the people who were going to leave home that they already had completely unprepared for the shift in the weather that they did not know, was coming.
starting in the early afternoon of January, twelve, the weather turned so suddenly that survivors of this whole events said they had never seen anything like it. The day,
Fine, and then it was it people report
being able to see, while steaming outside and forty degree, whether a blue
Moving in like a grey wall, temperatures plummeted back below freezing,
can you do fall winds, Gus,
The forty miles an hour and beyond, in the words of a signal,
nervous observer in here on Dakota Territory quote at twelve forty two p m. The air was perfectly calm for about one minute.
Next minute, the sky was completely overcast by heavy black clouds, which, for a few minutes previous, had hung along the western and northwestern horizon, and the wind veered to the West and blue with such violence as to render them
some of the observer on the roof unsafe. The air
was immediately filled with snow ass, fine ass, sifted flour,
extremely fine icy snow was incredibly treacherous.
people's eyelashes froze together the result
irritation led to tears, but those froze to, but even if people
get their eyes opened. The fine icy precipitation was so heavy and wind blown that they would
he couldn't see more than a foot in any direction people became
Completely disoriented, basically hemmed in by a wall of Gray White Blizzard, where so many first person accounts surviving from the time that people said they literally could not see their hand in front of them
is this, not an exaggeration, these flakes of snow and the
lots of ice were also so fine that they pelted all the way through people's clothing directly to their skin?
lowering their body, temperatures precipitously and then, as all, that's no melted, soaking their clothing and re freezing it that way.
And this is nickname, the schoolhouse blizzard is it- the weather turned worthwhile school was about to let out orangist had led out teachers
many of whom were barely older than their students were face
the decision on whether it was safer to send the children home or to keep them
school house and in some cases, this dependent on what warning, if any, they God bless,
it's coming, get everyone home or blizzards, coming. Keep everyone in many may Freeman
feature in Nebraska made the call to evacuate her students from their one room, sod school. They had nailed the front door and play
after the storm blew it off two times, and it was only after part of the roof was then blown away that she made the decision that the risk was greater to stay. Put than to try to go out in a storm she did manage to keep. Oliver
students together and they made half a mile to the home where she boarded where they took refuge in survive. The storm
Groton Nebraska men showed up with a team of horses, encouraged to take children home from school, and they
but one he had turned back to get a purse
bottle that he had forgotten in the school house and then, when he remarked,
again, he immediately got lost and he was unconscious by the time his brother found him, but his brother did indeed find him rescues like this,
were extremely rare in the storm. More often than not, people who went after missing loved ones froze to death themselves. Many of the other Scott stories of school teachers trying to look after their students have a much more tragic
and children and teachers got lost in the snow, trying to find their way to safety and died, and that's it
was true of adults who were out and about in their business. A train was stranded near garv in Minnesota, and people from the town trade
successfully to rescue them. Survivors were actually trapped in a tree,
for three days at a static, a teacher who had gone to collect her pay hadn't even made it to the gate. Yet when the storm-
and the families who was boarding with shouted at her from the door until their voices literally gave out, but they couldn't be heard over the gale
many of those whether they ventured out into the storm or state indoors and ran out of fuel but ultimately survive. The night last thing
Yours and toes, and even limbs to frostbite me
Many many animals died in the storm is well livestock and other farm animals suffocated and
mother by the icy precipitation that rose over their needs and their noses and mouse or they simply froze to death. I was not able to get my hands on a book. There is a book of first hand, accounts of all this called in all its very that was written by people who survived in the nineteen forties it's out of print now, which is why I was unable to get a copy of it. Do the research builds quoted a lie in a lot of them? She really did used for research. Live stories are heartbreaking because we are going to take a pause from them here and have referred from sponsor. Where we talk about the aftermath of all of this, this episode of stuff, you missed in history classes, brought to you by Norton three sixty with lifelong, what they your shopping online with your smartphone. Its super feels like ear. Personal information is just right there in your hand, but that's not always the case.
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Ultimately, the children's blizzard was part of a massive, whether system that push tremendously cold air as far South as Mexico, pretty much the entire central part of the United States was affected with the timing of the blizzard
being the most deadly and damaging in Dakota territory. Minnesota Nebraska Island hands is just because it happened to strike in the early afternoon the cold wave that followed the blizzard with
temperature is well well below zero all across across the Midwest persisted until January. Fifteen
by Saturday, newspapers across the nation were reporting on the blizzard first.
Stories of the deaths in the tragedies and then
of miraculous survival and heroic efforts on the part of teachers to rescue their students, the Sunday
after the blizzard at the sailor Mennonite Church in Dakota territory. The minister made an announcement that a farmer had found five bodies in a fire brake on his property. They were
Children of several different families who are part of that congregation, who had wandered miles off course in the storm, after being separated from their teacher, another classmates that school fees
teacher ETA Shattuck that we mentioned earlier was found in a haystack where she had taken refuge. Having
carelessly survived more than three days buried, incited how
or she died after a series of amputations due to gangrene following severe frostbite
survivors of the initial blizzard, had similar fates dying later on due to complications and delayed effects of their prolonged exposure, nearly impossible to calculate inexact death toll from the schoolhouse blizzard
the areas that were most affected were also the most remote, so the records are really spotty and, in some cases, people's bodies weren't found for weeks or months after the event. The estimate there,
is often around two hundred or three hundred people killed. This tragedy did prompt many
these to reinforce their school houses, replacing sod structures with frame and making frame structure,
sturdier and more. Whether tight.
Chief signal officer, Adolphus Washington, Greeley, really downplay the severity and impact of this storm and completely dismiss the idea that the signal corps could or should have worked for ever seen it the monthly weather review. He called the scale of it.
The observation and he placed the blame squarely on the fact that much of the territory involve was newly settled Lieutenant Thomas me.
Woodruff was eventually made to give a report of why the order to fly the cold way. Flags had come so late, but this
You have been more because of an ongoing dispute. He had with another meteorologists than over any actual concern about his performance.
ultimately offered another position in the army and left the signal corps. He died of yellow
her during the spanish American WAR,
of our other episodes in which a terrible tragedy led to reforms. That prospect prevented such occurrences in the future. This wasn't quite the case and eighty and eighty eight that marks another massive storm struck this time in North Eastern North America,
It was so severe and profound that it was nicknamed the great white hurricane that killed at least four hundred people
Similarly, warnings about this storm came quite late in part, because the Signal Corps station was closed from midnight Saturday until five pm Sunday, which was create a critical
casting window for this particular storm ports,
These along the North eastern Coast consequently got absolutely no warning that the storm was coming, leading to thousands of people being stranded.
And numerous ships at anchor being damaged or completely destroyed, storm, basically blue in from the sea and shoved ships.
at anchor into their mornings and into the shore and tore them to pieces.
In eighteen, eighty, nine in part, because this march failure in forecasting had become such a huge national embarrassment. I mean it
the death toll was larger and a lot more people were stranded. At these words, like the bigger cities that, to be frank, people cared about more than a necessarily cared about the frontier.
the President Measurement Harrison recommended that the task of forecasting the weather be taken to be taken out of the hands of the Department of WAR and given instead to the Department of ACT.
culture by eighteen. Ninety one all civilian United States, Weather Bureau was in place and that did eventually become the national, whether service.
The school of blizzard
So the extremely sad, along with a basic introduction
I know how whether forecasting developed in the United States, there was a first
many stories number one in all its theory. If you're able to get your hands on a copy of that, but I am imagining its fascinating because of all these first person accounts that we're
down by people who were alive in in eighteen, eighty eight and it was reprinted about a hundred years after the storm care. But it's out of prison
My only option to read it would have been to purchase a copy, which I can view at this particular time.
but if you're able your hands on it, maybe the library has it. I am imagining it has to be fascinating and heartbreaking.
Children's blizzard by David Laskin was another book, but I read leading up to this, which does make a lot of use of that existing first hand, material, and so one of the things that I have thought about putting into that,
said that I did not was from a letter from like a norwegian homesteader who basically came home and read this very matter of fact, letter about how he found his beloved wife froze to death, and then they he found their child froze to death, and the only one left alive was the baby he had been like
bundled up in a crib. The whole thing enormously sad, in my opinion, sadder than the site or children who heads take its place in my research schedule,.
Ah I'm home that you have less dour listener meal
my listener. Mail is not particularly Bauer and it's kind of interesting. This is. We ve got in several minutes about our our utter thin. Twenty fifteen episode, where we talk about one of the discoveries from Egypt, in which you will find vastly different spellings of the names of the people involved here, and some of them make sense, but some of them feel, like somebody put all the syllables in a bag and shook it up and then pulled
out again to be united, and so we ve gotten several letters and they also basically the same thing, and so I'm just gonna, read from one of them and from a libyan levies has high guys I love the twenty fifteen on earth show. I thought I might be able to clear up some confusion with the many spellings of that forth.
Seafarers name a modern egyptologist, but I am an historical novelist specializes in ancient egyptian fiction. As such, I've done a tone of reading through Egyptology text and papers.
Barely familiar with ancient egyptian naming conventions, the variation in his name
and in virtually all other ancient egyptian names will encounter. If you read around enough comes from two different works of the egyptian written language, they call their language and culture Kim too. By the way, I think that's cavity by the way which you'll find spelled himself
different ways, so maybe one of those is the way I pronounced it. The first time cannot be recorded
review. Vowel sounds most of their writing shows only confident, sound, so ran a fairer flash neffer efforts, name would have been written, and this is written in the series of ours ends and asked in a couple of different,
Orders depending on who wrote it down and where may have actually,
and pronounced RE, Neff, ear, roof or re neuf, or, if or anything
the nation. Avowal sounds you can imagine. Egyptologists made educated guesses about pronunciations, based on vow consonant combinations using
Coptic, which is the closest living language to commit to you that is still spoken today. The lack of recorded bow sounds also expect explains why can't causes name is
many different ways in these articles and why I'm spelling it a totally different way here,
in addition to the lack of bow, sounds royals names recorded on official monument, such as the tomb were written vertically and encircled by a cartouche unable shaped rope that denuded divine status,
of the royal blood. Rarely you will find names written bottoms top instead of top to bottom. Actually, we don't know which direction was considered the standard and which was the variation. I can tell you that earlier Egyptians names tended to stress the re before
never while later names new king them a couple thousand years later, tended to stress the member before the re, so it could be
you have told us, you wrote his name Neffer every was was this more used to working with the new kingdom sites and assumed that was the correct way to say his name? I hope this didn't confusing further.
Thanks for a great show, Libby thank you. Levy saw all have very cool
I didn't you know, and if any even Egyptologists wants it can firmer refute that we would be happy to hear from you
from an extremely interesting and lines up with basically the same thing that several different enthusiast and hobbyist.
Egypt. Officially NATO's role into ass. I found it super everything it also kind of
highlights wise, sometimes figuring out how to pronounce things agent languages.
Possible task for highly me. Won't even first scholars, biggest eggs value shift and evolve there. They know
wonder if people that road us are excited that I think the next assassins creed is gonna, be in Egypt, a fireman if I saw the correct headline so maybe it'll be fun for all of us. I hope that we get a lot of notes that variously references Athens
now, that's worth already really Ireland's nurse like that information, that I know the people really liked it when, before the holidays, I went out to Boston comment to take pictures. Do some periscope from the Christmas tree that that comes from Halifax to Boston a year after the after their Boston at night, after the Halifax explosion suddenly and I'll get twisted in my and I take a picture of the franc pond in Boston, public garden, which is basically a place called Sir
his bond and follow up work, and I put that on our twitter and people got really excited about that. So we definitely have some vile out for fans listener. Now, including me, super go on you.
We would like to write to us we're at history by gas with how stuff works. Dot com were also on Facebook page, but that found flash and has been history and on twitter industry are tumblr, is miss than history that tumblr commoner on Pinterest Henry Stockholm Flash missed in history.
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firms of all time which does talk about that EAST Coast was
of eighteen. Eighty, eight, the great white birthday. Let's talk about that shoved ships into the shore and cause people to be lost at sea and stranded generally with apple vow. You can offer
our website which, as MR history dot com and find an entire archive of every applied, we ve ever done, plus showed oats Pauline? I have done. You can do all that and a whole lot more at Hasta works at home, or myths in history
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rubbed, it apple pie on the heart, radio or wherever he listened upon gas