Today marks the 130th anniversary of the Children’s Blizzard, the deadliest blizzard to hit the plains states. At least 235 people died when they were surprised by a sudden storm characterized by fierce winds and zero visibility. Over 100 children died, most of whom had been sent home from school early in hopes they could beat the storm. The death toll among children made the storm particularly tragic for these pioneer communities and gave the storm its name. This unit teaches about how blizzards develop, why the Children’s Blizzard was so deadly and shares some of the survival stories from this tragic event.
January 12, 1888 dawned warm and bright. It was a welcome reprieve for settlers who had been battered by a brutal winter. The unseasonably mild weather spelled disaster, however. As children left their coats at home to enjoy the weather on their way to school, they had no way of knowing that it was exactly this warm, moist air that would feed the arctic blast racing across the plains, creating a deadly blizzard. This presentation on The Children’s Blizzard goes over how the blizzard formed, why it was so deadly and the effects it had on the plains. It even has a brief quiz at the end to see if you were paying attention. Use it for an educational break or part of a larger unit on winter weather, Western Expansion or state history. It made its mark on South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. All but Kansas, Nebraska and Minnesota were still territories at the time. (You can use the little arrow in the bottom right corner to full screen the presentation.) Best of all, you do not even need to leave this site to get all the information unless you want to read more about the blizzard.
And while we are on the subject of winter (and especially while schools were canceled here due to a winter storm), here is an excellent resource for preparing yourself for dangerous winter weather. Whether you are at home, at the office, in the car or out in the open, there are things you can do to ride out the storm more comfortably and things you need to know to increase your chances of survival.
If you want more than just a summary of this historic tragedy, check out The Children’s Blizzard, by David Laskin.
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