Image Courtesy: Boston Public Library

Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888

By Greg Tatro @yourmetgreg March 3, 2016 10:27 pm CST

With all of our modern technology, most of us are prepared for when bad weather comes through.  Whether it be severe weather, hurricanes, or winter weather...we have hours to day to prepare.  However over 125 years ago, on January 12th, a rapidly developing winter storm formed across the central plains which produced terrible conditions through the central plains.  Historians claim it was the most severe blizzard to hit Nebraska.


The system itself didn't produce a lot of snow...but it did produce hurricane force winds and bitterly cold temperatures.  It was reported that temperatures fell to 30 to 40 below.  In our day and age that is extremely cold, but just think about what people in the late 1800s had to do to stay warm.

Developing Low January 12th 7am ET (Map Source: NOAA)


This storm caused an estimated 230 deaths and caught many people offguard.  People were reported to collapse and die as they were trying to get inside.  It has also been called the Schoolchildren's Blizzard because children were caught outside as they were going home while the blizzard was happening.

             Picture from Frank Leslie's Weekly


Even though there was tragedy one of the acts of heroism was from a young schoolteacher named Minnie Freeman.  She was said to have led her students through the storm by linking them up with twine and leading them to a farmhouse until the blizzard subsided.  Many other teachers kept their students at the school for two nights until rescuers arrived.  Some schools rang their bells nonstop to let people know they were okay.

 Minnie Freeman (source)

Past events like this remind us meteorologists how fortunate we are to have modern technology to provide warning to our clients.  One part of the job is to provide sufficient forecasts so that people can prepare for the worst...and hope for the best.  Like I learned in Boy Scouts "Be Prepared".

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