Nebraska Blizzard of 1949. When you complain about the long winter, think of this. The final two pictures are of 150 head of cattle that wandered out onto the ice, could not stand up, and froze to death…and some unlucky hunters.
By Nancy Gaarder / World-Herald staff writer
Among these storms was one of the worst blizzards on record: on Jan. 2 and 3, 1949. All of Nebraska was suffering, except for the southeast corner of the state. Then-Gov. Val Peterson declared it the worst disaster in the state’s history. And after a late January blizzard made it clear that livestock by the millions were at risk, President Harry Truman declared the region a disaster.
On Jan. 29 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers launched Operation Snowbound, a massive disaster response. Crews opened roads, cleared farmyards and carved paths to haystacks.
Twelve states were affected by the storms, but four — Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota — were the focus of Operation Snowbound. Sixty-five years ago this week, the effort was declared a success.
Corps records indicate about 240,000 trapped people were rescued, 115,000 miles of roads were reopened and more than 4 million head of livestock were fed. But despite the effort, dozens of people and more than 158,000 cattle and sheep died. Roy V. Alleman, a Nebraska editor, farmer and rancher of that era, wrote in his book “Blizzard 1949” that 76 people died.