Friday, November 6, 2015

Documentary Screening: Storm of the Century: The Blizzard of '49



On Wednesday, November 17th, Wyoming PBS is offering a free screening of a documentary, Storm of the Century: The Blizzard of '49.  The screening will take place at Laramie County Community College, at LCCC's Training Center and will be followed by a panel discussion featuring the producer Tom Manning, Jim Ehrenberger, and James Fuller.

The blizzard of 1949 was one of the worst in Wyoming history, killing 12 people in Wyoming and 76 in the Intermountain West.  Farmers were particularly hard-hit by the storm, which rushed in from the northwest and dropped temperatures over forty degrees in a matter of a few hours.  One witness, Dan Corbin, recalls seeing a storm like a "tsunami."

Ranchers despaired of herding livestock in whiteout conditions and took refuge inside.  The next day, winds gusting up to 80 mph created drifts as high as thirty feet.  Archive photographs show relief workers tunneling through mountains of hard-packed snow as steep and crystalline as salt caves.

According to Rebecca Hein at Wyohistory.org, the storm raged for three days, but blizzard recuperation lasted into the early spring.  The U.S. Air Force helped with Operation Hayride (better known as Operation Haylift), transporting hay to Wyoming farms.  The Wyoming Game and Fish Department staged a parallel food drive for local wildlife, delivering hay, cottonseed cake, and alfalfa pellets to deer, elk, and antelope.  Game birds were fed corn and small grain.

The documentary project is sponsored in part by a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund - a program of the Department of State Parks and cultural Resources; with partial funding by the Wyoming Humanities Council; and with additional funding from Pacificorp, the Wheeler Family Foundation, Rose Brothers Inc. of Lingle, and the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation.

Learn more about the blizzard here and read an eyewitness account here.

Posted by Jess White on November 6, 2015.

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