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BY MIKE AVITT
We all have our “favorite” blizzard or winter, but this week we’ll look at a winter very few, if any, remember – the winter of 1936.
The Mount Ayr Record-News began reporting on Ringgold County’s worst winter on January 23, 1936. Nearly all of the county roads were blocked by the latest snowstorm, which brought the total amount of snow for the month of January to 25 inches. The temperatures had recently reached 14 below once and 16 below twice.
The January 30 Record-News reports Redding native Sam Holland, age 52, froze to death walking home from the Redding train station. Several high schools and the Mount Ayr Public Library had closed due to the coal shortage. Grocery stores were delivering as far out into the country as they could, with farmers walking toward town to meet the delivery teams.
In the February 6 newspaper we read about the severity of the coal shortage and the sub-zero temperatures. There had now been 41 inches of snow since January first.
The second week of February saw another major blizzard hit Ringgold County. All roads, including railroad lines, were blocked. No coal could get in as demand increased daily. Water pipes were freezing and breaking.
The February 20 Record-News announced the postponement of the annual basketball tournament. In fact, all high schools in Ringgold County were closed. There was another small snowfall, temperatures were still dangerously cold, and the trains were still blocked by massive snow drifts. The town of Hatfield in Harrison County, Missouri had been cut off for over a week. Works Project Administration workers were cutting wood for people to burn.
By the end of February, the melting snow made the roads too muddy to travel. Hundreds of livestock had died during January and February.
My (least) favorite winter storm was the Halloween ice storm of 1991. I was iced-in at a farmhouse near Willey, Iowa in Carroll County. There was three-quarters of an inch of ice on everything. No electricity, of course. As the sun rose the next morning, I was in the cab of a 1086 International Harvester tractor watching the sun illuminate the earth. It was as if the entire planet were made of crystal and glass – one of the most beautiful sights I ever witnessed. But, I was glad when it was over.