On March 27, 2009, we had a blizzard in Meade County... I
was trapped in the house and it made me think of a pile of
yellow newspapers that J.T. Powell had given to me last
fall... newspapers his mother had saved about the blizzard
of 1957. Imagine my surprise when I read the date... March
27th! Many of us still remember this "history" and will enjoy
revisiting those times. I would love to have photos and
personal accounts to go along with this story, so if anyone
wants to share, please find contact information by clicking
the "About Us" button above. These personal
accounts will be posted at the bottom of the newspaper
articles. Nancy O
From the Meade Globe Press—Thursday, March 27,
Piles Highway Snowdrifts 12 Feet Deep
Train Marooned and Cattle Losses Heavy
Following a rain Friday night which turned to snow with high
winds Saturday, this area of Kansas was caught in one of the
worst blizzards of record by five o’clock Saturday evening.
With winds up to 60 miles per hour driving a heavy wet snow,
which started to drift as darkness closed in, the blizzard
howled through all of Saturday night and most of Sunday. It
let up a little Sunday evening and began anew Sunday night.
Monday ear noon the wind abated and thawing started some
Crews of workmen were hampered by the cold and blowing now
and visibility in the country was reduced to zero most of
Reports started coming in Saturday night of persons missing
and thought to be stalled on the highways by the blizzard.
Radio station KGNO broadcast warnings to all stalled
motorists to remain in their cars and wait until help
Sheriff Carmichael and Under Sheriff Phelps closed US 54-160
highway west out of Meade at about three Saturday afternoon.
Many motorists and truck drivers were angry to find the road
closed, but later realized that the move was made for their
Highway Department men started trying to reach their own
workers caught out on the highways by the storm. They were
aided by crews from both Michigan-Wisconsin Pipeline Co.,
and the Northern Natural Gas Co., along with manager Otis
Allison and crew from the CMS Electric Cooperative which
could not get out to work on their own lines during the
Highways out of Meade were closed in every direction by huge
drifts of snow. Clarence Feldman and Chester Wasson in on
state truck and bud Cochran and Ted Woltje in another state
truck were out west of Meade on US 160. Walter Clay and
Virgil Warren were north of Meade on K-23. These highway
workers know Kansas blizzards and remain in their trucks
when caught in such storms.
About this time word came through that Rock Island Golden
State Limited, No. 4, east bound was stuck in a drift
between Meade and Liberal. It was later learned that the
train was stuck in the cut between Meade and Missler, about
five miles northwest of Meade. Some of the passengers on the
train were suffering from carbon monoxide fumes Efforts wee
started to get these passengers from the train.
Other reports were coming in. One was that Asa Davidson was
missing in the storm. He started to the oil well on the
Adams ranch southwest of Meade and had not been heard from.
Sunday it was established that he had reached the well and
was safe with the crew there.
Sunday night a crew made its way north to find Walter Clay
and Virgil Warren and brought them in to Meade. A Rock
Island snow plow and engine was off the track about a mile
this side of the stalled Golden State. Tracks were blocked
by the derailment.
Another snow plow and engine came through from Pratt
bringing an M-7 Howitzer carrier tank and seven members of
the Pratt National Guard Unit to man the tank. The tank was
unloaded and with four school busses following took out west
through the fairgrounds and thence to the Sneath road and
south back to US 54-160, and west and north to where the
train was stalled.
The storm had intensified and visibility was zero in the
country. The tank ran away from the trucks and cars and was
last seen heading into the blowing snow. As the school
busses and other vehicles could not follow the tank, drivers
were loaded into one bus and brought back to town. Otis
Allison with the CMS power wagon pulled several of the
vehicles back to town again through the fairgrounds. The
school bus quit and had to be dragged back.
The tank made contact with the train and returned to Meade
around four o’clock Monday morning. The crew was cold and
stiff even after staying a while at the train to try and
Monday morning start was made to break out the highway west
of Meade. The tank made some more trips to the train but
could do nothing but report on conditions of the
Meanwhile the Meade Civil Air Patrol started flying
observation flights and set up radio communications with law
officers and the State Highway force. Elsewhere we have a
story on the CAP operation. They flew US 54-160 west, US 160
east and US 54 east. They reported cars and trucks stranded
on these highways. Through their efforts two cars east of
Meade on 1690 were brought out. One contained four colored
men who were OK except hungry. The other family was in good
CAP also started making food drops. Bert Green of the Meade
County Red Cross Chapter, chairman, prepared a food drop for
the stalled train. Mission was accomplished by CAP. Eight
food drops were made to the eight oil; well crews stranded
at their respective rigs. CAP kept in the air all day to
keep officers informed. They located the two highway trucks
west of Meade on 160 at a farm house and reported that all
four men were safe.
In the afternoon when the road blocks west of Meade could
not be removed the tank went north to Perkins corner, thence
west and south to the train followed by the school bus
caravan. The east-west road was recently graded and was very
soft but all made it through to the train. This caravan
picked up 101 of the passengers and brought them back to
On bus engine threw all rods, another ran out of gas and the
one with rods out was towed back to Meade by the tank. The
one out of gas was quickly serviced and brought in the load.
In every operation the Michigan-Wisconsin Pipe Line crew and
the Northern Natural Gas Co. crew were cooperating along
with the CMS Electric Cooperative force. Mich.-Wisc. And
Northern maintained contact with the caravans and through
their radio equipped pickups and trucks kept things rolling.
Northern and Mich.-Wisc. also used their office radios to
keep in contact. Both pipeline companies used their tow
trucks as did CMS.
As the first caravan made Meade at dark the people were
taken to the gym where beds were available and a crew under
the direction of Mrs. Anna Wurdeman was busy in the
cafeteria preparing a hot meal. In fact this work was
started Sunday evening and some beds were also prepared
Many ladies of the community volunteered to help at the
school. A broadcast over KGNO, Dodge City, only radio
station in this are operating, brought in additional cots
and bedding. By Sunday midnight enough bedding was on hand.
Residents of Meade volunteered in a splendid effort to care
for the passengers.
Second caravan went through west and then followed a ridge
across fields and pastures to the stalled train by following
the tank. This caravan was back in Meade shortly after 11
Monday night and 253 persons from the train were registered
in at the school gym. Two passengers refused to leave the
train and the train crew also remained with the stalled
Tuesday morning these were brought in and the train crew
went back to the train. The two passengers remained with the
group in Meade.
Meanwhile, Wallace McCune, who lives about a mile southeast
of were the train was stalled, had made his way to the train
in a pickup and took four passengers to his home, one couple
being elderly and suffering form the carbon monoxide fumes.
Jim Hill near the McCune farm joined Wallace and the Hill
family took seven or eight of the passengers. These were
left at the farm homes when the train was evacuated.
Meanwhile a plane from Liberal came out and made a landing
on skis to find out condition of the passengers. There was a
helicopter came from Topeka and brought out a doctor who
boarded the train. Two passengers were removed by the copter
to liberal, one lady who was suffering from diabetes passed
away before she could be removed from the train.
Navy 4-engine plane made a food drop Monday morning as the
sun was shining and clouds had lifted. Twenty pounds of
bacon and a case of eggs were removed to the McCune farm
where the bacon was cooked and the eggs boiled. These were
taken back to the train to give the passengers hot food, as
there was not way to prepare the food on the train. 9in some
of the drops, small alcohol burners were also dropped to
heat cans of beans, etc.
Inside the train temperature had dropped to less than 40
degrees and heaters had been turned off to stop the fumes.
Fumes were caused by snow packing into the vents of the
heaters ordinarily used.
Snow had drifted in and around the train so that six cars of
the train were completely covered. Efforts were being made
to get the derailed snow plow back on the track so work
could start to free the train.
Tuesday shortly before noon a Rock Island train from the
east came in with cars to transport the passengers east to
their destinations. They were placed on the train around
four o’clock Tuesday afternoon after trucks had gone back to
the stalled train and secure luggage of the passengers.
school bus driven by Kenneth Tacha made it to the McCune
place Tuesday morning and brought out the passengers at the
McCune place and also from the Jim Hill farm home.
Bert Green of the Red Cross did a fine job in arranging for
operation “Drift Lift” and care for the passengers. All
names of the ladies assisting could not be named but there
was no lack of help at the school. Too, there was no lack of
help during the forming and tries of the caravans to reach
Now for a look at the
local scene as it pertains to home folks. The largest drift
concerning Meade was that south of St. John’s Catholic
Church, which piled across the highway to a depth of 12 feet
and snow packed around the Sunset Tourist Court piling over
the cars of travelers staying there. Doors to the cabins
were held shut by the packed snow and some guests left their
rooms by going out the west windows.
At the Moon Mist
Motel snow packed on the north side of the motel so that one
could walk from the ground onto the roof of the Motel. Cars
on the south of the motel in the parking area where covered
by the drifting snow and they had to be shoveled out before
the cars could be moved.
During the height of
the storm only two secondary lines went down in the city’s
power and light system. Two transformers blew fuses and
these were repaired Monday. One transformer burned out near
the state barn Monday afternoon and had to be replaced.
Meade was never out of
electricity and street lights were on all the time until
Monday night. Also there was always plenty of water.
Telephone communication was maintained steadily with the
lines going through Dodge City.
Fowler, 10 miles east
of Meade, was out of power and lights and telephone
communication was disrupted for a time. Plains, 14 miles
west, was without power and lights from Saturday night until
about 8 p.m. Monday evening. Telephone communication was
also established over an emergency circuit Monday evening at
about 8 p.m. Southwest Bell Telephone Company crews were
busy all the time trying to restore service in all
directions from Mead.
On the local board,
which was swamped with calls throughout the storm, Grace
Masters and her crew were working over-time through the
whole storm and after. At night four girls were still on the
board and only emergency long distance calls were going out.
Meade had four circuits from here to Dodge City and out to
the east. These were swamped all the time.
Passengers from the
train made calls to report that they were safe. Others were
calling into Meade to try and locate persons known to be in
this area. Oil companies were calling their drillers and
superintendents to find out what was needed.
City force started on
the streets as quickly as they could. Monday afternoon only
shovels could be used in places to open gutters so the water
would flow around the melting snow. The street maintainer
made it up and down most of the heavily used streets and
pushed the snow to one side and opened drifts so that
traffic was moving providing the vehicle had on a good set
Every tow car or
wrecker crane in the city was being put to full capacity.
Snow plow crews were working on US 54 east of Meade and by
Monday night the highway was open from Meade to four miles
east of Minneola. The snow plows coming from Pratt this way
were held back by the drifts in the cuts east of Minneola.
Crews west were still working on the drifts through the
breaks west of Meade from the Elmer Fisher farm home west on
Along Carthage Avenue
snow was piled in drifts in front of business houses along
the north side of Carthage. The heavy wet snow ripped the
awning from Randy’s Market and half of the awning was
removed Sunday to prevent further damage. Across the street
wind whipped down a sign at Cooper’s Gift Store and broke a
small window above the plate glass. Snow was blowing into
the store until the sign was removed and cardboard nailed
over the broken window.
remained closed through Sunday and some opened Monday
morning. It was a big job clearing he driveways of snow.
Mail service was cut
off from the east Saturday night along with incoming truck
shipments of food stuffs, due in Meade Monday. Stores ran
out of bread early Monday, and milk supplies were gone by
the afternoon. Sales were brisk on biscuit mixes and cafes
and restaurants were baking their own rolls and bread to
keep going. Restaurants were also out of milk.
At 3:40 Tuesday
afternoon the passengers from the stalled train were loaded
onto a Rock Island special and sent east to their
destinations. The passengers wee happy to be on their way
once more, but all of them will remember their stay in
Meade. All were grateful for the assistance given here.
Also about this time
Clarence Feldman, Chester Wasson, Bud Cochran and Ted Woltje
arrived back in Meade. They had been met west of the US 54
and 160 junction near plains by the highway crew from Meade.
They were safe and sound.
KGNO announced Tuesday
evening that residents of Meade could pick up their bedding,
beds and cots at the school gym.
3.51 Inches Moisture
In Rain, Snow at Plains
Rain and snow since
Wednesday morning, March 20, has brought 3.51 inches of
moisture to Plains over the week-end. Rain began falling
Wednesday at 9 a.m. and continued throughout the day,
leaving us 1.26. rain again Friday evening and 12 inches of
snow between Friday around midnight and until early Monday
morning accounted fro another 2.25 inches of moisture.
This brings the total
moisture for the month of March to 4.21 inches, half the
amount received during the entire year 1956.
Snow Caves In
Municipal Hanger; Planes Damaged
Five planes housed in
Plains Municipal airplane hanger located just east of Plains
ere damaged badly when the roof, heaped with snow heavy with
moisture, caved in on them. Bee Hinson, aerial sprayer, had
two 135 horsepower Piper Cubs in the hangar. One of these he
had ready to fly to Mississippi this week. One plane is a
complete loss with exception possibly of the engine and prop
and the other he was removing Tuesday by dismantling it, in
hopes he could salvage at least part of it.
Gene Short had a Piper
Cub in the hangar. The landing gear of his plane was smashed
but he thought other than that it may not be badly damaged.
The club ship, a
Culver Cadet, owned by club members, Leo Richardson, Wayne
Streiff, Gene Short, Wendell Fox and Norman Angell, was
smashed beyond repair. This plane was in the middle of the
hangar and caught the brunt of the weight.
The fifth plane was J3
Cub owned by Simpson and Whitney Aerial Spray company of
Liberal and was the least damaged of all.
None of the planes,
except the Simpson and Whitney plane, carried any insurance
for the damage done to them.
Leo Richardson had a
truck [parked in the hanger that was also damaged.
Sideboards were broken down and the bed damaged. It was
parked near the Simpson-Whitney plane and held some of the
weight of the fallen roof off his plane.
WORST BLIZZARD IN
MANY YEARS HITS WESTERN KANSAS
Some weathermen say
the worst blizzard since 1031, other say the worst in 50
years, hit Western Kansas Saturday evening and continued
until early Monday morning.
Radio station KGNO,
Dodge City, began issuing storm warnings for cattlemen and
motorists Friday. Warnings continued throughout the day and
school in Plains was dismissed at 3 o’clock to allow drivers
to get the students home and themselves back to town before
a storm struck.
Rain began falling
Friday evening and by midnight had turned to snow. By
Saturday morning Plains had received 5 inches of beautiful,
wet snow, which had stacked up on fence posts, roof tops,
tree limbs, etc., just like magazine pictures. The snow
continued all day, then around 6 p.m. Saturday the predicted
storm hit with all the intensity forecast.
Winds to 60 m.p.h.
whipped the snow into huge drifts, stranded trains and a few
motorists, and left considerable damage to stock, smothered
in the storm, barn and shed roofs caved in. there were no
fatalities reported in this immediate vicinity.
melted lost of the snow and highways ere beginning to open
up to traffic.
Lights went off in
Plains at 6 P.M. Saturday and were not repaired until Monday
evening about 8 p.m. REA lines were put back into use as
lineman could make repairs and were still not all on up to
noon today (Wednesday).
Telephone lines were
down and there was no long distance service Sunday morning
and until Tuesday when emergency calls were being accepted.
Local calls were put on batteries which held out until early
Monday morning, then there were no local calls until the
electricity was restored Monday evening.
Rural mail carriers
went out Saturday morning but were unable to get around
their routes, and there has been no mail delivery on rural
routes since then. Of course there have been no trains in or
out, nor any mail trucks, so farmers who have been able to
make it into town to pick up their Saturday mail are no
farther behind with the mail than town folks.
So, as you can see,
Plains was cut off from the outside world for at least 48
hours, with exception of car radios, a few battery radios,
Woodie with his ham radio, and High Miller and Haskell
Holmes with their two-way police radios.
IOWANS SEE KANSAS BLIZZARD
Nineteen persons were
housed at the Star-Crest Motel, owned and operated by Mr.
And Mrs. W.W. Langhofer, during the big blizzard. There were
two carloads of folks from Canada, and one carload from
Iowa, one from Wichita and the rest were oilfield workers
from Meade and Liberal.
The Canadians said
they had seen a lot of snow but never had experienced a
storm such as the one they were in here. The Iowans decided
they had had storms almost as severe but they did not seem
quite so bad because they were home when they happened.
stretched her provisions to cook meals for the 19 people
from Saturday until Monday evening when the care opened
again for business. They were all happy to be inside and
warm and made no complaints during the storm but by Tuesday
were beginning to be a little anxious to be on their way.
Mr. and Mrs. George Morrison and Kathie had stayed with the
Langohofers Friday evening and were caught in town by the
storm, so spent several days as the guests of the Langhofers,
and were included in the count of 19.
RAINES’ DEEP FREEZE
Coach and Mrs. Gerald
Raines’ house at the north edge of Plains, facing north and
unprotected from the fierce storm of last week-end, was
banked in with drifted snow until it looked more like an
igloo than a new modern home when the storm was over.
When the Raines’ awoke
Sunday they couldn’t see out, but did not at first realize
how buried they were. Upon discovering their two east
bedroom windows seemed light they investigated and found
they could see out them so the others must be covered with
snow, which they definitely were! Raines answered the
telephone Sunday, “Raines Deep Freeze.” Like many others
with electricity off, they were without heat and cooking
facilities, and being buried in the snow as they were the
“deep freeze”: was not fiction.
Neighbor Lewis Wells
came to the rescue and dug an escape tunnel into their
garage door and they spent remainder of the day with the
Wells family. By night the tunnel had filled in again but
was easier to dig out the second time. With a lot of
shoveling and some help from mother nature with the sun on
Monday they have uncovered most of the windows and opened a
walk-in entrance to the front of their garage.
BLIZZARD DAMAGE IN
After a severe storm
such as we experienced last week-end comes the digging out,
and then is when people begin to realize the destruction
caused in such storms. This recent March blizzard was not
exception and we will bring to you some accounts of the
damage we have learned in talking with people along the
We have already told n
another article the damage to airplanes when the hangar roof
caved in. There was lots of loss in stock herds also, and
probably will be more reports from stockmen as the snow
thaws and herds can be rounded up or found under the snow.
Denn Bromwell began
digging out his sheep and lambs Monday. From his 200 ewes
and 160 lambs, he could see only about 20 head when he went
to see about them. Then with help, he began digging into the
snow and uncovered many more. He figures his loss at about
60 head altogether.
At the D. F. Bromwell
farm his barn roof caved in and killed 12 head of cattle.
A shed which housed
Verele Knott’s 220 head of sheep banked with snow and the
roof caved in. Whit help Verle dug out on Monday, expecting
the worst. However, he found only one sheep dead.
reports the loss of three head of hogs just ready for
market. They died from suffocation as did most of the stock
killed in the storm.
W.F. (Red) Wilson had
75 head of cattle housed in the barn at the Joyce Hamm farm
and upon investigating their condition Monday also found the
roof caved in. They were able to account for all the cattle
by Tuesday except two baby calves.
Gordon Dierking, north
of town has been unable to estimate his loss in sheep and
lambs. The 100 head of ewes and 50 lambs were water soaked
from rains before the snow and then wet snow packed into the
wool. They found five on their backs that they got up; they
can account for a least two lost and expect to find more
dead under the snow when it thaws.
Louis Chappel, H.E.
Chappell and Elmer Vogt, who have been feeding about 300
head of cattle for Jarbo, commission cattle man from Texas,
made the follow report. They had 200 head at the Voght place
and lost 75 head of these sheltered inside a barn. They did
not die from suffocation as most of the stock had but snow
shipping into the building had melted with the animals’ body
heat. The animals had got down in the water and were
trampled and drowned. Another 107 head were kept at the
Louis Chappel place. Out of these they can account for only
60 head. There were 60 known dead and the rest are either
strayed or under the snow.
Several cattle and
calves wandered into the Alvin Dierking farm and are being
an estimated 75 to 100 head of Black Angus cows and out of
50 calves they can only account for nine. They found dead
cattle from their shed, which like so many, caved in with
weight of heavy snow drifted on top of the building, to the
railroad track a mile or so south. They cannot be sure of
the loss until snow thaws and they know if some may have
strayed, and will be found later.
Cecil Feldman lost a
cow and calf in his pasture, probably suffocated from snow
packed in their nostrils.
Haskell Holmes had
found one of his herd of 32 cattle on his farm east of
Plains near the Carl Singley place, and is short two or
three more head.
Buck Adams, rancher
south of Plains lost 34 head of cattle from suffocation near
the Michigan-Wisconsin station.
There were only a few
of the farmers around Plains contacted since the storm. We
hope the reports we may get from others next week will not
tell of so much loss.
Bill Winfrey tells
about finding his horses walking off the roof of their shed.
Snow banked into the shed until the horses wee bumping the
roof. Finally with so much force they broke through and came
out on the top when walked down the snow banked along the
Red Wilson also has a
good one to tell about the drifts at his place in the
blizzard of ’57. When he went out to milk old bossy Monday
morning he could hardly found the barn. When he did he
walked up a huge drift and went down through the barn loft
to the cows. He found the door later and cut his way through
the snow and, it is reported, he is now going into the barn
the conventional way.
Bob Sheldon has horses
in a barn at the north edge of Plains. When he went to care
for them Sunday evening he also found now drifted into the
barn and built up until the horses were bumping their heads
on the barn loft.
SNOW TO SECOND STORY
Mr. and Mrs. Leonard
Hale were other “north enders” covered up with snow when the
big blizzard came to an end in Plains Monday. Both their
front and back doors were blocked shut with huge 12 to 14
foot drifts. Their back screen had blown open and snow
packed between it and the inside door which gave Mr. Hale a
place to cut through to the outside world.
Clifford Sutton and
Alan Lubbers left Kismet for Plains at 5:10 Saturday evening
in the Plains Gas truck and Sutton’s pickup truck. Both
trucks slid into the ditch about 4 miles west of Plains and
were there until around 1 a.m. Monday morning when Charley
Smith, with the West Plains Township plow, and a search
party picked them up.
The search party
including Dr. W.W. Orrison, Jack Elliott, Warren Peterson,
Donald DePriest and Hugh Miller followed the snow plow when
they went looking for the men know lost on Highway 54.
Before reaching Sutton and Lubbers they picked up a couple
of REA linemen from Liberal, stuck in a drift three miles
west of Plains.
The party kept in
contact with Plains via two-way police radios from Miller’s
car in the party and Haskell Holmes stationed in town.
EXPERIENCES WITH THE BLIZZARD OF '57!
CARL SANDER'S STORY:
Phone lines went to Dodge but
not anywhere else. Our phone line to Meade was OK and they
used my Dad's ham radio to contact the Pratt National Guard
for there two "weazels" to rescue the train passengers.
One of the issues of "Life Magazine" had pictures in it of
the train and people trying to get them out, as well as a
picture of the Meade High School Gym, where many were bedded
A drilling rig on our Ranch was in operation at the time and
the crew were stuck on it for 3 days, without relief. On
the Fourth day a relieve crew got out to the ranch and I
spent over an hour going 2 miles to exchange the crews. My
dad had bought one of the first 4 wheel drive pickups in the
area in 1956 and it sure paid off with this storm.
The one thing that stuck out in my mind, was on the ranch
the draws were filled up with snow. The ranch is pretty
well broken up with draws and canyons, but looking across
the pastures after the storm, they looked level. If someone
didn't know the location of where they were at, you would
have driven off into 20+ feet of snow. All of them were
full. Snow in the shadows was still present almost up to
I could go on, but that's enough for now.
Blizzard of March, 1957 by Roy and Vashti Seybert, as
told to Alice Seybert Montemurro, with contributions by
(March 21 -
The blizzard began on
Friday night. On Saturday, I was in the CMS Rural Electric
office in Meade, while the crews were out. I had worked as
a lineman, but was now an accountant and work-order clerk,
who scheduled the crews. Fred Stone, the crew foreman, came
to get me to go with him to check the Liberal and Kismet
substations. We needed to know how far west the storm went,
so we drove into Liberal, and found that it covered a much
bigger area than we had thought. At all substations, the
transformers had been damaged and overheated, and we thought
they were all out, and couldn't be repaired in this weather,
so we elected to return to Meade. The Highway Patrol stopped
us in Liberal and informed us that only vehicles with 2-way
radios were being allowed on the highways. We had a 2-way
radio. However, at the time, we were unaware that trouble
in the main station in Meade was such that we could receive
messages, but we were not able to transmit messages.
I was supposed to watch for
the edge of the blacktop through the snow, as Fred drove.
The blinding, driving snow made it difficult to see. We
proceeded until we got to a spot on a hill just east of the
Arkalan railroad bridge, where we ran off the blacktop.
Since we had passed a maintenance crew a ways back, Fred
walked back to it and asked them to push us back on the
Just west of where
Southwestern Heights High School now is, we ran off the
highway, again, and this time we could go no further. It
was 4:00 PM on Saturday. The storm was at its peak. I
started to get out to relieve myself beside the south side
of the truck but the wind literally took my breath away, so
I got back in and used the floorboards, which made Fred very
unhappy--until he had to go, and then it was a different
Fred kept saying that if he
had a cap with ear flaps he would walk to the nearby
railroad tracks and follow them into Plains to get help.
"You stupid.....you wouldn't even make it to the tracks;
you'd be dead before you got across the blacktop in this
cold wet snow and wind." I said. But later, when he
repeated himself, I removed my hat with flaps and handed it
to him. He put it on, buttoned up his coat around his neck,
rolled down his window to check conditions. The blast from
the north swept into the truck cab with such ferocity, that
without a word, Fred took off my cap and handed it back to
Stone, being a tall,
muscular man, became very uncomfortable after some time of
sitting under the steering wheel. Since I was much smaller,
I suggested we change positions in the cab. "I wish I knew
where my mackinaw was. I could sure use it now," he said.
He was only wearing a shirt and coveralls, with no
undershirt, and a light jacket. "There's something like
that under the seat," I said. Ducking down to search,
Fred ended up practically standing on his head leaning over
the seat, onto the greasy, dirty floor. He dragged a piece
of fabric out, and it was the coat, which he wasted no time
in putting on. It was ragged and dirty, frayed from battery
acid, but it was warm. As he shoved his hands down into the
pockets, he stopped, felt around, then pulled out an old
Snickers candy bar, mashed flat, with torn wrapping.
Without any hesitation, he tore it in half and handed one
part to me. We each pulled off the remaining paper and ate
our share, dirt, grit and all.
Our truck didn't have a
full tank of gas, so to keep warm, we ran the motor for ten
minutes every hour, until we ran completely out of fuel.
Saturday night passed.
Sunday. Sunday night. Monday passed, then Monday night. We
could hear them calling for us over the two-way, but we
couldn't get them to hear us. No one knew where we were.
About 1:00 AM Tuesday,
while trying to sleep with my feet scrunched up in front of
the steering wheel, I awoke to find the cab lit up.
Headlights of some big piece of machinery bored through the
snow and wind. I pulled the light switch off and on, and
Fred woke up, too. A road maintainer mounted with a
snowplow was bearing down, about to pass us. Finally making
out the form of our truck, they stopped, backed up adjacent
to our cab, and I rolled down the window a bit. A little
man came running around from the other side of the
maintenance vehicle, carrying a black bag.
"Who are you?" Dr. Orrison
asked. They were from Plains, and looking for two men in a
gasoline delivery truck from the Plains Co-op. Turns out
that that truck was about a half mile behind us, where they,
too, had run off the highway.
Snow had drifted up the
truck side, to the bottom of the window, and frozen solid.
I baled out by crawling through the driver's window and
sliding down the snowdrift against the door on my stomach.
My much larger companion, however, had great difficulty
fitting through that small space, and Fred hollered to me to
come back to the pickup and help him get the door open.
Impossible. He was worried about leaving the window open,
as snow would drift in, but we decided it would dry out
eventually, which, of course, it did.
Dr. Bill Orrison had been
riding in the front of the maintenance vehicle with the
driver. Completing the caravan, were a car and a pickup.
Dr. Orrison ordered us to get into the car, where we were
given hot coffee, dry bread, and an apple. Eat slowly, and
sip the coffee, they said.
After finding the two men
in the other truck on down the highway, we returned to
Plains. One of the men had gotten out of that truck
carrying a bucket, and took gas from the delivery gas tank
to put into the truck to keep it running. The driving wind
and snow banged the bucket, splashed gasoline out onto his
clothing, and soon soaked down to his skin. The fellow
would not have made it until Tuesday morning, he was so sick
and in pain from the gasoline burns.
In Plains, the convoy took
us to Dr. Orrison's office, and I was ushered in first. He
asked me what I needed and I said nothing that a "brown
bomber" wouldn't cure, but the man behind me was in terrible
shape. The deputy sheriff took us to his home, where his
wife got out of bed and fed us bacon and eggs, hot off the
griddle, and toast...all we could eat, and nothing ever
tasted so good as that meal.
Mrs. Goldie Singley ran a
restaurant in Plains, which she kept open during the entire
blizzard, cooking for all the stranded travelers, as well as
locals, and not charging anyone for their food. Mrs.
Singley smoked cigarettes as she fried eggs, the ashes
hanging from the end of the cigarette. Sitting at the
counter, watching her work at the griddle, Fred and I hoped
those ashes would not fall off into our eggs, but we decided
that even if they did, we'd probably not know the
difference, anyway. It would just look like pepper. We
kept track of the food we ate there, and after the storm,
the CMS office sent her a check for our meals.
We stayed there until
Thursday afternoon, when the National Guard and Kansas
Highway Department were able to get the roads open, and we
could go home.
Our family of six was
living 3 miles south of town on the park road in a basement
house. The two small bedrooms, a bathroom, living room,
kitchen, and laundry room were heated nicely by a propane
space-heater-type stove situated pretty much in the center
of the house, in a corner of the living room. Glenn was
13, Alice was 10, Ross, 8, and Charlie, 7. Roy was working
for CMS Rural Electric in Meade, and I took care of the kids
and did much of the work on the forty acre farm while he was
at work there. No one on our road had telephone service,
because all farms had to be willing to pay an equal part of
the cost of installing the lines, and Mr. Ted Mertens was
When the blizzard hit on
Friday, the electricity went off, which wasn't unusual
during storms, and for such purpose, we had old kerosene
lamps to use for light. The propane stove worked well, too,
for long, slow cooking, but we had no running water because
our pump was electric. Knowing that a storm was coming, I
had filled some containers with water ahead of time. I
cooked stew and ham and beans on the living room stove. For
breakfasts, I cooked hot cereal on it.
We had baby chicks under
brooder lights in a shed beyond the barn, and no way to keep
them warm without electricity, so I took Glenn, the oldest,
out to help me put them in boxes and bring them into the
I carried one box, and gave
Glenn another, assuming he would follow me. We stepped out
of the shed into the blinding whiteness, and I pushed my
way toward the house. Glenn took a step or two, saw nothing
but white, and stopped in his tracks. He just stood there,
not knowing what to do, holding the box of chicks. Having
deposited the first box of poultry in the house, but not
finding my oldest son behind me, I went up the cement steps,
pushed open the door, and out into the snow again. There
was Glenn, where I had left him, just outside the chicken
shed door. "Follow me," I told him, and we carried the
remaining boxes of chicks toward the house.
The kids and I moved the
living room couch away from the wall, spread layers of
newspaper over the floor, and set the boxes there, the low
sides of which provided walls to contain the chicks. This
was exciting for the kids, who alternately hung over the
back of the couch watching the cheeping chicks, or sat on
the floor next to the cardboard barricades and held the
little live yellow fluff balls in their hands. It wasn't
too long, however, before the incessant cheeping got to be a
bit annoying, and the smell of baby chick poop permeated,
first the living room, and then the entire house. But we
kept the chicks alive.
There was enough light
coming through the small, high, above-ground windows that we
could see during the day, even with the snow drifted against
them on the outside. The kids and I played board games and
read stories, in addition to playing with the chicks. For
the kids, this was all a wonderful adventure, a lot of fun,
and not school!
The shelter-belt north of
the house protected us from some of the wind. We kept the
milk cow in the barn for the entire storm. She had to be
milked twice a day, of course, and it was really cold
tramping through the blowing, wet snow to get to the barn
each time. Then I carried the bucket full of milk into the
house. I couldn't pour it through the cream separator,
located in the laundry room, because it didn't work without
electricity, and I didn't have enough water to wash the
separator parts, either, so we had plenty of warm, rich,
un-separated milk to drink.
About Tuesday afternoon,
after the storm had abated, I loaded a five-gallon cream can
and the kids, on sleds, and went to the neighbors' to get
water. Once, we went up the hill to the south, to Mrs.
Florence Stalder's, and on a couple of other days, we went
to Ted Merten's house, across the road a bit to the north.
Both of those farms had water because they had windmills
instead of wells with electric pumps, like we did. To get
there, we pulled the sleds and walked, over the shiny,
crusted surface of 10-or-more-foot high snowdrifts. They
lasted for some time after the storm.
The blizzard lasted from
Saturday through Tuesday, but even then the roads weren't
passable. Roy had been in town at work on Saturday, when
the storm hit, and, with no telephone, we weren't able to be
in contact with anyone in town, nor they with us. I just
assumed that while directing work crews, he had gotten
stranded in the office.
Finally, on Monday, Otis
Allison, the manager of CMS, and one of his workers, driving
a four-wheel-drive truck over some circuitous route, came to
check on us. He sat down at the kitchen table, and
nervously admitted to me that they didn't know where Roy and
Fred Stone were. He was scared the two might have gotten
out of their pickup, wherever they were, tried to walk
during the blizzard, and frozen. I told him I wasn't
worried about that; that Roy would have enough sense to stay
in his vehicle. Without thinking, Otis suggested I really
should get a heat lamp on those baby chicks, and I said that
I sure would do that as soon as he turned our electricity
It was not until after Roy
came home on Thursday, that we got our electricity hooked
(from Jean Lampi)
transcribing the early newspapers in our town, The Atikokan
Progress, Atikokan, Ontario.
This morning I came across an article that I felt Meade
might enjoy reading. I had no idea who to send it to and
could not find a newspaper on the township or the Chamber
sites so I decided to send it along to each of you hoping
you might know how to have it printed so the town folks
might read it.
And so with our thanks one more time.......... :)
April 4 1957
Residents aboard Train Stranded by Kansas Storm
train trapped for nearly two days by a Kansas blizzard, Mr
and Mrs. John Reid and their daughter, Mary, returned home
to Atikokan Friday, March 29, from a holiday in Arizona that
turned out to be a little longer than they expected.
had been scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, March 26, but they
were delayed by the blizzard described as probably the worst
to hit Kansas in close to a half-century. Also on the trip
was Mr. Reid's mother from Fort Frances.
train, the Golden State Limited, became stranded in the snow
at a small town, named Meade, in Kansas, en route from
Phoenix to Kansas City. Some passengers, including Mr. Reid
were aboard the stranded train for close to 47 hours.
Heating facilities were not working on the train and for the
last part of the time only crackers and milk were available
as food for the 260 passengers.
passenger train, which had been preceded by a diesel-driven
snowplow, eventually ground to a halt at a point about four
or five miles from Meade, a community of about 4,000
This was at
approximately midnight Saturday. It was early Monday evening
before school busses were able to get through from Meade to
the train to take off women and children. The buses returned
later to transport male passengers to town.
didn't have any snow removal equipment in Meade because
there hasn't been any rain or snow in that area for the last
five or six years,” said Mr. Reid. “To get through to the
train, the road had to be cleared by 100 men using shovels.
Some of the drifts were 20 feet high.”
aboard the train became depleted Sunday. Some emergency
rations were dropped near the train from a U.S. Air force
on the train had run out of propane gas by that time and the
air force had been advised of this,” said Mr. Reid. “they
dropped six small Coleman stoves along with supplies of
frozen eggs and bacon. No one else knew how to operate the
stoves and I finally got three of them going but I couldn't
do anything with the other three.”
the 260 passengers were given emergency shelter in the
auditorium of the high school there. All were made
comfortable, said Mr. Reid. The Meade Chamber of Commerce
and the Red Cross did everything possible to look after the
said that passengers aboard the train were so well pleased
with the all-out effort of help by people in Meade that a
fund was raised among passengers aboard the train which was
turned over to the hospital in Meade.
better than $650 raised aboard the train and some
passengers, who didn't have too much money with them at the
time, pledged that they would subscribe to the fund later.
One man contributed a $100 bill to the fund.”
marooned train was almost completely snowed in. Snow was
piled so high that it covered the windows, cutting off the
light during the daytime.
passengers were a bit annoyed at one stage when, while
listening to a radio aboard the train, there was a newscast
on which the announcer reported that all the passengers had
been removed from the train, had been taken to Meade, put in
the auditorium and fed a good hot meal,” said Mr. Reid. “All
this while we were still stranded aboard the train.”
passengers remained overnight in Meade.
I knew the
Reid family so well, this was a great read for me too.
Imagine the 100 men shoveling the train passengers out with
hand shovels. Amazing!
Yours in praise of Meade
Jean Lampi :)