November 7, 2012

Author's Notes: Famous Blizzards

In Big Stone Heart, our heroine, Carrie Smith, is trapped in a railway car during a raging blizzard in the spring of 1886.  Last week, Hurricane Sandy hit West Virginia with a two day blizzard and three feet of snow. The photo shows our lake home as it appeared after a heavy snowstorm in the winter of 1996.  Note that the roof has been scraped to prevent it from collapsing under the weight of the snow.
Blizzards have been around since the beginning of time.  But there were some particularly horrific ones in the nineteenth century. Known as the Children’s Blizzard, The Schoolhouse Blizzard, or The Schoolchildren’s Blizzard, the storm that hit the Midwest on January 12, 1888 was particularly brutal.  The day dawned unexpectedly warm and folks went outdoors to do chores.  They sent their children to school.  When the blizzard struck, many were caught unawares.  Most children were kept at school, but some were not and this almost always ended in tragedy.  The death toll was 235.  Read the book The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin for a harrowing account of this storm.

Another cruel winter was immortalized by Laura Ingalls Wilder in The Long Winter. She wrote about the Snow Winter of 1880-1881 in which her family nearly starved to death.  In simple prose, she evokes the spirit of those early settlers who battled the elements in a desperate attempt just to survive.

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