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A Terrifying, Deadly Storm Struck Idaho In 1949 And No One Saw It Coming

Idaho, with its tumultuous geology, diverse weather regions, and abundant scenic beauty is no stranger to the darker forces of nature and nor the impacts of its human residents. In 1910, the Big Burn ravaged Northern Idaho, the product of a grueling summer storm. In 1976, the Teton Dam collapsed, devastating the eastern part of the state. But Idaho’s storm of the century created a winter disaster that was just as unexpected and deadly, the most intense seen since the 1800s, and far more brutal than any other weather-related event seen since. In 1949–a mere two generations ago–an unprecedented cold snap tore through southern Idaho, virtually isolating the southern half of the state for weeks and shutting down the economy for a month. But low temperatures are only part of this chilling story. Do you remember?

While the “Great Winter of 1949” effectively shut down southern Idaho for over six weeks, there were fewer than a dozen casualties. But Idaho wasn’t the only state to be affected–Utah had a record snowfall as well, and the brutal winter swept through most of the US. Sadly, modern photos simply can’t do this disaster justice, and we would love to see yours. Where were you when this megastorm struck?

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Jennifer
Super-rad musician, scholar, and Idaho native who has loves basking in Idaho sunsets and indulging in spontaneous nature walks across the state.