Kansas November 20, 2018
In 1886, Kansas Plunged Into An Arctic Freeze That Makes This Year’s Winter Look Downright Mild
Kansas has seen its fair share of snowfall and ice storms, to the point that most of us can remember one or two from within our lifetime, no matter what age we are. There’s a lot of risk with severe winters, but today those risks are minimized with in-home heating and better housing for livestock. However, back before we had those comforts, severe winters could be (and were) deadly. This arctic freeze back in 1886 definitely took a toll on Kansas. Let’s take a look!
On January 5, 1886, it was a beautiful but warm day where no one suspected a thing. Most people thought it was just an uncharacteristically nice day for January. However, by the next day, a dangerous storm was making its way through Kansas.
One Kansan thought something was suspicious about spring-like weather in January and traveled to Caldwell to get supplies for the storm he predicted, and made it home right before it hit. Lucky guy!
Even the Topeka Daily Capital on Jan 9th mentioned the horrible storm that was still going, though I'm sure not many received the newspaper while it happened.
Snow drifts over 6 feet tall, temperatures hanging around 10 degrees, and average wind speeds of 20-30 mph made this quite the storm to fear.
Communications and traffic stopped everywhere. Trains couldn't even get through the snow. In the entire month, only three passenger trains even made it to Denver.
I can't imagine being stuck home for so long, unable to leave home due to the weather for a whole week or more.
There are about 100 reported deaths due to the storm, most likely due to exposure and/or starvation. Such a sudden storm didn't leave many people prepared for the worst.
I can't imagine it would be easy to survive if you were stuck in between towns when the storm hit.
Up to 75% of herds were lost as well. Roaming cattle froze to death, wandering through the blizzard. They were simply covered with snow and ice, and couldn't find food. A ranch in southwest Kansas with 5,500 cattle had only 500 survive the storm.
From northwest Kansas on January 6th, it hit Wichita by the morning of the 7th and records show it didn't stop snowing for four days straight. Survivors describe not being able to see something 20 feet in front of them.
These days, even a bad winter in Kansas is still not that bad. There’s
no reason to fear winter in Kansas, it just means a more beautiful spring!