Montana February 22, 2019
132 Years Ago, Montana Was Hit With The Worst Blizzard In History
If you’re one of the many Montanans who’s getting tired of winter, rest assured, it could be a lot worse. While this hasn’t been our mildest winter in history, it can’t compare with the one that changed the livestock industry completely. Just over 132 years ago, the Treasure State suffered its worst blizzard in history.
The winter of 1886–1887 was extremely harsh for the entire country, especially the western plains.
Not one part of Montana was spared.
In 1886, the summer was hot and dry, baking the grass on the range.
Large herds of cattle stripped the grass to nubbins. The heavy snow started in November, and a series of blizzards buried the open range.
A brief warm spell followed by a deep freeze left an impenetrable ice crust over what was left of the grass.
Herds of cattle starved, some coming into towns and munching on trees and shrubs.
Then, on January 9, a blizzard brought 16 new inches of snow and extreme cold and winds.
Cattle froze standing up and dropped dead in the streets. Montana lost an estimated 362,000 head of cattle and countless sheep and horses.
Local ranchers had been deceived by a string of mild winters, so no one was prepared for that brutal year.
Hundreds of ranchers went bankrupt, and the ones who didn't began fencing pastures and growing crops of hay and alfalfa to store up for their cattle all winter.
If reading about this abysmal winter was a little depressing, here’s how you can
beat those winter blues.