A look back on the blizzard of ‘49 as told through the archives of the Martin Messenger

By Jonni Joyce

Levi Westman’s letter to the Moody County Enterprise described in perfect details the dire situation in and around Martin, South Dakota. Westman, a former resident of Flandreau now resided in Martin. It was so eloquent, the Martin Messenger published it in the March 3, 1949 edition, some two months after the historic snowstorm now known as the Blizzard of ’49.

“I will give you a few of the details so that you can appreciate just what the people, who be pioneers and live out here, are now going through. The blizzard started on January 2 and has continued intermittently ever since. Around Chadron, Nebraska, the first snow fall was forty inches deep. Our snow gauge is fifteen feet under the snow but it is estimated that we had better than 40 inches with winds blowing as high as 60 miles an hour and the temperature was twenty below. Main street has 20 feet high drifts. Farmers and ranchers have been trapped since January,” Westman explains.

Some 50,000 head of livestock were trapped with the only hope of feed being airdropped by the Fifth Army. The snow was so deep, saddle horses would high-center and were useless. 

“If there was ever a discouraged area, this is it, but the morale of the people is almost beyond conception,” Westman opined. 


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