The Children’s Blizzard
From Publishers Weekly: "In 1888, a sudden, violent blizzard swept across the American plains, killing hundreds of people, many of them children on their way home from school. As Laskin writes in this gripping chronicle of meteorological chance and human folly and error, the School Children's Blizzard, as it came to be known, was 'a clean, fine blade through the history of the prairie,' a turning point in the minds of the most steadfast settlers: by the turn of the 20th century, 60% of pioneer families had left the plains. Laskin shows how portions of Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas, heavily promoted by railroads and speculators, represented 'land, freedom, hope' for thousands of impoverished European immigrants who instead found an unpredictable, sometimes brutal environment, a 'land they loved but didn't really understand.'"
January 12, 1888, began as an unseasonably warm morning across Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Minnesota, the weather so mild that children walked to school without coats and gloves. But that afternoon, without warning, the atmosphere suddenly, violently changed. One moment the air was calm; the next the sky exploded in a raging chaos of horizontal snow and hurricane-force winds. Temperatures plunged as an unprecedented cold front ripped through the center of the continent.
By Friday morning, January 13, some 500 people lay dead on the drifted prairie, many of them children who had perished on their way home from country schools. In a few terrifying hours, the hopes of the pioneers had been blasted by the bitter realities of their harsh environment. Recent immigrants from Germany, Norway, Denmark, and Ukraine learned that their free homestead was not a paradise but a hard, unforgiving place governed by natural forces they neither understood nor controlled.