Sunday, March 4, 2018

Operation Snowbound: a book review

Operation Snowbound: Life Behind the Blizzards of 1949 by David W. Mills. North Dakota State University Press, c2018 (260 pages, photos)

How's this for timing? I finished this interesting new book, one of the many excellent books being produced by NDSU Press, just as the biggest winter storm of the season was upon us.


This is the story, as described in the subtitle, of the 1949 blizzards that nearly paralyzed a portion of the United States, specifically the northern plains and the inter-mountain west, including North Dakota. The writer and historian, David W. Mills, tells this vivid tale using a rich array of source material, dotting the story with vignettes of individuals who had to cope with the effects of these storms, and the many heroes who played their role in the response. The accompanying photographs enrich the text.

"By the end of January, the devastation was staggering. The western United States had suffered through one of the worst winters on record with at least another month to go. Roads blocked with mountains of snow prevented travel throughout Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. Snow isolated farms, ranches, or entire communities for weeks at a time. Livestock losses were staggering, but the extent of the catastrophe remained uncertain until the snows melted and the carnage lay bare." (pg. 211)

I learned a great deal about a chapter in North Dakota history about which I'd known almost nothing and I'm eager to share this book with my mother, who would have lived through this ordeal in Slope County, and to hear her personal stories. That is the magic of books and history, well told. This book falls into that niche and I tip my hat to the author and the folks at the NDSU Press.

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