How the history of the National Weather Service relates to a 19th Centruy North Dakota blizzard

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 12:19 AM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The National Weather Service was first created in the 1800s following a deadly blizzard that killed hundreds of children, to inform and warn people all over the country, and here in North Dakota, about impending storms.

The agency has continued its work for more than a century and was especially helpful during the historic blizzard that hit North Dakota last week.

According to several accounts from people who lived through the Northern Plains Blizzard of January 1888, it was a beautiful day with temperatures above freezing that quickly turned into white-out blizzard conditions. Within a few hours, temperatures nosedived to negative forty degrees with 60 mile-per-hour winds. Between 250 and 500 people died. It was nicknamed the “Children’s Blizzard” because of the number of students who died on the walk home from school.

As you can probably imagine, technology wasn’t very advanced, and the forecasts being made weren’t very accurate.

After that, efforts were made to improve forecasting technology.

In the early 1900′s, kites were used to measure temperature, relative humidity and wind but it was difficult to get that information out to people who needed it.

Then in 1920, another storm hit North Dakota. 16-year-old Hazel Miner was found dead by a search party in the snow a day after she used blankets and did everything she could to protect her two siblings from the cold and snow. Both siblings survived.

In the years that followed, especially in the war years of the 1940 and 1950s, computer technology improved dramatically and allowed scientists to create advanced forecast models with accuracy.

Technology continued to improve over the next several decades with the use of satellites and more advanced prediction tools

Today, almost 5,000 people make up the National Weather Service at 122 weather forecast offices across the country, including one in Bismarck and one in Grand Forks.

The organization uses doppler radar, buoys, computer models, and high-speed communication systems to accurately predict incoming weather to make sure North Dakotans and people all over the country are ready and prepared no matter what weather system is coming our way.

The National Weather Service celebrated 150 years of being in existence in 2020.

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