Increased snowfall in ND halts some burials until later in the spring

Published: Mar. 26, 2023 at 7:00 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The state of North Dakota continues to get hit with almost record-setting snowfall. A lot of events have been affected this winter by the snow, but funeral homes in our area may be the most affected.

At Eastgate Funeral Home in Bismarck, Joe Braun and his staff are busy making arrangements for funeral services. They average about five to six hundred funerals a year and about three hundred of those are during the winter months. The snow this season has really affected them with burials in the cemeteries.

“What we are having issues with is because the depth of the snow even in town. There are some cemeteries that are going to say we have to find out where the grave is and determine if we can even do the burial at that time,” said Joe Braun, general manager and licensed funeral director at Eastgate and Parkway Funeral Service.

The funeral home is still able to offer families other aspects of services such as a visitation and church service, but perhaps the most important part of those services is the burial which is the final goodbye to a loved one. Putting this on hold until warmer months is affecting people’s grieving process.

“Over the years as I worked with people and they had delayed burials because of the snow or weather conditions, always is extra aggravating to them, the grief intensifies,” said Carleen Hennenfent, developer of aftercare services at Eastgate and Parkway Funeral Services.

The cemetery that our reporter Justin Gick is standing in is still seeing the effects of all the snowfall we have been getting. Behind him, the snow almost goes over the top of some of the tombstones. It’s been hard for family members to get over to the cemetery to visit their loved ones. The funeral home is saying that they might not be able to get burials done until later in the spring.

“It’s taxing on us as the funeral home because the more families that we have to put off on the burial side, it complexes things for us in the spring when some of the cemeteries are going to open up,” said Braun.

Even when the snow melts in the spring and grass can be seen, there are still delays that the funeral home could run into with the cemetery. The soil may be too wet at that point and it could affect the cemeteries’ equipment. They hope this is not the case and try to convey this message during grief care meetings.

“Stay as calm as possible. There are coping mechanisms for this when there is anybody that is under a high-stress situation,” said Hennenfent.

If you should lose a loved one during this time, funeral directors ask for your patience and understanding. They want to get these burials completed.

“We have to get this done for these families to be able to put that closure portion behind them,” said Braun.

The funeral home estimates they will have about 20-35 burials that they will need to conduct come springtime.

It’s important to note not all cemeteries in the state are having to pause burials because of the weather conditions.