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Why was the blizzard of 1949 so disastrous?

Dear Tom,

I have read of the awful blizzard of 1949. Can you say why it was so disastrous?

Thanks,
Bob Kozlik,
Riverwoods

Dear Bob,

The Blizzard of 1949 is considered to be one of the worst on record to hit the northern Plains. From January 2-5, portions of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota were ravaged by high winds, heavy snow, enormous drifts and severe cold. The storm was responsible for at least 40 deaths, half of them in Nebraska. It blocked roads and railroads, so many rescue efforts had to be carried out by air. Highest wind gusts were clocked in excess of 90 mph. That January produced record snowfall in the Black Hills region with more than 40 inches reported in some locales. The storm did not affect Chicago where the opening days of January, 1949 featured temperatures in the 30s and 40s and only a trace of snow.

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