LAURA INGALLS WILDER’S BLIZZARD. When we read the Little House books to Annalisa, I thought of THE LONG WINTER as simply a series of big snow storms. However, it was during this winter that the word “blizzard” was found to be generally useful, and the Wilder family were there. The English Language & Usage Stack Exchange website quotes The Online Etymology Dictionary (here): “…[‘blizzard’] came into general use in the U.S. in this sense [sic] the hard winter 1880-81.”
I gave Annalisa PIONEER GIRL, the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, for Christmas this year. An editor’s note on page 201 says that the first storm began as rain on October 13, 1880 and changed to snow on October 15 (early in the season for snow). The editor’s note continues: “When the blizzard ended, drifts lay six to eight feet deep, and the railroad cuts east of Brookings contained ten to twelve feet of snow.” The storm was always called “The October Blizzard.” An editor’s note on page 203 says: “…snow from this storm remained on the ground until the end of the winter.”
This storm and the winter that followed, which Laura Ingalls Wilder describes in THE LONG WINTER, were extraordinary.