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Blizzards of 1959 & 1947


Posted By: Connie Ellis (email)
Date: 6/16/2011 at 19:03:26


Winter-weary residents of Monona and northeast Iowa over the weekend dug themselves out from under the worst winter storm to strike Iowa in more than a decade. The snow storm struck this area during Wednesday night, March 4, 1959 and continued through to Friday morning, March 6, with an estimated 20 inches of snow. The wind blew the light, wet snow into drifts in town and highways, 5 and 6 feet deep and in some instances, as high as 11 feet.

Motorists became marooned from 2 o'clock on Thursday afternoon being compelled to seek shelter in farm homes. Schools were closed Friday and Monday. School was dismissed at 2 o'clock Thursday afternoon, but still some children became blocked in and had to seek shelter in farm homes.

No Train Service
There was no train service or bus service through Monona Friday. The early morning westbound passenger train was stalled on the tracks at Giard station and after being freed by a snowplow went back to Marquette. It had 20 passengers on it. It came through Monona Saturday morning, March 7, at about 10 o'clock. The eastbound train never left Mason City Friday morning.

County and state highway crews were unable to cope with the huge drifts. No snow plows were working until Friday morning. Monona was blocked from the east and west until Monday noon. Plows mounted on trucks found the going too tough to buck the continual stretches of drifts. The state finally got a rotary plow from Decorah to come down highway 13 from Waukon to Marquette. After opening that stretch, it came from McGregor Monday morning and opened the highway to Monona. A truck plow was also brought in from Dennison, the western part of the state, that aided the rotary. It arrived here Saturday night.

Plow From Sac City
A truck plow came from Sac City Saturday and managed to make only a mile on the Postville highway between the Lowell Fox and Ervin Dickman farms. The Decorah rotary continued on from Monona Monday and met the Sac City plow west of Luana to open highway 18 and 52. A rotary plow came from Anamosa Monday night, moving from Elkader to this section and widened out the drift cuts Tuesday.
Paul Bruehahn, along with another county plow, opened the Marquette highway to bring Mrs. Eugene Baade to Monona, Friday night, who is expecting the arrival of a baby. The Elkader plow came by way of St. Olaf and then went to Farmersburg taking the blacktop to highway 13 and then on to Giard taking the Giard station highway to Watson.

A tractor of Loren Leas and another operated by “Red” Gisleson, along with a county maintainer plow, brought Mrs. Douglas Kuehl from the Gerwin Martins farm to the Postville hospital Saturday afternoon. They arrived at the hospital at 4 o'clock. A daughter was born at 6 o'clock to the Kuehls. The county had to send its equipment to all sectors to help get women to hospitals for their babies to be born, nine in all.

Help Sick Boy
Appendicitis struck Dallas Schute, son of Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Schute, Sunday. Eight men took turns to carry him from the farm to highway 18 and 52, where he was met at the Wesley Lange driveway with a car by Justus Kammerer, who took him via the Giard station and Marquette roads to Monona. From here he was taken via a gravel highway to Luana and through Hardin to Postville, where an operation was performed the same day.

Many cooperative and helpful acts were performed for stranded motorists. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Schlueter, east of Monona, took care of four children of the Francis Grady family and three of Mrs. Clara Wheeland of National from last Thursday to Monday. They were Caroline, Billy, Robert, and Sharon Grady and Sandra, Martha, and Dave Wheeland. They were on a school bus of St. Patrick's School driven by Donald Schofield, which slid into a ditch Thursday afternoon. Mr. Schofield and his son, Jimmy, walked to Monona that evening.

Bus Goes Into Ditch
A school bus driven by Glenn Plaehn went into the ditch on the Carl and Glen Melcher highway Thursday afternoon. A wrecker from Huinker Chevrolet garage tried to pull it out, but became stuck as well. Plaehn and the driver of the wrecker walked to Monona the same evening. The children from the bus, Betty and George Smith and Leonard Seitz were taken to the Edmund Ryan home. Mr. Ryan assisted William Moses with his tractor to bring their children home and in turn gave shelter to the Smith children and the Seitz boy. They managed to walk to the Volney highway Saturday afternoon and were taken home by their parents.

The school bus driven by F. C. Daugs became stalled at the Emil Schlitter farm with Marilyn and Roland Jones. Daugs walked to the main highway Saturday morning and came to Monona. The Jones children reached home Sunday. Julie Fritz and Glen Heller were also on the bus. Harry Heller borrowed a tractor from Lester Fritz and brought his son home Thursday afternoon. Julie Fritz managed to walk home from the bus.

Stay At Farm Home
Sixteen persons were housed at the Stanton Sawvell home from Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning. They were Mrs. Lloyd Welch, Ralph Welch and his children, Wayne, Curtis, Lawrence, Kevin, and Karen; the children of Mr. and Mrs. Reynold Kann, Bruce, Todd, and Twila; Leo Schlitter, William Possehl, Curt Henkes, Robert Marting, Shirley Schweinefus, and Bob Jacobson. The last of the group departed Sunday morning. Mr. and Mrs.Sawvell housed all of these people and provided meals for them. “The deep freeze surely came in handy at a time like this,” Mrs. Sawvell stated. Seven cars were stranded between the Sawvell farm east to the Richard Bigler farm.

The highway postoffice was held up at Decorah from Thursday to Saturday. The snow clearing operation in the main business section of Monona was completed Tuesday. Tractors and trucks of various individuals were pressed into service.

Temperature Drops
The temperature dropped to 5 below zero Saturday morning, March 7 but warmed up to 29 degrees during the day. The low Sunday morning, March 8, was 23 degrees. It warmed up to 38 degrees during the day settling and melting some of the snow. Daylight temperatures since then have been in the high 30's with snow showers occurring Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday mornings. The low Thursday morning, March 12, was 22 degrees.

Monona had its last severe snowstorm in 1947*, starting on January 28 and continued through January 30, when 14 inches of snow fell with the wind piling the snow into drifts 5 and 6 feet. A 15-foot drift on the south end of Main street occurred at that time. Another storm followed February 3, that choked highways with drifts again. The temperature dropped to 10 below zero, February 5, of that year.

~source: Monona, Iowa MONONA LEADER, ca March 18, 1959
~contributor: Connie Ellis (clipping found in diary of grandfather Creston C. Kelly)

*Contributor's notes: The entries in the diary of my Grandfather (Creston C. Kelly) coincide with that storm in 1947. He lived on a farm a half mile east of Rossville in Allamakee County, Iowa:

Tuesday, January 28, 1947 – Snowing hard in the evening

Wednesday, January 29, 1947 – A wild day, snowing and drifting but not so very cold 20* above – Damn wild night with 8 inches of snow

Thursday, January 30, 1947 – Still blowing and snowing but no colder. Some big drifts and lots of roads in the state blocked. 21 inches of snow at Elkader, Iowa.

Friday, January 31, 1947 Clear and warm, a few more roads open to one way traffic. We shoveled snow all day, Some storm!

Saturday, February 1, 1947 – Fair and warmer. Got mail first in 3 days. Colder in the evening. Doctor Rominger called Toey and Ev and told them to go to the hotel in Waukon so that baby doesn't get born in a snowdrift like Ed and Margaret Grady's baby at Cherry Mound! So they went to Waukon.

Sunday, February 2, 1947 - Fair and warmer but 10* below in the a.m. But NO Snow!

Monday, February 3, 1947 – 30* above a.m., 5* below 6 p.m. And wild as hell. Snow and drifts blowing Toey and Ev went to Waukon again to stay.
Tuesday, February 4, 1947 – 10* below and still blowing, most roads full again, The kids are still at the hotel in Waukon.

Wednesday, February 5, 1947 – 10* below but clear and calm . Eve had baby girl 7 lbs 14-1/2 oz. 12:05 p.m. Good thing they were in Waukon – roads not good, and impassable in some spots.
Thursday, February 6, 1947 – Fair and cold 6* above. Another cold wave hit this evening

Friday, February 7, 1947 – Below zero all day Most roads still blocked.


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