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John Wheeler: The winter of 1886-87 was one of the most severe in our region

Temperatures at weather stations all across the Dakotas and Minnesota, even as far south as Rochester, recorded temperatures well into the -40s.

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FARGO — Many of the coldest temperatures on record across Northern Plains history occurred during the winter of 1886-87. As is the case in almost every severe cold snap, there was heavy snow cover that winter, which allowed for extremely cold temperatures by reflecting sunlight and insulating the air from heat from the ground. Severe blizzards struck the region in mid-November and again in late November.

The first cold snap came in early December, with many long-standing weather stations across the Dakotas and Minnesota recording lows in the -30s. Temperatures plunged into the -30s again around Christmas, but the coldest weather came in January. Temperatures at weather stations all across the Dakotas and Minnesota, even as far south as Rochester, recorded temperatures well into the -40s during January of 1887. Most large-scale free-range cattle operations, which had become popular investments, failed, as hundreds of thousands of cattle died.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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The U.S. Drought Monitor has most of the Dakotas and Minnesota in a state ranging from "abnormally dry" to "moderate drought."
Such a forecast would be nearly impossible because wind over land is much more turbulent than wind over water.
WDAY's StormTRACKER meteorologists are tracking the storm. Check back for updates.
Winds gust beyond 40 mph throughout the region. Although the storm was downgraded overnight from a blizzard to a winter advisory, Herald names the storm Blizzard Caitlin.