During the winter of 1948 and 49, storms covered the Rocky Mountain and upper Great Plain states with snow that isolated farms, ranches, towns and cities. Along with temperatures dropping as low as -40°F ( -40°C), there was so much snow that as many as 2 million snowbound cattle and sheep were threatened with starvation. Some ranchers lost entire herds.
The first major storm was on November 18th. Roads were blocked, snow drifted over rooftops and trains, a major means of transportation, were forced to stop. Available hotels were overflowing with stranded travelers.
Then came the blizzard.
The Blizzard of 1949 was the worst winter storm seen since 1888.
The weather forecast from radio station KOA in Denver, a powerful station that could be heard for hundreds of miles, predicted another nice day with a possibility of snow flurries. It began with rain that first day. The temperature and barometric pressure dropped and the rain turned over into snow. That evening the snowfall became heavy, with 12 or more inches soon accumulating and snowdrifts piling up over roads where obstacles blocked the wind. The storm continued for three days.
In South Dakota, howling winds reduced visibility to less than 5 feet and piled drifts as high as 30 feet. Winds averaging 56 mph gusted to 72 mph or higher. An Ellsworth AFB wind indicator registered gusts above 90 mph.
In Nebraska, 50 to 60 mile an hour winds drove the heavy snow over snow that remained from November and December.
Cold and snowy weather continued after the blizzard ended. In March, another major snowfall dropped 20 inches on North Platte. Streams and rivers flooded because of ice jams. The last big storm left 12 inches in part of Nebraska in the middle of April.