Written by Belinda Crowson
Throughout late December and January 1937 a series of blizzards hit Southern Alberta. By the end of January, it had snowed over half the days since Christmas. The amount of snow was not particularly great – only two feet or so. But combined with the wind – which with each blizzard came from a different direction – great drifts appeared across the area.
At various times highway travel was not recommended. Hotels were busy with stranded motorists. After one blizzard, the townspeople of Coaldale had to provide overnight lodging for students when buses could not run. Cars were regularly stranded on Lethbridge streets. On occasion, trains had to step in when buses could not move the mail. Snowplows and even shovels were needed to keep trains running.
The storms isolated many ranchers and farmers in the area. But when medical emergencies arose, transportation simply had to be found. Charles Tweed, a Lethbridge pilot, flew out in the darkness of night to bring an ill woman in from Nemiskam. Tweed left at about 10 p.m. to pick up Mrs. Oliver Johnson. He managed to get her into Lethbridge, where Flock’s ambulance rushed her to the Galt Hospital, by 1:30 a.m.
Some people were lost and stranded by the storms. A sheepherder (unnamed in the various sources) was lost on the Blood Reserve but was found trying to shelter his flock as best he could. He suffered from exposure but had no other injuries.
Mr. and Mrs. M. McLeod, of Aldersyde, had been visiting relatives and were returning home by sleigh and team. When the blizzard hit, the horses refused to be guided by their driver and decided their own path. The horses brought them to a straw-stack where the horses burrowed themselves into the straw, leaving their riders to huddle in their blankets and robes until morning. When the storm’s fury abated the McLeods made their way home. Mr. McLeod’s face and ears were badly frozen while Mrs. McLeod was also chilled. Both were noted as recovering.
Eighty years ago blizzards racked southern Alberta. What will our winter bring?
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Top image: A Greyhound bus stuck in a snow drift, 1937.
Lower image: The rail line between Cowley and Pincher Creek the telephone polls buried in the snow, 1937.