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Blizzard of 1888

Frank Carney experienced the January 12, 1888, blizzard in an isolated spot west of Omaha. William O'Gara's In All Its Fury, the classic book on the storm, included Carney's reminiscence:

"My experience in that storm was one that I'll never forget. I was twenty at that time, and was night telegraph operator for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway at Irvington, nine miles west of Omaha. I boarded at the Green farmhouse. My office, which was known as 'East Y' on the time-card, was a box car on a short spur beside the main line on the bank of Pappio Creek, about half a mile east of the depot.

"The storm started about four o'clock in the afternoon with snow and wind from the north which grew stronger and colder toward night. I was due to relieve the day operator at seven, but as it promised to be a very bad night I went out at six and could see my way then without any trouble. By nine the blizzard was howling down the Pappio valley and the old boxcar, which stood on a high hill, broadside to the wind, was groaning and swaying on its tracks at every blast until I was afraid to stay there longer, expecting that at any moment it would roll down into the creek with me and a red hot stove in it.

"I asked the train dispatcher at Fremont if any trains would be run through during the storm and if I could go to the depot, as it seemed dangerous to stay in the car. He told me to go ahead if I thought I could make it without getting lost. It seemed safe enough, as the track had been newly laid and no dirt had been filled in between the ties. So, once I got between the rails and headed west, the rough walking would keep me on the road. That was one time when my feet instead of my eyes had to guide me . . . .
"After walking and stumbling along for quite a while I had another scare for fear I would not be able to see the agent's light in the window and might walk by and out into the country. So every few steps I would reach out to the north side of the track to see if I could feel the depot platform. This proved to be unnecessary, for when I was opposite the window the snow before me turned rosy and I knew that I was safe. I was soon in the office and warming up by a hot stove, and I stayed there through the night."

(January 2002)


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