Upside Down Under: Another blizzard, another day in North Dakota…

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Editor’s note: This article is reprinted from the Jan. 20, 1997 edition of the Cavalier County Republican in Langdon.

I wouldn’t do this now, at my age, but back then, I was hell bent on getting my newspaper to its readers.
Right in the middle of the fourth blizzard of the season, a decision had to be made. Usually the Republican is printed at 8 a.m., Friday in Grafton. But seeing how a blizzard with dangerous wind chills was howling through the state, I woke up Friday morning thinking we would be printing the paper on Saturday.

About 10 a.m., on Jan. 10, I got a call from John Morgan at the Walsh County Record in Grafton. He said it was basically up to us, but his print crew would understand if Saturday became a work day.
Following that conversation, I went out and shoveled the sidewalk. I could see OK and I worked up a sweat shoveling. Thus, my decision was made to get the pages to Grafton to get printed on time, or at least on the same day.
When a person feels they must travel during questionable weather conditions, there are several extra precautions that must be taken.

So before leaving Langdon at 11:15, I contacted the Cavalier County Sheriff’s Department and they told me flat out not to drive the 70 miles to Grafton because of the dangerous windchills that were hovering around -80 degrees Fahrenheit.
I loaded extra clothing, food and gassed up. N.D. Highway 5 was clear of snow, but visibility was about 300 feet all the way to Cavalier, which is 34 miles.

Going south toward Grafton was a little different. The road was clear, if you could see it. Visibility in the Hoople area was next to nothing, but it improved south of town. The toughest part of that 70 miles was going east on N.D. Highway 17 into Grafton.

There were some big drifts blocking the road and the only thing I could do was hit them at 50 miles per hour and hope to make it through. The snow was soft, but some of the drifts were three to four feet thick. That last 10-mile stretch into Grafton was a real challenge.

Even though I called the Morgans before I left Langdon, they were still surprised to see me arrive.
Anyway the paper was printed and while the presses were running, Shane Moen, one of the pressmen called out, “the mail can’t get through, but I can still read the Republican.”

The return trip to Langdon was even more of a challenge because now I was bucking a 40-mile-per-hour wind in open country. John Morgan gave me his mobile in case I stalled on the route.
Normally that drive is a pretty easy ride, but I had to stop in Cavalier to fill gas because one of the rules of driving in dangerous conditions is keep your gas tank full.

The snowplows had gone on N.D. 17 and the storm was actually beginning to pass, so Grafton to Cavalier was OK. It was N.D. 5 that became the problem when I turned west. I encountered the same size drifts as I did earlier on N.D. 17. I just hit them at a good speed and blew right through them.

I got back to Langdon just before dark and unloaded Monday’s edition at the post office.
My lesson in all this was right at the Osnabrock corner. A mailbag blew out and onto the highway. I simply walked across the highway, picked it up and returned to the cab of my vehicle and my cheeks were numb. I couldn’t have been out of my vehicle more than a minute. So when weather people tell us exposed skin can freeze within a minute, believe them.
We also had trouble getting our grocery store fliers because the Super Valu truck was stranded in Fargo. As a result, the Republican was thin last week, but it was delivered on schedule.

The key to dangerous winter driving conditions is preparedness. First, my vehicle was properly winterized and I had enough food for a full day. I took well-traveled roads thinking somebody might eventually find me if I stalled and believe it or not, there were people on the road that day.

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