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Iowa History Daily: April 8 - Great Spring Blizzard of '73

Iowa History Daily: On April 8, 1973 possibly the worst late-season blizzard in the history of Iowa hit the state while dropping as many as 20.3 inches of snow. Winds north of 65 mph whipped as drifts as large as 16 feet closed most roads throughout the state. 

Belle Plaine recorded the largest total snowfall, checking in at 20.3 inches, and Des Moines recorded 10.3 inches of snow on April 9th alone. During the run-up to the storm, forecasters predicted roughly three inches in many locations across Iowa, but the slow-moving storm stalled out after dropping five inches of snow in Cedar Rapids during the first day. The heavy, wet snow fell in many locations until Tuesday morning, coating the state and shutting down businesses, schools, and even mail delivery.

Challenges confronted workers in all industries: snow blows stalled in drifts, the Des Moines Register halted delivery, and a man checked into the Holiday Inn near Amana with his 762-pound performing Alaskan brown bear after travel shut down on Interstate 80. In Cedar Rapids, the fire department resorted to using a toboggan when a pregnant woman went into labor on early Tuesday morning. Nor-ski, a popular skiing location in Decorah closed to late-season enthusiasts when blowing and drifting snow prevented operations.

In the aftermath, officials totaled fourteen deaths resulting from the storm. Farmers also experienced heavy losses, and the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported staggering loss totals: 78,137 calves, 22,235 cows, 6,874 other cattle, 19,329 hogs, 5,467 sheep, 214,400 turkeys, 25,210 pigs, and 150 chickens. As temperatures climbed into the 50s and 60s the following days, Iowans got to work cleaning up the substantial mess. The final snowfall for the season, the memories and records lasted much longer than the snow drifts throughout the state. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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