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Bad Memories of a South Dakota Blizzard

Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Looking outside and seeing blowing snow brings back one of the most frightening times I’ve ever had behind the wheel.

It was two days before Christmas 1983, and Sharon and I had gone out to the home farm in northern McCook County to have our Christmas with my parents.

It was very cold and windy, with wind chill readings around -70, but that’s all it was–not to minimize extremely cold wind chills, but our little front-wheel-drive Chevy Citation would not have trouble.

Until it started to snow while we were there, and incredible as it may sound, I had left my insulin at home. Not a good thing at all for a diabetic (and not smart, either!), so we struck out for home in the dark with the wind howling and snow blowing to near-whiteout conditions.

My parents lived on a county road–McCook County 5–and it was seven miles to SD 38, and then it was four or five miles to Interstate 90, south of Montrose.

We followed wheel tracks–wheel tracks!–to Highway 38 and we finally made it to I-90, where I expected the reflector posts would help me navigate. But I could only see them one at a time.

I drove something like 35-40mph with vehicles passing us at speeds that still puzzle me, but we finally made it home, although Sharon’s family, knowing where we were, worried about us. As did my parents and other relatives in McCook County.

It was a hard lesson, and a frightening one, and I still think of it whenever I see blowing snow.

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