3/1/2006 – Editorials



By Richard Peterson

The great storm of 1966 visited us 40 years ago. The storm was indelibly impressed on the memories of all who experienced it.

The storm began Wednesday night, March 2 and didn’t let up until Saturday morning. The area affected was from Rugby east into Minnesota. Thirty-five inches fell in Devils Lake. The snow was accompanied by 55-mile per hour winds, gusting to 70 mph. Luckily, temperatures were moderate and ranged from 10 to 20 above. If it had been colder many deaths would likely have been recorded. As it was cattle and sheep were lost to the storm. Many were buried alive and others were crushed when heavy, wet snow collapsed roofs.

Snow on the level in Minnewaukan measured four feet deep and some drifts in town reached 20 feet deep. Sheriff Gordon Burdick reported Maddock had even more snow than Minnewaukan. Esmond and Leeds had plenty of snow, but less than Minnewaukan. Grand Forks recorded nine inches of snow, so our area was in the heart of the storm.

A freight train got stuck in a draw near the farm of Corey O’Connell (former Willie Thompson farm) north of Minnewaukan and they had to stick it out a couple days without heat and power until they were rescued by snowmobile.

After printing and addressing the Farmers Press at about 8 p.m.

Wednesday, March 2, 1966, I loaded the newspapers into my car and set off for the Devils Lake Post Office to mail them so they would be in the mailboxes of subscribers the next day. It was tough going getting to Devils Lake, especially across Six Mile Bay, where visibility was near zero. Even before unloading the newspapers, as soon as I got to Devils Lake I stopped at the Great Northern and got a room. There was no chance of getting home that night. I could just as well have stayed at home because the mail didn’t start to move until Saturday afternoon.

The storm increased in fury. The hotels, bars and restaurants in downtown Devils Lake were jam-packed with stranded travelers. Even people who lived in Devils Lake found it too difficult to get to their homes. The only way to get around was on foot or by snowmobile.

Visibility was tough for snowmobiles, too.

At the macho young age of 24, I wasn’t nearly as moderate in my drinking habits as today and my liver had to work overtime to rid itself of the alcohol ingested in celebration of that storm.

Oh, it was fun the first night! It was great fun the next day, too.

But by Friday it wasn’t much fun anymore. And when the storm let up on Saturday, it was a major relief.

One could get around on foot in downtown Devils Lake because despite nearly zero visibility, one could hug the buildings and not get lost.

There were lots of places to go. The Great Northern, The Colonial and The Mayer each had bars and restaurants. Other restaurants I think were in business at the time were Grandma’s Cafe (I think the Lakeside Cafe had closed by that time — both were located where the Mini Mall is today), the Sportsmen’s Cafe (west of Creative Impressions where a parking lot is situated today), Mitchell’s Cafe (it might have been named the Happy Hour Cafe by that time on the south side of 4th Street about where Rose’s Stitch & Sew is located today), there was a lunch counter on the south end of the American Billiard Parlor — people slept on the pool tables during the night (there was a beer bar in the basement), the lunch counter at Woolworth’s and probably others that have disappeared from my memory after 40 years.

Besides the bars mentioned above there were others. I never made it to Meretsky’s beer bar west of Lake Chevrolet. It was too far to walk in the storm. There was Dawson’s on the south side of 4th Street beside Mitchell’s, Dutchman’s Bar (Bill Keller), another bar beside that whose name escapes me (both those bars were in the space now occupied by Nellie’s), The Stables (where the Mini Mart is today) and the Ye Olde Tavern, the only establishment mentioned in the last two paragraphs which is still in business, with the exception of Nellie’s.

One storm like that is enough for a lifetime. I don’t want to see another. If a similar storm comes, I hope to be stormed in at home.

—000—

The flap over the United Arab Emirates (UAE) taking over operation of some of the nation’s largest ports is making the headlines.

I don’t believe anything President George W. Bush says. He governs by incompetence and deceit. He says one thing and does another. His State of the Union speech was typical. He said we need more teachers and then his budget cut funding for producing more teachers. He said nothing about Social Security, but his budget calls for spending $700 billion trying to privatize Social Security through the back door.

That’s a major amount of money but not a whisper about it was revealed in the State of the Union address.

I’ve got dozens of examples of this man’s deceitfulness in my files.

But when it comes to the business of the UAE taking over the ports, the president’s incredibly poor judgment was not evident.

George W. Bush, for once, is right. If the UAE is stopped from this business deal, it will be one more nail in the coffin of tolerance and it is likely to usher in an era of widespread religious and sectarian struggle — another Dark Ages.

Thomas Friedman, who writes for the New York Times makes a powerful argument that the United States is the only country which can stop this slide into religious warfare and allowing the deal to go through is the first step. His column appeared in the Sunday, Feb. 26 issue of the Grand Forks Herald.

Friedman, no fan of Bush, concludes that, for once, George W. Bush got something right.


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