“Saturday Evening Blizzard”

By Dr. Matthew Bunkers, CCM - Eastern South Dakota

Published: February 24, 2023

I was 14 years old and home alone on our family farm in eastern South Dakota while my family was at church. Between 7 and 8 pm, a blizzard struck suddenly with light winds immediately gusting to 60 to 70 mph—producing whiteout conditions. In an instant, I could not see out of any of the windows of our house because they were covered in snow. My dad barely made it home after church, which took nearly an hour for him to drive 8 miles.

Now that I am a meteorologist, I decided to research the weather archives to learn more about this storm. I discovered this storm occurred on 4 February 1984 and was an Alberta Clipper—known as a fast-moving winter storm that moves southeast out of Canada across the northern United States. Alberta Clippers mostly produce minor snow accumulations, but with ferocious winds and falling temperatures. In this case, temperatures dropped from the lower 30s (°F) to near zero in just three hours. This storm was so significant that it is listed on National Weather Service office in Aberdeen’s “Weather History” page.

Analysis of the 300-millibar pattern on February 4th 1984
Figure 1: Analysis of the 300-millibar pattern at 6:00 AM CST on February 4, 1984.
Source: NWS Technical Memorandum NWS-CR-73