Calm day turned into brutal snowstorm

From our December 2012 issue

By Michael Bartolf – Oxbow, Sask.

The story about the 1947 snowstorm by Walter Baryluk of Bienfait, Sask. has prompted me to write my reminiscences of the many snowstorms that we had during WWII.

My memory is also of the big storm we had in March 1947 at Oxbow, which is a community on the rail line a short distance east of Bienfait.

It all started on a beautiful, warm and thawing afternoon, with water on the streets in Oxbow. It had been a rather mild winter with us all thinking that this is going to be the end of a rather short and mild winter.

It was shortly before the bell was to ring to dismiss the classes for the day when a knock came to our classroom door and the teacher walked out into the hallway.

Returning to her room, she closed the door and faced the class with a grim look on her face. She informed us that we were being dismissed early from class and to go straight home to tell our parents that that evening a severe storm is going to blow into town.

Winter had been mild

Walking home the nearly two miles, in our shirt sleeves we were greeted by our parent’s wonderment of being home so early from school, on such a nice day.

After we told our father the details of the impending storm which was to hit our area in a short time, he hitched up the team and quickly drove to town with the sleigh to get some extra coal to carry us through a real storm.

He was able to only get 500 pounds of fuel because the supply in town was getting low.

The winter had been quite mild on the whole, so all the horses except those needed for chores and to travel to town, had been turned out to fend for themselves.

When father drove into the yard he was met by these horses which were very anxious to receive extra shelter from the impending storm.

It was sometime before midnight that the storm hit in full force from the southeast and blew from that direction for more than three days.

Snow blocked doors

It was impossible to keep the snow away from the only doors on the east side of the house. We had to make an alternative way to get into and out of the house which was by the upper verandah door.

A ladder that reached the upper floor was set up and a piece of the railing removed so as to be able to reach the upper entrance.

There was a long inside stairway that assisted in getting to and from the upper floor. All the milk, skim milk water, and waste water were carried up and down the ladder as well as the stairway in the house.

We were very fortunate that we didn’t have any problems with the deep well freezing. It was located next to the barn and was our only water source.

By navigating the snowdrifts we were able to get to and from the barn with a minimum of problems all through the storm.

Thankfully in three or four days, the wind changed into the northwesterly direction. The lower house doors were shovelled out and were usable again. We survived the week of storms with a minimum of hardship.

Reports of trains buried

The opening of school was called for the next Monday morning. Weather reports coming over the radio announced that all schools were open again and it was the students’ problem to get there.

There were reports of trains buried in the snowdrifts all over the southern part of the province. The train service was at a standstill for more than a week.

The CPR snowplow was buried in a snowbank, off the western edge of Oxbow for over three days awaiting the Main Line plow to come and rescue it from its cold and white grave.

In the centre of town, although it also received a considerable amount of snow, the draymen with their teams and sleighs were able to get around.

They were even able to take coal from the school basement to replenish the hospital supplies which were getting low. The school had the foresight to have put in a bigger supply a short time before the storm.

Thus with neighbour helping neighbour, Oxbow’s Storm of 1947, has passed into history and so also my story of the March 1947 snowstorm in Oxbow, passes into the records.

Photo of C.N.R. train buried by snow storm, winter 1947 near Weyburn, 130 km northwest of Oxbow, and effort to dig it out. SK Archives Photo R-A9033-8