The Volatile 1930s in Emmet County
Emmet county, Iowa
The huge and quick transformation of the North American plains and prairies to farmland, was a contributing factor in the weird weather of the 1930s. The decade saw some of the hottest, driest summers on record for the central part of the United States. But 1936 also brought a particularly severe winter.
In Emmet County April 30, 1936, a tornado did considerable damage. Though not one of those most deadly tornadoes in Iowa history, destruction was still considerable. But the same year also saw a difficult winter with heavy snowfall and cold temperatures. More than one blizzard.
Though several sources claim to know the origins of the word “blizzard,” one reputable source identifies the first use in the Estherille Vindicator, March 14, 1870. The word is said to derive from German immigrants’ use of “blizartig” (lightning-like) to describe the speed with which intense winter storms could arise in Emmet County. A blizzard combines heavy snow, high wind, and quickly falling temperatures. “During the intensely cold winter of 1936 an outstanding blizzard added to the already heavy snow cover….Fuel and food came into short supply.”
Sources: SHSI: Emmet County History, compiled by the Emmet County Historical Society, 1976; on line: H.R. Spohn and P.J. Waite, “Iowa Tornadoes” U.S. Weather Bureau, 1962; Paul G. Waite, “Outstanding Iowa Storms,” Annals of Iowa 40.3 (Winter 1970).