The blizzard of December 1924

Winter this year has gotten off to a miserable start. There have been three heavy snowfalls, leaving some of the highest accumulations of snow ever recorded in Central Alberta in the month of November. The terrific blizzard on Dec. 2-3 was a storm that will long be remembered in the community.

There have been a great many other harsh winters in Red Deer’s history. The winter of 1906-1907 was so brutal that it is still considered a benchmark for life-challenging pioneer winters. Local farmers and ranchers suffered enormous losses of livestock. Some settlers lost their own lives in the extreme cold and snow.

The winter of 1919-1920 was no better. The first blizzard struck on Oct. 8. Winter did not release its grip again until the following May. Many farmers were unable to finish harvesting their crops as one heavy snowfall followed another.

The harsh winter was a prelude to several rough years economically for Red Deer. Unemployment spiked as high as 25%. Many businesses went bankrupt as did the Red Deer Memorial Hospital. Agricultural prices dipped so low that some farmers faced bills when they shipped their cattle to market. The cost of the freight exceeded the amount for which the animals sold.

Finally, the economy began to take a turn for the better in 1923-1924. The creation of co-ops such as the Alberta Wheat Pool and Central Alberta Dairy Pool helped to boost the prices for grain and dairy products. The opening of the Provincial Training School, (now Michener Centre), as the provincial institution for the residential care and education of mentally handicapped children, created a significant number of welcome government jobs in the community.

Still, the local retail merchants looked to the traditional holiday shopping season for some of the first profits in years. Hence, the local newspapers were full of gift-giving ideas and Christmas specials.

Tragically, just as Christmas shopping was getting under way, Central Alberta was hit with a terrific blizzard on Dec. 13.

A total of 58.5 cm of snow fell in three days and high winds created enormous drifts. By Dec. 15, temperatures plunged to -46.1C. The following two days, they dropped even further to more than -50C. Red Deer attained the unenviable distinction of being the coldest spot in Canada.

The passenger trains ran several hours behind. The local schools closed for a few days. Milk, bread and grocery deliveries were often suspended. Wiltshire’s Bakery had to use a sleigh for its deliveries for the first time in four years.

Towards the end of the week, things had improved slightly. On Dec. 18, the lows for the day were only -45.6C. Nevertheless, local farmers found it impossible to make it into town. Many City residents remained loath to venture out of their home as some of the drifts were waist-deep.

Local hockey took a particularly big hit as Red Deer lacked an indoor arena at the time. The local media lamented the poor turnout for the games, although everyone admitted it was hard to get fans out when the temperature hovered at -20C and -30C.

One out of town game at Leduc proved particularly challenging as the poor roads meant that the Red Deer team did not arrive until midnight. The match went ahead anyways and lasted until 1:30 a.m. Red Deer got edged out by a score of 3 to 2 and one of the best players suffered broken bones in his hand.

Meanwhile, Red Deer’s merchants tried to make the best of things and put warm winter clothing on sale. Some put signs on the windows that said ‘Come In and Get Warm.’

Still, the downtown area remained very quiet.

A ‘warm spell’ set in just before Christmas with temperatures rising to a relatively balmy -10C. However, the relief in the weather was too late to salvage the retail season.

Red Deer’s business community had to be content with wishing their customers, friends neighbours and family, a Merry Christmas and expressing a heartfelt wish for a much better New Year in 1925.

Just Posted

Grey Cup was in Red Deer to support military families

Money raised will go towards the Military Family Resource Centre

City council responding to social and safety issues

Mayor Tara Veer releases statement on City’s ongoing social and safety challenges

Wolf Creek Schools raises Treaty 6 flag for first time

Chiefs, school officials took part in a ceremony that is aimed at acknowledging Treaty 6 land

On the run with Melissa Ray

Red Deer runner talks about her intense running experiences

Bradley Williams takes over as Westerner Park Interim CEO

CFR expected to go on as scheduled with no disruption

Off Nova Scotia, a bid to ‘unravel the mystery’ of great white sharks

The question: Is Nova Scotia the second mating site for Atlantic white sharks, something scientists say could be key to protecting the endangered species.

Canadian investigator says World Anti-Doping Agency got a bad deal from Russia

A Canadian lawyer says the World Anti-Doping Agency rushed into accepting a bad deal by reinstating the country’s drug-testing program.

Fashion Fridays: Rock some animal print

Kim XO, lets you in on the latest fall fashion trends on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

New evacuations ordered because of Florence flooding

Emergency managers on Friday ordered about 500 people to flee homes along the Lynches River

Legal society poster seeks complainants against two cops on Downtown Eastside

Pivot Legal Society became aware of allegations made against the officers after a video circulated

Jury to deliberate in case of Calgary man accused of murdering woman

Curtis Healy could be convicted of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter

Liberals want to know what Canadians think of legalized weed

The federal government will comb social media for Canadians’ pot-related behaviour

Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen boasts of aiding Mueller investigation

Cohen could provide information on whether Trump’s campaign co-ordinated with Russians

Most Read