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Minonk Boys Marooned in Snow Storm

Submitted by Albie Johnson - July 29, 2008

The following article was taken from the Minonk News-Dispatch in January, 1949.

The Minonk News-Dispatch had two good "reporters" on the scene to cover the big Rocky Mountain snow storm that tied up all highway and railroad traffic in Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado a couple of weeks ago. They were Don Uphoff and Albin Johnson, Minonk boys, who were returning to their forestry studies at Colorad A & M University at Ft. Collins.

Leaving from Peoria by bus, they were marooned along with hundreds of other people who happened to be traveling in the storm area at that time. Both have written home excellent, news-style reports. Don' story was:

Well we finally got here. It took us until 10 o'clock tonight to get home ( meaning Ft. Collins). As you probably know we were marooned in a small town just inside the Wyoming border for three days. I hope I never have to go through an ordeal like that again the rest of my life.

As you know, we left Peoria at 7:45 Saturday night and arrived in Omaha, Nebr, at 7:30 the next morning. We got to Sidney, Nebr., at 6:30 Sunday night. Sidney is only 110 miles from Cheyenne. Well anyway, just as we hit Sidney it started snowing. By the time we had finished eating supper, it was storming. The bus company was afraid to take us any further by bus so they transferred us to a train. We waited all night in the train depot and our train didn't come. It was really storming by then. The temperature dropped to 5 below zero as the winds were up to 70 mph. Sounds impossible but it's the truth, believe me. Well, we finally got on a streamliner at 2:00 Monday afternoon. Got as far as Egbert, Wyoming, and were stalled. The engine froze up and we had to sleep in the train that night without any heat and the temperature was now 10 below zero. Hadn't had any sleep for three nights. Just walked around in a daze of trance.

They finally took us off the train Tuesday afternoon and put us in a school house. Can you imagine 200 and some people in a school house? Fell asleep about 7 o'clock and didn't wake up until 8 o'clock the next morning, which was Wednesday. It was still blowing so hard you could hardly see across the street and the temperature was down to 15 below by now. By this time one of the two doctors was deathly ill and some woman had a nervous breakdown and was paralyzed. The doctor that was caring for all those people was just about to go crazy. He hadn't had any sleep for four nights.

Thursday finally rolled around and planes flew over and dropped more food and medicine. We finally got word that the people in Cheyenne were trying to get the roads open so they could send out some buses to get us. Finally after a long day of watching and waiting, we saw a snow plow and three buses heading down the road. Everyone just about went crazy with joy. They loaded the sick on the first bus. There were several others sick by now. They loaded the young children and their mothers on the second and third buses. Everyone sure hated to see those buses leave, but we knew they would be back in about two hours.

Finally, about 20 till five the buses were back and we loaded up and took off. Got to Cheyenne about 5:30 this evening. Went down to the restaurant and ate a big hearty meal for a change. Boy did that food taste good. Went back to the depot and left for Fort Collins at 9:10 and got here about 10:30. Stopped for a hamburger and then came to the house. Ron sure was surprised to see us. He said he had just about given up hope for us. I just read in the paper that blizzard was the worst one they've had here in 84 years and to think we had to get caught in it.

Albin Johnson's letter gives substantially the same facts in almost every detail and adds the further information that when they evacuated the U.P. Streamliner, City of Portland, to go to the depot at Egbert, Wyoming, it was 18 below zero, the wind was blowing 70 mph, snow drifts ranged from 12 to 15 feet deep, they couldn't see more than three feet ahead and had to be led by hand from the train to the depot. The train was completely out of food and there were only four gallons of water remaining whey they evacuated the train.

On the left is Albin Johnson and on the right is Don Uphoff in their ROTC uniforms at Colorado A & M.