The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991 Page: 416
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Southwestern Hzstorzcal Quarterly
sified the mass of high pressure and, inevitably, swept it east across the
country. Fair weather preceded the rapidly moving air. A blizzard and
a cold wave followed.
Before noon on January 6, it was apparent at the Signal Office in
Washington City, the nation's capital, that an unprecedented cold wave
was descending the Great Plains. The first of seventeen warnings and
cold wave signals was dispatched to weather observers in the storm's
Washington City, January 6, 1886, 4:45 v.M. To observers, Cheyenne, Wyo-
ming; North Platte, Nebraska; Yankton, Dakota; Denver, Colorado; Dodge
City, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; Concordia, Kansas; Leavenworth, Kansas (re-
peating to Wellington); Kansas City postmaster, and dispatcher Fort Scott and
Gulf Railway; Lamar, Missouri:
Hoist cold wave signal. Cold wave, accompanied by a "norther"; temperature
will fall from o2 to 25 degrees in the next twenty-four hours at western and
northern stations, and in twenty-four to thirty-six hours at southern stations.
The leading edge of the cold wave was marked by a turbulent cloud
accompanied by blowing sand and freezing drizzle that turned to sleet
and then to driving snow. By the time the first cold wave warning
reached weather observers, a blizzard extended over west Kansas and,
with gale force winds, hurtled toward Indian Territory and the pan-
handle plains of Texas. Life and livestock throughout the plains were
in grave danger from exposure to the snow and cold.'
With the storm's onslaught, cattle on the open range turned tail and
drifted before the wind. Any obstacle in the path of drift cattle was a
potential death trap. Snow-filled draws, rivers and waterholes, railroad
cuts and ditches, and especially fences were instruments of destruction.
Thousands of cattle were drowned, trampled, suffocated, frozen, or
starved. Entire herds were lost. Cattle companies were ruined. The
storm, in a single stroke, lay prostrate an industry doomed of its own
In the years following the Civil War the range cattle industry began
to attract the attention of investors in the United States and Europe,
especially Scotland and England. An increase in the population of the
United States and a shortage of cattle created a demand for beef that
could not be met by high-cost producers in the Midwest. Buyers turned
attention to the Southwest where, during the war years, cattle left un-
disturbed on the range multiplied in considerable numbers. The range
business in the Southwest required little more than a ranch, a few cow-
Ibid, 2 (quotation), 3. Brigadier and Brevet Major General W B. Hazen was chief signal
officer of the army under whose direction the Monthly Weather Review was prepared
Monthly Weather Review (Washington City" Signal Ofhce, Jan , 1886), 28; Ibid , 3; Globe Live
Stock journal (Dodge City), Jan. 12, 1886
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991, periodical, 1991; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/m1/480/: accessed January 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.