The strong wind that accompanied the arctic cold front that moved through the area on Saturday, not only brought cold and blowing snow, but also a layer of snirt.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, snirt is a mixture of dirt and snow.

The lack of snow cover in the area has left many of the fields partially exposed.  That allowed the strong wind on Saturday to pick up some dirt that mixed in with the blowing snow.  Although not all areas have a noticeable brown hue to the snow, but the areas that do, it is most noticeable on the tops of the drifts. The past two decades have recorded so many snowy winters that snirt is a word that has not been used much, but historically dirty snow was much more common.

The famed “Super Bowl Blizzard” of 1975 that crippled much of Minnesota did not drop much snow locally, but the wind was so fierce that houses were covered in so much snirt that in North Dakota it was referenced as the “Black Blizzard”.

13 Responses

  1. Miki T-B

    I was a senior in high school in Jamestown, ND in 1975 during the “snirt” storm. That was one of the rare times that, back then, Jamestown Public Schools were cancelled due to winter weather. I can still feel the gritty dirt that covered everything inside the school building. Yecch!

  2. ValleyGuy

    I agree with you on that. Farmers have larger equipment and shelterbelts are in their “way”.

    I have had the opportunity to know an elderly gentleman that lived in the dirty 30’s. When he was alive, he told me about the erosion, grasshoppers, etc. in the dirty 30’s.

    When we have bad drought years (they will come back), there is going to be alot of erosion.

    Shelterbelts not only keep the fields from blowing, but they trap snow. During the dry years, that snow that is trapped in the winter, gives the field moisture.

    Many young farmers have never seen the dry years. They think that shelterbelts are an impediment to farming. Far from the truth.


    Farmers have also transitioned from plowing everything under in the fall to leaving stubble on the fields over winter. These trap some snow and protect the soil from erosion. Shelterbelts have taken a beating from Dutch Elm and are at risk for the Ash Borer. So there’s more to the story than just the presumption that farmers are stupid for not having shelterbelts.

  4. Cari G

    I do recall learning in Jr. high that they actually believed that the large shelterbelts made wind erosion worse. The idea was that the shelterbelts would cause the wind to come down on the other side with much more force that there would be with out the shelterbelt or with a narrower row of trees. I don’t know if they still feel that way but this was about 25 years ago and it stuck in my head as being a contradiction of what we had been taught up to that point.

  5. Alamaine

    “Although not all areas have a noticeable brown hue to the snow, but the areas that due, …” With all due regard, which ‘due/do’ do you mean?

  6. Nice try, Emerald ash borer has not been found or confirmed in north dakota. I have my own hypothesis on why so many trees are dying in these shelter belts, but you would not like it. Valley guy is correct on why they are being taken down. The fact that you can squeeze another 2, 3, or more acres of tillable farmland contributes to the problem.

  7. Bruce

    I remember the snirt storm and there were more in the 80’s.
    When I opened the hood of my car the inside was so black I could not see my engine due to the black snow that had blown in and packed the engine compartment. There was a good thing about the snirt; being that the snow was so black, it melted faster in the spring.
    I did notice the brown look to the snow in Fargo yesterday.

  8. Darrell Graf

    the snirt srtorm of ’75 was cery deadly also. from memory of 38 years ago, i think about a dozen lives were lost, including 3 high schoolers near brocket or lawton as i recall, and it took weeks to find their bodies. terrible.

  9. dave

    I can remember the storm from 1975, lots of dirt. it took until July before the snow melted by the shelter belts because of all the dirt. as for shelter belts stopping snirt no you would have to have them every 40 acers. Today farmers do more min till and no till than we did in 1975. I have seen more water erosion than wind from shelter belts.

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