The winter of 1880–1881 is widely considered the most severe winter ever known in some parts of the United States. Many children—and their parents—learned of "The Snow Winter" through the children's book The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, in which the author tells of her family's efforts to survive. The snow arrived in October 1880 and blizzard followed blizzard throughout the winter and into March 1881, leaving many areas snowbound throughout the entire winter. Accurate details in Wilder's novel include the blizzards' frequency and the deep cold, many railroads stopped trains until the spring thaw because the snow made the tracks impassable, the near-starvation townspeople throughout the mid-west. An October blizzard brought snowfalls so deep that two-story homes had snow up to the second-floor windows in Minnesota and Wisconsin. No one was prepared for the deep snow so early in the season and farmers all over the region were caught before their crops had even been harvested, their grain milled, or with their fuel supplies for the winter in place. By January the train service was almost entirely suspended from the region. Railroads hired scores of men to dig out the tracks but it was a wasted effort: As soon as they had finished shoveling a stretch of line, a new storm arrived, filling up the line and leaving their work useless. There were no winter thaws and on February 2, 1881, a massive blizzard struck that lasted for nine days across the upper Midwest and parts of the Plains states. In the towns the streets were filled with solid drifts to the tops of the buildings and tunneling was needed to secure passage about town. Homes and barns were completely covered, compelling farmers to tunnel to reach and feed their stock. For the most part the snow by passed the big cities on the East coast that winter. The cold was only sporadic but on December 30, 1880, bitter cold hit the east coast, the mercury dropped to 3 below in Washington D. C. the earliest below zero reading there ever, records were also set in Charlotte North Carolina at 5 below and in Philadelphia the temperature also dropped to negative 5 and the afternoon high temperature despite bright sunshine only reach 5 above zero.
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