On Oct. 15-16, 1880, a severe blizzard struck eastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota and northwestern Iowa with extremely heavy snow and wind. The storm was made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her book “The Long Winter” as the October Blizzard. Following that mid-October storm, the weather turned very cold.
Although there was surely some melting, most areas of eastern South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota remained cold enough that fall that the snow did not melt away, resulting in an early start to what turned out to be a very severe winter. The snow became so deep that trains were unable to supply eastern South Dakota with food or coal, resulting in hard times for the early settlers. Across eastern Minnesota and most of North Dakota, the winter of 1880-81 was not so fierce.