* When: April 24-27, 1984
* Where: Northeast Wyoming, Campbell County, Gillette
* All roads closed: All roads in and out of Gillette were closed on April 25 for two days and were reopened starting April 27.
* Snowfall: The most snow to fall in April or May during a spring storm in Campbell County history — 24 inches — was recorded between April 24-27 at the then University of Wyoming Tree Farm near Cam-plex. The National Weather Service records show that 8 inches of snow were recorded on the morning of April 25, 15 inches on April 26 and 8 inches on April 27.
* Winds: Hurricane force winds estimated at 60 to 65 mile per hour, mixed with the heavy, wet snow, to produce the blizzard, white-out conditions and little visibility. One agriculture expert called it “the killer storm.”
* Deaths: Two ranchers died, one near Wright and another near Sundance. The rancher from Wright, Samuel P. Gaskins Jr., 31, had left home on foot at about 1 p.m. April 25 to feed some horses in a corral a half mile away. His body was found at 5 p.m. April 27 a short distance from the corral. He apparently died of hypothermia.
* Livestock losses: Agriculture experts estimated losses in Campbell County somewhere between $2 million and $4 million in 1984. That’s about $26.8 million and $53.6 million in today’s dollars. Sheep ranchers estimated 40 to 60 percent of the 59,000 sheep in Campbell County perished in the blizzard. Many ranchers hadn’t started lambing yet, which helped avoid even worse losses. About 15,000 to 18,000 cows and calves were lost, about 30 to 40 percent of herds in Campbell County, Mel Lynch, the agriculture expert at First National Bank in Gillette, estimated in 1984.
* Schools closed: Superintendent Melvin Antrim said schools were closed because conditions prevented even students who were close enough to walk from attending classes. “I suspect everybody will remember this day for many years to come,” he said.
* Snowplowing: Campbell County road crews quit plowing early Thursday morning. “We had machines out all night long, but snow was drifting in right behind them,” said their supervisor. City officials estimated it cost $66,000 to fight the storm and plow the drifted snow. That included 370 man hours and 194 equipment hours. It was more than it cost in three or four storms combined earlier that season. State highway officials reported about 1 million tons of snow was moved off state highways during the storm.
* Storm details: Authorities said 55 people were reported missing and 100 stranded during the storm. All were accounted for by Saturday, April 27.
* Five men were stranded in a tractor cab on the Earl Boller ranch for 21 hours during the storm, and they credited the sheep dog — they laid it over their laps to keep warm — for their survival.
* Seventy doctors, staff and nurses remained at Campbell County Memorial Hospital during the blizzard working 12-hour shifts. They slept in a newly built but unfurnished section of the hospital.
* ”We just can’t move,” said rancher Pat McCreery. “It doesn’t do any good to go out to check on animals when you can’t see.”
* Thirteen of Campbell County’s
14 mines closed operations.
* The storm with its “hellbroth winds,” as one person described it, will be remembered for its 100-foot-long, 20-foot tall snow drifts.
* A Black Thunder mine crew rescued seven to eight carloads of people stranded on the highway near the mine.
* Gene Litton and Lee Isenberger rescued 26 people stranded in 10 cars on Highway 59 south of Wright and housed them at the ranch.
* Snowmobilers delivered medicine and food to those in need.
* The awning at the Corral West Ranchwear store collapsed from the weight of the snow, causing $47,000 in damage.
* While many other towns and cities in Wyoming around the Big Horn Mountains and Black Hills, faced flooding after the snow melted, that didn’t occur here to the same extent. “I felt like we were in Noah’s Ark in northeast Wyoming, when we were surrounded by flooding,” said David King, then a radio announcer. There was some local flooding, and residents rode in canoes near Sunflower Elementary School because the sewers couldn’t keep up with the water.
* Rancher Gene Mankin, then 28, delivered his wife, Kristy’s baby on their bedroom floor at 5:28 a.m. April 26. Their waterbed didn’t provide enough support, so they delivered the baby on the floor. Thankfully, the power and phone continued operating during the storm, Mankin said. They lived 60 miles southwest of Gillette and the baby wasn’t due until May 5.
* Tonia Pownall was a child when the storm struck in 1984. She recalls drifts coming up to the second story of their living room windows and completely covering her dad’s Blazer in the driveway. “My mom had run out of cigs, so we had to tunnel to the neighbor’s house two doors down to get her cigs,” she wrote in an email.
— By Kathy Brown