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Remembering the Halloween Blizzard of 1991

Scott Olson/Getty Images

It has been 20 years since the Halloween Blizzard of 1991 when the Upper Midwest saw a record breaking snowfall. And that’s hard to do up here. We’re taking a look back at the wind up, the snow storm and the aftermath. 

A few days prior to the storm, an extremely cold air mass had moved through our area and temperatures behind it were in the 70’s from the Upper Midwest all the way down to North Texas. Montana and Wyoming, however saw high temperatures in the 20’s and it was that vast difference in temperatures that became one of the major players in why we got so much snow.

Kids were getting their costumes ready and shoppers had loaded up on candy in anticipation of the ghosts and goblins roaming about later that week. Meanwhile, a huge extra tropical storm system that intensified in the Atlantic Ocean had a high pressure system right behind it that went from Greenland and cut right through the U.S. all the way down to the south western states. That coupled with a low pressure system sitting between Hudson Bay in Canada and areas of central Nebraska with a strong cold front behind it. That set up a kind of squeeze-play that put St. Cloud and most of Minnesota right in the bull’s eye to get a major snow storm.

It started on October 30 in Iowa where it began to snow. As it moved north overnight on Halloween, the snow began to fall as ice. According to NOAA, south central and southeastern Minnesota had about two to three inches of ice underneath the snow that was still to come. The State Patrol had shut down a 180 mile stretch of Interstate 90 as National Guard Armories and shopping malls opened their doors to stranded travelers.

An arctic air mass blasted the area with colder temperatures changing everything over to snow, which fell at a rate of one to two inches per hour and to make matters worse, the wind picked up and was blowing all of that snow around at 30 to 50 miles an hour with gusts as high as 60 miles an hour.

Schools, businesses, and public transportation came to a screeching halt as everyone tried to dig out, but unfortunately cleanup efforts were hindered due to abandoned vehicles and traffic accidents all over the place. Due to all of the snow and ice, power poles snapped and lines came down leaving hundreds of thousands of people in the dark from Duluth to St. Cloud, the Twin Cities, Rochester, western Wisconsin and all over Iowa. Eleven counties in Minnesota were declared disaster areas by then Governor Arne Carlson. Twenty people died in Minnesota due to car accidents and medical emergencies caused by trying to clear snow.

What is your story? How were you impacted by the Halloween Blizzard? Share your thoughts here or send us an email. We’re going to be using some of the comments on the air on Monday as we look back: Remembering the Halloween Blizzard of 1991.

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