Thirty years ago Minnesota dug out of the generational storm The Halloween Blizzard

MINNESOTA (KVRR) – Thirty years ago trick or treating and living in Minnesota turned into a survival event.

The best way to describe the three days of snow that caused havoc in Minnesota three decades ago: uffda! And that goes for the hundreds of stories from it too.

“This is a storm that we’ve never had this early. This is like the October blizzard from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Long Winter’ book,” Director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network Daryl Ritchison said.

Two days after the Upper Midwest celebrated the Twins taking home their second World Series title at their parade in Minneapolis and St. Paul, many faces went from adulation to crushing defeat.

Flakes started flying on Halloween. By midnight, 8.2 inches of snow fell at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport breaking the record of a measly four tenths of an inch on that date. By the time the storm was over November 2nd, it dumped more than two feet in the Twin Cities. Duluth got help from the lake effect and got a state record at the time for the largest single snowstorm in the state: 36.9 inches.

Winds gusted up to 60 miles per hour in rural areas making drifts up to 10 feet.

According to the National Weather Service, total damage statewide was $11.7 million and 20,000 people experienced power outages.

It was so bad, the National Guard handed out generators to rural farmsteads.

At the storm’s peak, 180 miles of interstate 90 from the South Dakota border to Rochester was closed.

In 1991, Ritchison was Chief Meteorologist at KEYC in Mankato.

“I just went out on the air and said ‘Hey, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got 20 inches from this storm,” Ritchison said.

Richison was proud of his forecasting skills, but this storm surprised even him two years in his time as a meteorologist in Southwestern Minnesota.

“Even though I said that on air, I did not expect it. I kind of looked good for all the wrong reasons,” Ritchison explained.

Because the storm came north out of east Texas, it pulled in a lot of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, what we know as “The Perfect Storm” was happening on the East coast. It helped dislodge arctic air and the combination made for huge snow.

“It’s not a great term to use, but I always kind of called it puking snow. It was just snowing so heavily it was coming down like heavy rain,” Ritchison said.

Sara Watson was a student at the University of Minnesota in 1991. Eight years ago she explained to KVRR what she saw at Halloween parties.

“When we were leaving, the buses had all shut down. It had started snowing. It snowed so much, we had to walk all the way back to our dorms in knee-deep snow,” Watson said.

“Because it was so warm because it’s October it’s a relative thing, all the roads got so… the ice was so thick the plows, it got so cold the plows, it was like being on safari,” Ritchison said.

The Red River was under a blizzard warning, but it got far less snow than other regions. Grand Forks got 5.9 inches while Fargo only got two.

Eleven counties were declared federal disaster areas due to the storm.

Twenty people died in Minnesota due to traffic accidents or heart attacks from digging out.

Categories: Minnesota News