November 11th 2021 – The 81st Anniversary of the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940.
October 31st 2021 – The 30th Anniversary of the Halloween Blizzard of 1991.
The Armistice Day Blizzard lives in infamy because of the lose of lives attributed to it. There was 49 deaths in Minnesota
13 in Wisconsin
4 in Michigan
Conditions over the 3 days also were responsible for
A freight train colliding with a passenger train killing 2.
The sinking of 3 freighters and two smaller boats on Lake Michigan killing 66.
The Halloween Blizzard dumped a record amount of snow in Minnesota
27 inches in the Twin Cities, 37 inches in Duluth
Twenty two deaths in out-state Minnesota.
None in the Twin Cities area. Thank goodness! Although our 4th son, Darren had a harrowing experience of almost an hour, trapped and having to dig himself out of his snow-buried car, in late afternoon in, of all places, downtown Minneapolis.
Eleven counties in Minnesota and fifty two in Iowa were declared Disaster Areas.
For days the low pressure conditions racked havoc all over the United States. Snow followed by ice, followed by record low temperatures for Autumn. Schools closed, highways closed. Power lines down for over a week. Nobody, including the Weather Bureau was prepared and countless lives were lost in the nation.
And the storm hit the Atlantic Coast with such a fury that it not only caused destruction on the Eastern Seaboard, it moved to the ocean and developed into a hurricane.
It is known as The Perfect Storm.
The death of six fishermen who lost their lives at sea during it, is depicted in the movie The Perfect Storm.
In addition to having started on a holiday, both blizzards were preceded by very unseasonable warm days. The beauty of rare Autumns. When the wind changed and the snow began people were sucker punched, not ready for cold weather, let alone snow and sleet, and ice.
Armistice Day in 1940 was during duck hunting season in Minnesota. Duck hunting in summer clothes. Temps of 65 F. The Mississippi River Bottoms was strung out with hunters from the Twin Cities. They left their cars at the end of the Gun Club road and walked along the river bank to a place where they could be some distance from other hunters. The hunting was good and when the wind changed, it was excellent.
‘There were thousands of duck flying over,’ one of the hunters related. ‘We were so excited we didn’t pay attention to the dropping temperature and the rain that turned to snow.’ By the time they did realize the danger, the snow covered the ground and stopped them from getting back to their vehicles…covered the fuel sources that could provide fires to warm them or cook the ducks that were buried in the drifts. Soon they were left with digging out shelters in the snow. Solo hunters had nobody to cuddle to for shared body heat and walking to others was an impossibility. One of the survivors credited his life to nestling with his two Lab Retrievers. Most of the 49 deaths in Minnesota were duck hunters.
There would have been more deaths if it were not for Max Conrad, a pioneer aviator and Bob Bean, a flight instructor, who flew dangerous missions up and down the river, looking for survivors and dropping life- saving food and supplies.
A great many Minnesotans had much to be thankful for that Thanksgiving, but a turkey dinner was not one of the blessings. The blizzard killed a million and a half turkeys in the state.
The tag line for the Armistice Day Blizzard was ‘if you were living at that time, you would never forget it’. I was only two at the time so that’s my excuse for knowing about it only from the words and writings of older folks.
Not so with the Halloween Blizzard of 91.
That one is etched in my mind.
What a week leading up to it! The Minnesota Twins beat the St. Louis Cards in what was the closest and most exciting World Series on record. Two days later the victory parade followed, and thousands watched in the warm weather. And two more days later the Blizzard hit.
The Minneapolis stagehands were in the process of reopening the State Theater of Minneapolis with the Minnesota Opera production of Carousel. The State was built in 1921 as a vaudeville house, later became a movie theater and then a church for the Jesus People. In 1989 the City of Minneapolis bought the, the Orpheum, the State, and the Pantages theaters and refurbished them into venues for live entertainment. We opened them up in a course of several years in that order.
We had already put in several 12 to 14 hour days mounting the production and we intended to put in another that Thursday. There was a lot of grousing by the hands for having to work indoors when it was so nice outside. After all the nice weather wouldn’t last much longer. But we had no idea of how quick that the weather would change.
There was word of heavy snow south in Iowa, but the Weather Bureau, stationed in Chicago, assured us our nice weather would continue. By mid afternoon the blizzard had made it into the Twin Cities. We called it day and left while we still could drive on the road.
Out son, Darren, had moved his car at lunch and parked it at a meter near the theater. When he got to it the snow from the storm and the sidewalk snowblowers had covered the passenger side right to the roof. He had to walk down the sidewalk and then up the street to get to the driver’s side. He managed to unlock and pull open the door when he saw the warning lights of a snowplow in the next block barreling toward him, blasting the snow on the same side of the one-way street as his car.
He dove inside his car and closed the door just in time. His car was buried. He had to roll down the window little by little and push the snow away. It was slowed by snow sliding down from the roof of the car and new snow from the blizzard. And the temperature tumbled lower. Finally he got the window open all the way and crawled out. There was a janitor in front of the theater clearing the sidewalk with a snowblower. He took his machine and freed the car.
I had parked in an underground garage and even though the going was slow I made it home without incident. Our street was plowed because a neighbor was a volunteer fireman and the city kept the street clear in case he was needed. I got out my snowblower and go the car in the garage.
One by one our boys called, checking in and asking if we were okay. Darren was the last. My wife and I said a silent prayer of thanks.
All the hands were back at work the next morning and this time Darren parked in the underground garage. The snow continued, albeit at a lesser rate, for two more days. Then the weather changed. The warm autumn returned. The snow melted and the grass was greener than before the store. We opened Carousel on time. It got rave reviews.
Thanksgiving would have been a joyous holiday with a plentiful supply of turkeys; except we got another blizzard, albeit, it was just an ordinary blizzard. Not too memorable. Even if it did fall on a holiday.
A word to the wise from one who lived through both of those blizzards: If the autumn is unseasonably nice and a holiday is coming, keep your snow shovel handy and snowblower full of gas; because you never can tell.
November 11the 1940 Blizzard is a seldom remember event in our history books.
November 11th of 1918
Armistice Day/ Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day/ The 11th Day of the 11th Month
Is a day that must live forever in our hearts.
And to all my fellow Vets
Vaya Con Dios
Get those life saving shots
For your good and the good of your loved ones.