NO HOLIDAY FOR BLIZZARDS

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

Stay Safe

Get those life saving shots

For your good and the good of your loved ones.

WHETHER THE WEATHER

blizzard   Having a sense of humor while living in Minnesota is not mandated by law, but it sure helps out. The most overused cliché here is: Minnesota has two seasons, winter and road repair. On a beautiful day like today, there are actually people, right now, praying for winter so they can go ice fishing or snowmobiling. If it wasn’t for all the ice arenas and summer hockey leagues, there would be hockey aficionados joining in the prayers.

            I remember a ‘blizzard’ in Fort Bragg, NC. There was 4″ of snow over an 8 hour period. It shut the area down. In Minnesota it would have been called an early morning dew. The only vehicles moving had MN or WI plates. I had a dentist appointment that day. I jumped on my motorcycle and went to the clinic. The dentist, who was from Wisconsin, and myself were the only two in the place.

            The governor can declare a snow emergency here in MN, but not all the people heed it. The kids love it though. They don’t have school and can go out and play in the snow drifts. There is no snow emergency in show business though, not even in the Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991.

            It came out of nowhere. We had no warning and this was several weeks before we could expect snow. It started out as rain, changed to sleet, and then poured down snow for 4 days, 28 1/2″ in the Twin Cities, accompanied with strong winds. Both cities were closed down, except the State Theater. We were in production for the Minnesota Opera’s new production of CAROUSEL, which was slated to open in a week or so, and also the official opening of the renovated State Theater. Now I am not saying all the hands made it every day during that blizzard, especially those who had to rely on public transportation,  and a lot of us were late several mornings; but we managed to get the production up and rehearsals in, and open the show and the theater on time.

            Since it was still too early for winter, in two weeks or so, the snow had melted and the grass was still lush and green. And then came the Thanksgiving Blizzard. Not as heavy, not as long, but another holiday blizzard; and winter still had several weeks before it started officially.

            Several years before when I was still at the Guthrie, we had the governor issue a snow emergency. It was a Saturday, which meant a matinee and an evening performance. After verifying that the shows were slated to go on, I, with the help of my sons, managed to get the truck to the highway and then I fought the white-out the twenty some miles to the theater.

            Don Schoenbaum, the managing director explained to me and the other two members of the running crew, why he didn’t call off the shows. ‘I figure there might be some poor salesman sitting in a hotel room downtown, with tickets for the matinee. Nothing else to do. Won’t be able to come back in town for the raincheck show. Besides,’ he added with a smile, ‘I figure if I can get to the theater in this kind of weather, anybody can.’ He laughed. Wise guy. He lived less than a block away. Then I laughed.  Like I said, to live in Minnesota, it is good to have a sense of humor.

            There were maybe twenty people in the house for the matinee. And even though it was still blowing snow outside, there was almost a full house for the Saturday evening show. Needless to say, there were no walk-ups for either performance.

 

 

The Old Hand:

        

On days when it is so hot there are warning to stay inside, it helps to remember, not too many months ago, when there were winter warnings to stay inside. This story, that our friend Paula told us, happened on one of those days several years ago.

Paula had to drive her elderly mother to the doctor. The snow was almost causing whiteout, and sane drivers were taking it slow and careful. But there’s always some!!!

First, the black SUV came up fast, and just a few yards before it would ram her car, it pulled out opposite lane. And naturally, pulled back right, cutting her off. She braked and her car turned into a toboggan, sliding and refusing to respond to her steering. Luckily, as it began to spin, the front wheels hit the curb, and the car stopped.

She said she gripped the steering wheel and tried not to cry, and tried harder not to say anything. She knew any words that came from her mouth would be words that a person should not utter in front of one’s mother.

‘Paula, honey,’ her mother said and placed her hand on Paula’s, ‘Don’t let them bother you like that. Now I don’t know how it helps but try this.’ She held her fist up and then extended her middle finger in the direction the SUV took. ‘This is what they use to do to me when I was driving.’

So enjoy the summer even with the heat and mosquitoes. State Fair and going back to school is here. Next will come raking leaves and prepping the snow-blower.

Published SPPP Bulletin Board, 9/2/13

Now I am not one of those who pray for the winter to come. And when it’s snowing out, I especially love being retired and staying home. Even though for many, many years, our son, Danny, always has our driveway snowblown by 7 AM, whether I need to go out or not, I still don’t like the thought of fighting the snow and the cold. Unlike the Minnesota snowbirds who drive to Florida or Arizona at the first sign of frost, I have no desire to go to either location. But believe me, if it wasn’t for the fact we can’t be far from our family, my wife and I would be wintering in one of the Colonial cities in Mexico. We could still keep our winter sense of humor, but we’d be laughing in Spanish.