The Big Story Blog

1991 Halloween blizzard was no treat

Posted at 6:28 AM on October 31, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Climate, History, Weather

We can look at the photos now and laugh. The Halloween Blizzard of 1991 doesn't seem so scary in pictures -- or in the stories we tell from those three days when more than two feet of snow fell in The Cities and three feet in Duluth.

Twenty years ago today, the snow began falling in a record storm that ranks among the state's worst, bringing swaths of Minnesota to a standstill for days.

web_blizzard1030.jpg
Duluth residents dig out their cars Nov. 4, 1991, after a multi-day
storm dropped 37 inches of snow on the city (Photo courtesy of
Duluth News Tribune)

We'll spend time looking back at what happened, telling our stories and hoping you'll post yours below. We'll also keep an eye on how folks in the northeast are coping with their version of a crippling late October story.

The Minnesota Climatology Working Group has a great, quick read on what happened here Halloween 1991. Here's the map.

blizzard1.png
(Minnesota Climatology Working Group)

Here's how the climatology group describes what happened.

Some wintery weather was anticipated but no one was expecting a blizzard. The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch at 4 a.m. on the 31st with a potential of a foot of snow.

The first inkling that the forecast under-projected snowfall totals came when precipitation started falling as snow at about 11:30am in the Twin Cities, much earlier than anticipated... a winter storm warning was issued during the day and forecasters realized there was a potential for a lot of snow.

As the afternoon faded into evening a surreal scene unfolded with kids attempting to trick or treat wearing coats and boots and pumpkins becoming covered with a snowy blanket. 8.2 inches of snow fell by midnight on the 31st at the airport, the most for the entire month of October on record for the Twin Cities.

The storm intensified and moved to southeast Iowa by the morning of Friday, November 1. The snow continued to pile up. There were a flurry of cancellations. 900 schools and businesses closed. In southern Minnesota and in Iowa, where the precipitation remained as rain, one to three inches of ice formed on surfaces.

Snow removal became difficult as the snow had started falling on warm pavement, which melted at first and then froze into icy ruts that proved to be very difficult to remove. 18.5 inches fell on November 1 at the Twin Cities International Airport, snow blowers in the metro area quickly sold out.

On Saturday, November 2nd, the storm became a blizzard.
Here's a look at the Twin Cities records set that day.

Most single snow storm total: 28.4 inches
24 hour snowfall in any season: 21.0 inches
Most snow on October 31: 8.2 inches
Most snow on November 1: 18.5 inches
Most snow in October: 8.2 inches
Earliest 8 inch snow 8.2 inches
Earliest autumn below zero low -3*

Today will be lovely by comparison .

I have a pretty good story about the 1991 blizzard and trying to land at MSP. I'll share it later today. Post your memories below.


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.