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Weather: Blizzard was among deadliest in Minnesota

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News Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
(218) 333-9819 customer support
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

A feature of life in Minnesota is memorable snowstorms. Seventy-one years ago the Armistice Day Blizzard blasted through the state resulting in one of the deadliest storms to strike Minnesota

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On Nov. 11, 1940, the day began just like any other. Temperatures across the state ranged from low 40s in the north to near 60 in southern Minnesota.

The official weather forecast called for a cold front to pass through with falling temperatures, increasing wind and light snow. This forecast was issued from the Weather Bureau in Chicago, which at the time was responsible for issuing forecasts covering Minnesota.

The storm struck instead with intense winds and heavy snow. Temperatures fell dramatically in a matter of a few hours. Nineteen Minnesotans, many of them duck hunters who were not dressed appropriately for the changing conditions, lost died in the storm.

Along the Mississippi River in southern Minnesota, lightly dressed hunters scrambled through murky backwaters fighting ever increasing winds and waves in a attempt to reach safety. Many were found with their clothes frozen to their skin and buried in snowdrifts.

Snowfall totals were greatest east of a line from Albert Lea to St. Cloud to Duluth. Minneapolis recorded 17 inches but 75 miles to the northwest Collegeville recorded 27 inches.

Heavy snow was only half the story.

Winds gusted more than 60 miles per hour across much of the state, furiously whipping the snow into giant drifts. Drifts more than 20 feet were reported in the Willmar area.

In the storm's aftermath and after another powerful blizzard struck the state in March 1941, Gov. Harold Stassen pressed the Weather Bureau to locate a forecast office in Minnesota, which they soon did.

The Minnesota State Climatology Office lists the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 at No. 2 on its list of the top five Minnesota weather events of the 20th century - behind only the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

Siemers is the Pioneer's circulation director.

Email him at tsiemers@

bemidjipioneer.com

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Pioneer staff reports
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