October 31, 1991: “Halloween Blizzard” packs in Duluth

This photograph of Duluth residents digging out their cars was taken on November 4, 1991, and published in the Duluth News Tribune (Image: Duluth News Tribune)

On this day in Duluth in 1991, the “Halloween Blizzard” began, the first of four days of snow and driving winds that caused businesses and schools to close, buried cars throughout the Zenith City, and caused seven deaths. piled snowdrifts as high as roofs, and stranded workers. By November 3 just shy of 37 inches of snow covered Duluth, at the time the largest single snow storm total in Minnesota history. According to various reports, the storm affected most of Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northern Iowa. Damages to power lines alone mounted to $63 million, and at least 100,000 people lost power. The storm is blamed for 22 deaths, with 20 in Minnesota including seven in Duluth. According to Chuck Frederick of the Duluth News Tribune, “An estimated 190 million cubic feet of snow had to be plowed, shoveled and blown away by crews in Duluth.” Inbound ore carriers were forced to anchor outside Duluth and wait out the storm—they could not even see the Duluth Ship Canal. Frederick also reported that Barb Meyer of West Duluth went into labor at 4 a.m. on Saturday. A fire truck follows, then a snowplow, sanding truck and finally an ambulance arrived to clear the streets and get her to St. Luke’s Hospital. Her physician, Dr. Niles Batdorf, used cross country skis to get to the hospital for the delivery. Needless to say, there was very little Trick-or-Treating that night. Duluthians who lived through the storm all have stories of survival, snow shoveling, and hiking excursions to the video or liquid store. Please share yours in our comments section, below. Read more about the blizzard in the DNT Attic, here, and see a video of the aftermath on Youtube, here.

5 Responses to October 31, 1991: “Halloween Blizzard” packs in Duluth

  1. I lived in West Duluth at the time. I remember walking down a street after the snowfall and all the neighbors on that block, got together and shoveled out all the cars parked on the street, except one. That car that was still buried in the snow, was a Minnesota Highway Patrol car.

  2. We live in west central Iowa, near Jefferson. Got up that morning to an inch of ice on everything outside and no power. Ran the generator with a tractor for a little over two weeks. I remember it only too well as I had livestock to care for.

  3. It was our 4th anniversary we stopped at the Mall (nearly vacant) on our way to the St. Scholastica Theatre production of Bell, Book and Candle. Well, “The show must go on”, and it was all the more eerie due to the dead silence of an audience of seven. After we figured out which mound of snow was our car we headed to West Duluth and the Jade Fountain for dinner. I recall two other couples there that evening. Of course our car was buried again but since it just out the front door we quickly got to it and started for home. We tried to go up the I-35S on ramp but a semi was taking residence there so we went up Cody St, got on the freeway and got to Cloquet and 4 feet in front of our garage before we got stuck and were home by midnight.

  4. My brother and his new wife from Texas came up to have their honeymoon in our lake cabin. My brother having been a true Duluthian who, even after living in Texas for 27 years, still had chains in his car and had to use them to get to the cabin. When they awoke the next morning the back window was dark for a huge snow bank and their car was completely buried except for on headlight. My brother loved every bit of it, his new wife not so much. It took three days for them to dig out.

  5. We waited out the 1991 Halloween snowstorm in the house with a fireplace and good books, and when Sunday rolled around, power was back on and the buses were running. Just to get out of the house, we took the bus downtown to the “Top of the Radisson.” There was one item left on the menu, a hamburger and french fries. With four days of no deliveries, no flights in or out of Duluth, and a full hotel with stranded visitors, the hotel had sold out of all of its food, except the hamburger, which was delicious!

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