March 9, 1892: Blizzard shuts down the Zenith City

On this day in Duluth in 1892, a blizzard struck the Zenith City, blowing over chimneys and leaving drifts in some spots as high as 16 feet. Despite rumors to the contrary, the storm resulted in no deaths—thanks in large part to the Duluth Police Department. The Duluth Daily News reported that the police “assisted 50 or 60 people home…who were almost overcome. Many of these were fished out of drifts where they had fallen and did not get up. A good many of this class were intoxicated, but quite a number had sunk down from exhaustion.” The streetcar system was all-but shutdown and hired “a small army of laborers” to shovel snow. By the 11th only the Superior Street line from the West End to Second Avenue East had been cleared. The storm did not shut down every street rail system in town: the newspaper also noted that with “snow seven feet deep and the incline car still makes its regular trips.” The West Duluth Incline fared even better: it maintained its regular operating schedule throughout and after the storm. But it took until the 12th to get most of the streetcar tracks cleared, and there was no service to Woodland until the 13th. The railroads were all running on time by the 11th, and schools were opened that day as well. The grain elevators on Rice’s Point seemed to bear the brunt of the storm. Conveyor galleries, which carried grain between elevators, were blown down, causing an estimated $20,000 worth of damage. It wasn’t all bad, at least not for lumbermen. The heavy snow was a blessing, as warm weather had damaged logging roads, which were essentially ice roads over which travelled sleighs filled with logs and pulled by teams of horses. The storm, the newspaper reported, would help make that winter’s logging season profitable.

Snow piled up on Superior Street facing east approaching Third Avenue West following the blizzard of March 9, 1892. (Image: UMD Martin Library)