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

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,  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.

In the aftermath of Duluth’s 1991 Halloween blizzard, Jack Ryan received some help from passerbys as he tried to push his car in front of his home along East 6th St. They tried to move it into the street then move it back into the spot, unsuccessfully. (Image: Dave Ballard)

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