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Perfect Storm: 20 Years Since The Halloween Blizzard

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(credit: CBS) Chris Shaffer
Chris Shaffer was raised in Stillwater, Minn. (Go Ponies!) and le...
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Photo Gallery: Remembering The Halloween Blizzard

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s one of the most memorable storms — ever. It was 20 years ago when the Twins had just won the World Series and then, a few days later, on Halloween, it started to snow.

And it didn’t stop snowing for three days. The major storm just pounded the eastern half of Minnesota and would go down in the record books as the Halloween Blizzard.

It started on Thursday as freezing rain, turning to snow around trick or treat time.

“There weren’t many kids out. What parent in their right mind was going to let kids wander on a night like that? It was not fit for man nor beast,” said WCCO reporter Bill Hudson.

He remembers working during the storm while his young daughters confronted the cold.

“Annie was one and Ellen was five … and one was a mouse and the other was a chunk of cheese,” recalled Hudson. “So here my wife had made these cute little costumes but people couldn’t see them because they had coats on over the top.”

Other dinosaurs and princesses ducked inside malls or into at-home parties.

While outside, one of the worst blizzards in Minnesota history began to brew.

The pieces were in place. An arctic front had passed, leaving a cool pool of air in place. The famous perfect storm was blocking storm systems, so the low pressure center was coming almost due north.

Damaging freezing rain hit Iowa and southern Minnesota and as the air got colder, the snow started to fall and accumulate right through Halloween and into the first two days of November.

The heaviest band of snow was falling from the Twin Cities with 28.4 inches, all the way up through Duluth with 36.9 inches.

Making matters worse, the strong winds on the backside of the low pressure center were gusting and causing drifts up to five to 10 feet deep in places.

The wet and heavy snow lead to the collapse of roof tops. Schools and businesses — even the downtown Dayton’s store — all forced to close.

Police officers resorted to snowmobiles.

“It was all we could do to get to work, those of us who could get to work,” Hudson said. “It was incredibly tough getting around because a lot of the roads weren’t plowed yet. Those that were, were being blown shut with drifts.”

But through it all were stories of perseverance and people helping one another.

“There were a lot of people in the neighborhood that I didn’t know that I’m going to be able to thank,” Lynne Fischer told WCCO back in 1991.

Fischer didn’t think she’d make it to the hospital when she went into labor during the storm.

Her neighbors started shoveling, and one, who was a nurse, prepared for a home delivery. An ambulance arrived just in time and baby Adam came into the world.

“I remember it like it was yesterday, I really do,” said Fischer. “I look back on him as a baby and see this sweet, little gentle soul from a chaotic beginning. And now he’s kind of living on the edge, wanting to be a soldier.”

Adam lives in Israel now, training to be a soldier in an American unit of the Israeli Army.

“It’s part of Minnesota culture, it’s part of the Minnesota lore,” said Hudson. “The challenges of being snowed in and being at the mercy of nature.”

“We think that we’re all powerful and can do anything we want. We live in such an age where we can travel wherever, whenever want. We have instant communications. But all it takes is good ol’ fashioned snowstorm to bring that all to a halt,” said Hudson. “Suddenly it’s very humbling, you know? It’s still mother nature that rules.”

The 1991 Halloween Blizzard still holds the record for the largest amount of snow during a storm in the Twin Cities at 28.4 inches.

In comparison, remember that big storm last December when the Metrodome roof collapsed? That storm dumped only 17.1 inches — making it only the fifth worst blizzard.

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