75 years later: Remembering the Armistice Day blizzard

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Seventy-five years ago, a balmy November day turned into one of the worst winter storms in Minnesota history.

The Armistice Day Blizzard dumped 1-2 feet of snow across much of the Upper Midwest, taking the lives of 154 people, including 49 Minnesotans, many of whom were hunters trapped by the sudden change in weather.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says it's the blizzard which all other blizzards are measured against; it ranks No. 2 on the Minnesota State Climatology Office's list of top weather events of the 20th century; and it prompted the National Weather Service to add a forecasting office in the Twin Cities to provide more timely and accurate predictions.

The day began with blue skies and temperatures in the 40s and 50s, so when temperatures dropped on Nov. 11, 1940, many were caught off guard and unprepared when the storm hit – hunters, many in short-sleeved shirts, were trapped along the Mississippi River and blowing and drifting snow stranded motorists in their cars, the National Weather Service says.

By the time the blizzard ended the next day, the Twin Cities had picked up 16.7 inches of snow, Collegeville had 26.6 inches, and 20-foot snowdrifts were reported in Willmar, the Minnesota State Climatology Office says. There were also 30-50 mph winds reported.

The storm itself is very similar to the storm that's expected to dump up to 2 inches of rain and cause gusting winds in much of Minnesota Wednesday night – the strength of the low-pressure system and the path it's expected to take are the same.

But we won't have to deal with 25 inches of snow because the storm system is much warmer than the one in 1940 – that's why there's only rain (and maybe a few snowflakes) in the forecast. Plus the storm system is much more compact and is moving much faster than the Armistice Day blizzard did, Andrew Murray, meteorologist at OpenSnow.com, told BringMeTheNews.

And the good news is, the likelihood of such a crippling blizzard happening in Minnesota again is very low, WCCO meteorologist Matt Brickman says, citing improvements in forecasting and advancements in plowing and road treatments.

Media outlets across the state wrote up stories on the 75th anniversary of the Armistice Day Blizzard. Some of the stories:

The Star Tribune talked to Jim Bice, now 92, who recalled the day of the blizzard and the duck hunters along the Mississippi River. The Mankato Free Press, the Owatonna People's Press and the Pioneer Press all spoke with Minnesotans who survived the storm, and say they'll never forget that day.

MPR News did an in-depth look at the blizzard back in 2000 for the 60th anniversary, and FOX 9 has a slideshow from the storm.

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