Famous Winter Storms

Nov 10, 1835, Severe storms caused 19 shipwrecks on Great Lakes, 254 sailors died

Feb 13-15, 1866, arguably one of the worst blizzards in Minnesota history, lasted 3 days, drifts to 20 ft buried barns in western counties, struck at nite so deaths were reduced.

Nov 8, 1870, first winter storm warning was issued by the U.S. Army Signal Corps

Mar 14-16, 1870, blizzard struck northern Iowa and SW Minnesota with up to 16 inches of snowfall. First use of the term "blizzard" (from boxing, meaning volley of punches) by the Esterville, IA Vindacator newspaper. The term blizzard was not used by the U.S. Signal Corps Weather Service until 1876.

Jan 7-10, 1873, started as a mild day, people active outside, then blizzard struck, drastic temperature drop, 70 deaths, hundreds of cattle lost, trains stuck for days in high drifts.

October 16, 1880, earliest blizzard in Minnesota, struck SW and WC counties. Huge drifts exceeding 20 ft in the Canby area last until the next spring

Jan 12-13, 1888, started as a mild day, children in school, people working outside. Abrupt cold wave struck with blinding snow, temperature fell to -37 degrees F. Children sent home early from school, but many died. Deaths totaled 200 in perhaps Minnesota's worst blizzard. Predated one of the east coast's worst blizzards which struck two months later in March.

Mar 8-9, 1892, one of Duluth's worst blizzards. 70 mph winds, blinding snow piled drifts over 20 ft high, blocking second story windows in some buildings.

Jan 31, 1893, blizzard at Park Rapids, MN temperature drop of 40 degrees F in less than 5 hours.

Nov 26, 1896, famous Thanksgiving Day storm, rain and thunderstorms in southern Minnesota, snow and blizzard in ND and central and northern MN counties. People caught traveling for the holiday. Severe cold wave as Pokegama Dam went down to -45 degree F.

Nov 27-28, 1905, another blizzard at Duluth with 60 mph winds. Sank ships in Lake Superior.

Nov 9-11, 1913, one of the worst November storms ever on the Great Lakes. Blizzard in northern MN, 62 mph winds at Duluth, three ships lost on Lake Superior.

Oct 19-20, 1916, one of the earliest blizzards, with up to 15 inches of snow in western counties, and a 50 degrees F temperature drop.

Jan 16, 1921, blizzard conditions in northern counties with 59 mph winds and blowing soil in southern Minnesota counties.

Feb 21-23, 1922, an ice storm followed by a blizzard.

Feb 12-14, 1923, Black dust blizzard occurred blowing in dirty snow from ND

Nov 11-12, 1933, dust storm in southern and central counties, visibility near zero, blizzard in NW counties.

Nov 11, 1940, Armistice Day Blizzard, mild day to start, hunting season in full swing, 17 inches of snow MSP, 27 inches at Collegeville, duck hunters unprepared and exposed on Mississppi River islands, 49 deaths, plus 59 sailors lost on Great Lakes. Slow moving system which intensified.

Mar 14-15, 1941, terrible blizzard in western counties, 85 mph winds at Grand Forks, 75 mph winds at Duluth, 32 deaths (footnote: terrible blizzards of the winter of 40-41 prompted the Weather Service to refine the forecast regional responsibilities; Minnesota formerly under the jurisdiction of Chicago office acquired responsibilities to dictate own forecast and procedures.)

Dec 5-8, 1950, blizzard in northern MN delivered 25.2 inches of snow to Duluth.

Nov 17-18, 1958, blizzard with 60 mph winds, 33 men died with the sinking of the Carl D. Bradley on Lake Michigan.

Nov 28, 1960, severe storm and blizzard, dubbed a no'eastern hammered the Lake Superior shoreline, producing 20 to 40 ft waves which destroyed shoreline property. Three feet of water flood the streets of Grand Marais, MN. Winds gusted to 73 mph and Duluth recorded over 1 ft of snowfall. Thousands of chords of pulpwood washed into Lake Superior.

Mar 1-4, 1966, smaller scale blizzard with 37 inches of snow near International Falls.

Jan 16, 1967, a shortlived, fast-moving blizzard resulted in 7 deaths statewide, some from snow shoveling.

Dec/Jan 1968-69, one of the stormiest winters with six separate blizzard warnings in the state and total snowfalls ranging from 30 to 50 inches in northern counties from the six storms.

Jan 24, 1972, fierce blizzard in SW, MN with 72 mph winds at Worthington, up to 10 inches of snow, schools closed but buses stranded, many sought shelter in farm homes.

Dec 31, 1972, New Year's Eve blizzard halted many celebrations and activities.

Jan 10-12, 1975, perhaps one of the worst blizzards and strongest storms. Closed most roads in the state, some for 11 days, 20 ft drifts. One to two feet of snow, train stuck at Willmar, 15,000 head of livestock lost. Many low barometric pressure records set (28.55 at Duluth), winds to 80 mph, storm intensified over the state, 14 people died in blizzard, and 21 more from heart attacks.

Mar 23-24, and Mar 26-29, 1975 blizzards in northern MN. 100 mph winds, 20 ft waves on Lake Superior damaged shoreline properties, zero visibility near Duluth, which received 1 ft of snow from each storm.

Nov 10-11, 1975, a severe winter storm with 71 mph winds created 12 to 15 ft waves on Lake Superior, sank the Edmund Fitzgerald. Storm intensified as it moved over the area.

Nov 19, 1981, heavy snow with near blizzard conditions. Over a foot of wet snow caused the inflated fabric of the Metrodome to collapse and rip.

Feb 4, 1984, blizzard in southern MN with severe wind to 80 mph caused a wall of white, even though snowfall totals were only a few inches. Severe windchills. Many stranded in vehicles or fish houses, sixteen died.

Mar 3-4, 1985, blizzard with 6 to 24 inches of snowfall. Duluth reported winds to 90 mph, and huge multi-story drifts. Schools in International Falls closed.

Nov 16, 1988, near blizzard conditions in northern counties with 11 inches of snow in International Falls. Nov 26, 1988 blizzard struck again over most of the state this time. Winds reached 63 mph at Windom, snow drifts up to 7 ft high. Snowfalls up to 14 inches in east central MN.

Jan 6-8, 1989, one of the worst ever blizzards in the Red River Valley delivered up to 26 inches of snow. Roads closed, 50 mph winds. Set up flooding.

Oct 31-Nov 3, 1991, Halloween Blizzard. Over 28 inches at MSP, nearly 37 inches at Duluth. Nasty windchill conditions, deep snow drifts harsh on wildlife, many roads closed for days. Perhaps one of the largest and longest lasting blizzards in state history.

Feb 28-Mar 2, 2007, blizzard brings over 20 inches of snow and winds exceeding 50 mph to the Duluth area. The blizzard came on the heels of another major winter storm that plodded through the Upper Midwest and dropped over two feet of snow on southeastern Minnesota from February 23 through February 26. The Duluth area received over 12 inches of snow in this first event. National Weather Service summary of this storm

Harsh winters:

1995-96: Dec 8, 1995 blizzard in WC MN, Jan 10 blizzard in WC MN, Jan 17-18 blizzard in SW MN, Jan 26-29, 1996 blizzard in southern and western counties, Feb 10-11, 1996 blizzard in northern counties (Governor closed schools), Mar 23-25, 1996 blizzard in northern and central counties (Hwy 10 closed)

1996-97: Nov 16-17, 1996 Blizzard in NW and WC, Dec 17-19, 1997 Blizzard in western and southern counties, Dec 20-21, 1997 Blizzard in NW, Dec 23, 1997 Blizzard in WC, Dec 31, 1997 New Year's Eve Blizzard in NW, Jan 4-5, 1997 Blizzard in western counties, Jan 9-10, 1997 Blizzard in western and southern counties, Jan 15-16, 1997 Blizzard in western counties, Jan 21-22, 1997 Blizzard in western counties, Mar 4, 1997 Blizzard in WC, Apr 5-6, 1997 Blizzard in western counties during flood fight Total seasonal snowfall at Fargo-Moorhead 117 inches, set up worst flooding ever.


For more information contact: climate@umn.edu