The Halloween Blizzard of 1991
Do you remember the Halloween Blizzard of 1991?
These photos, taken by Linda Baumeister for Lillie Newspapers, show the Hill-Murray High School sign advertising “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” buried in snow, a Twins-themed Jack-o-lantern, and Mike Alfieri and his friends Joe, Matt Tobritzhofer, and Joe Johnson playing in the snow at the Alfieri home in Maplewood.
We’re excited to share these photos and their accompanying Maplewood Review article from the MAHS Lillie Suburban Newspaper Collection with you as we count down the final week until Halloween.
“Halloween blizzard provides real scare”
by Holly Wenzel
Maplewood Review, Volume 30, Number 28
Wed., November 6, 1991
The “Halloween Blizzard,” as it will undoubtedly be recalled, caught many residents unawares last Thursday afternoon. Early predictions of a maximum six inch snowfall were raised along with the drifts as snow fell continuously through Saturday evening. Local residents coped as well as they could with the snow as city crews labored to clear the streets.
“This is the storm of the century, I think,” said weather observer David C. Wierstad Sr. of North St. Paul. He has had his eye on the gauges and indicators in his back yard for the last few days, going out once an hour from waking until at least 10 p.m. to amass information on the storm.
Wierstad is an observer for the National Weather Service, and also reports his information to local media. He said conditions at his weather station qualified for at least blizzard status.
“We had over 40 mph winds; Saturday at 1:30 a.m. I recorded a gust of 48 mph,” he said. “The other thing that makes it a blizzard is visibility less than a half-mile and rapidly dropping temperatures. At one point Saturday morning, visibility was down to five-sixteenths of a mile.”
And of course there was the snow.
From Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, Wierstad recorded 27.7 inches of snowfall, which when melted down to water was 2.74 inches deep. “That was really wet snow,” Wierstad commented. He added that his barometer reading swooped from 30.56 Oct. 30 to 29.48 Nov. 1. “That’s a drop of over an inch of mercury in 24 to 36 hours,” he noted.
WIERSTAD, WHO has been tracking weather since he was 12 years old, and monitoring North St. Paul weather continuously since 1961, says this storm resembled the fateful Armistice Day blizzard of 1940, in which many Minnesota residents died. “But back in those days, you didn’t have the warnings, and didn’t have the radar,” he noted.
He said in the 1991 storm, termed a “megastorm” by the National Weather Service, a low pressure system sailed in from Texas loaded with gulf moisture and collided with a cold front from the north and east. The resulting spin-out created the area’s record snowfalls.
“The low pressure area over us was deep and was pulling everything else into it… Everything came together.”
IN MAPLEWOOD, Street Foreman Mike Kane said when everything came together, his crews were ready.
“On Thursday, I had all the equipment ready for the potential storm,” he said. “But thank goodness we were ready.”
Kane said four trucks went out Thursday night to sand main roads and hills that might be slippery slopes for drivers. Friday at 4 a.m., Maplewood’s entire crew of nine vehicles and eight workers hit the roads and worked for 17 hours clearing snow. They started again at 4 a.m. Saturday, working for a 15-hour stretch, and returned to the scene Sunday for 7 hours.
Monday, half the crew was out sanding and plowing drifts. The other half were delivering election materials to polling locations for Maplewood’s Tuesday city elections.
The main problem with plowing after a snowfall of this magnitude, Kane said, was where to put the snow once it’s off the street. He said Maplewood crews have tried not to plow cars up to their windows in packed snow, to the point of leaving the snow status quo on Monday to allow residents to dig out and move automobiles on their own.
“We could go out right now and bury everyone again,” he said. Kane said he was “very pleased” with the crew’s work and residents seemed to agree. “Everyone waved at the plows and was glad to see them,” he recalled.
Maplewood city offices remained open Friday, and the city fielded its regular police force. Between 7 a.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. Monday, 11 auto accidents were reported in the city.
“It was a storm to remember, Kane said.”