Remembering the Halloween Blizzard of 1991

The Northland is used to snowfall, and we all know it can snow before or after the winter season…

On Halloween in 1991, Duluth was gearing up for a winter storm.

Carol Christenson was an intern with the National Weather Service then.

“I was working the day shift and right before I left at 4pm we had issued a Winter Storm Warning for heavy snow,” Christenson said. “We were forecasting about a foot of snow.”

It snowed for 72 hours straight.

“My husband decided to shovel the snow,” Christenson said. “In retrospect why even bother? Because we went to bed that night and when we woke up there was so much snow it was unbelievable! And it kept snowing and snowing and snowing and snowing.”

At times in Duluth, it snowed at a rate of two inches per hour.

And in Duluth a total of 36.9 inches accumulated during this storm.

Doreen Wehmas remembers that day well, “I remember watching out the window in the morning as the storm started picking up there was a poor little guy across the street trying to keep the sidewalk shoveled for the Duluth clinic.”

While other folks were trying to go about trick or treating or shoveling for countless hours, Doreen’s son Richard was born the day that storm hit, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Duluth.

“Me and my husband actually kept saying – because of the work that we do – ‘We’re not having a Halloween baby! We’re not having a Halloween baby!’” Wehmas said. “But [Richard] decided to take his own sweet time and was born about 12:23 Halloween morning.”

Dealing with the typical anxieties a first-time mother would have to deal with, Doreen also had to watch as snow fell and fell and fell outside the hospital windows.

“My husband got stranded at the hospital along with all the doctors and the nurses,” Wehmas said. “And nobody was allowed to go anywhere.”

At the time the blizzard of ‘91 set the Minnesota state record for most snow in a single storm.

At the National Weather Service, forecasting a storm of that magnitude – that early in the season – was very difficult.

“It had been so warm and just a beautiful fall, we weren’t really ready for it,” Christenson said. “It just came – BOOM! – and it was there.”

Christenson also says that the forecasting models were not as robust as they are nowadays, and of course the internet wasn’t in use yet either.

And for anyone that lived in the Northland 25 years ago to the day, it’s a snow storm no one will ever forget.

Doreen Wehmas has a special sweatshirt her mother bought at Target that says ‘I Survived the Halloween Blizzard.’

“Halloween blizzard sweatshirts that all of our family got and we still have today in remembrance of that storm,” Wehmas said.

In Duluth, blowing snow was reported for 33 consecutive hours.

And in that time frame, the winds were gusting up to 40 miles per hour, with almost zero visibility.

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