Yesterday’s warm temperatures probably brought back memories for some of you oldtimers here in Northfield. From the Wikipedia entry on the Armistice Day blizzard of 1940:
The morning of 11 November 1940 brought with it unseasonably high temperatures. By early afternoon temperatures had warmed in lower to middle 60s oF (18oC) over most of the affected region. However, as the day wore on conditions quickly deteriorated. Temperatures dropped sharply, winds picked up, and rain, followed by sleet, and then snow began to fall…
A total of 154 deaths were blamed on the storm. Along the Mississippi River several hundred duck hunters had taken time off from work and school to take advantage of the ideal hunting conditions. Weather forecasters had not predicted the severity of the oncoming storm, and as a result many of the hunters were not dressed for cold weather. When the storm began many hunters took shelter on small islands in the Mississippi River, and the 50 mph (80 km/h) winds and 5-foot (1.5 m) waves overcame their encampments. Some became stranded on the islands and then froze to death in the single-digit temperatures that moved in over night. Others tried to make it to shore and drowned. Duck hunters constituted about half of the 49 deaths in Minnesota.
My grandfather, Roy Johnson of St. Paul, was duck hunting on Lake Pepin near Lake City. He and two buddies made it to shore after their boat flipped in the wind but the whiteout conditions prevented them from seeing that there was a farmhouse about 100 yards away. They crawled into a culvert to get out of the wind and froze to death. My mom was 17 years old.
The photos above are from the Minnesota Historical Society’s digital archives. See all 37 Armistice Day Blizzard photos here. MPR did a story on the storm back in 2000 titled The winds of hell. The Strib’s old news featured it in 2005. The storm is rated #2 by the Minnesota State Climatology Office Top five weather events of the 20th century. And Maggie Lee wrote about the storm in a Northfield News column 2004.
I’ll see if I can get some Northfield area storm photos. If you have a story, attach a comment.