Farm Horizons, Sept. 2003

Here are the top 5 Minnesota weather events of the 20th century

From the Extension Service

Members of Minnesota's climate community were asked to select the five most significant Minnesota weather or weather-driven events of the 20th Century. Voters were provided with a list of candidate events, but were encouraged to offer their own nominations. No selection criteria were supplied to the voters.

Number one event: 1930s Dust Bowl

Perhaps the most devastating weather driven event in American history, the drought of the 1920s and 1930s significantly impacted Minnesota's economic, social, and natural landscapes.

Abnormally dry and hot growing season weather throughout the better part of two decades turned Minnesota farm fields to dust and small lakes into muddy ponds.

The parched soil was easily taken up by strong winds, often turning day into night. The drought peaked with the heat of the summer of 1936, setting many high temperature records that still stand today.

Number two: 1940 Armistice Day Blizzard

Ask any Minnesotan born before 1940 and they can tell you where they were during the Armistice Day Blizzard. The weather was relatively benign the morning of the Nov. 11, 1940. Many people were outdoors, taking advantage of the mild holiday weather.

The weather forecast that morning was for colder temperatures and a few flurries. Few people were prepared for what was to come. The storm started with rain, however the rain quickly turned to snow.

By the time the blizzard tapered off Nov. 12, the Twin Cities had received 16.7 inches of snow, Collegeville 26.6 inches, and 20-foot drifts were reported near Willmar. In all, 49 Minnesotans lost their lives in this storm, many of them hunters trapped by the sudden turn of events.

Number three: 1991 Halloween Blizzard

Across much of eastern Minnesota, trick-or-treaters donned snowmobile suits as snow began to fall during the afternoon of Oct. 31, 1991. This marked the beginning of a major winter storm that pounded the eastern half of Minnesota over a three-day period.

The storm dropped 28.4 inches of snow on the Twin Cities, setting a single storm record for the metropolitan area. Duluth received 36.9 inches, the largest single storm total in Minnesota history.

Southern Minnesota saw an ice storm, especially around Albert Lea and Austin. Highway snow removal was hindered by extremely cold temperatures that followed the storm, and transportation was hampered for many days.

Number four: 1997 Red & Minnesota River Flooding

Record snowfalls in western Minnesota and the Dakotas during the winter of 1996-1997 set the stage for massive flooding along the Red River, and upper stretches of the Minnesota River.

By mid-April, the Red River peaked at East Grand Forks more than 26 feet above flood stage. Total damage in Minnesota alone was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Number Five (tie): 1965 Fridley Tornado Outbreak

A violent outbreak of at least 12 tornadoes roared through Minnesota May 5 and 6, 1965. Six twisters touched down, in or close to the metro area.

Particularly hard hit was Fridley, with two of the tornadoes crossing the city. In all, 14 people died due to the storms. The event has been called the greatest weather disaster in Twin Cities history.

1965 Mississippi & Minnesota River Flooding

During April of 1965, the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix rivers reached record flood stages. Many of these records still stand today.

Water flowed over the historic Lift Bridge in Stillwater, as teenagers and convicts worked side-by-side to build a sand bag dike. Flood watching became popular in the Twin Cities. Mankato and Winona were especially hard hit.

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