Armistice Day Blizzard
The storm track of the Armistice Day Blizzard
|Type||Cyclonic blizzard, Panhandle Hook|
|Formed||10 November 1940|
|Dissipated||12 November 1940|
|Lowest pressure||971 mbar (hPa) (at Duluth, MN)|
|Maximum snowfall or ice accretion||27 inches (68.6 cm) (Collegeville, MN)|
|Areas affected||The Midwest United States|
The Armistice Day Blizzard (or the Armistice Day Storm) took place in the Midwest region of the United States on 11 November (Armistice Day) and 12 November 1940. The intense early-season "Panhandle hook" winter storm cut a 1,000-mile-wide (1600 km) path through the middle of the country from Kansas to Michigan.
The morning of 11 November 1940 brought with it unseasonably high temperatures. By early afternoon temperatures had warmed into the lower to middle 60s °F (18 °C) 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. An intense low pressure system had tracked from the southern plains northeastward into western Wisconsin, pulling Gulf of Mexico moisture up from the south and pulling down a cold arctic air mass from the north.
The result was a raging blizzard that would last into the next day. Snowfalls of up to 27 inches (69 cm), winds of 50 to 80 mph (80–130 km/h), 20-foot (6.1 m) snow drifts, and 50-degree Fahrenheit (30 °C) temperature drops were common over parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In Minnesota, 27 inches (69 cm) of snow fell at Collegeville, and the Twin Cities recorded 16 inches (41 cm). Record low pressures were recorded in La Crosse, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota. Transportation and communications were crippled, which exacerbated finding the dead and injured. The Armistice Day Blizzard ranks #2 in Minnesota's list of top-5 weather events of the 20th century.
A total of 145 deaths were blamed on the storm, with the following instances being noteworthy:
- 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. Those who survived told of how ducks came south with the storm by the thousands, and everybody could have shot their daily limit had they not been focused on survival. Casualties were lessened by the efforts of Max Conrad, a pioneering light plane pilot and one of his students (John R. Bean) both based in Winona, Minnesota, 25 miles upriver from La Crosse. They flew up and down the river in the wake of the storm, locating survivors and dropping supplies to them. Both men were nominated for the Carnegie Medal for their heroism.
- In Watkins, Minnesota, 2 people died when two trains collided in the blinding snow.
- In Lake Michigan, 66 sailors died on three freighters, the SS Anna C. Minch, the SS Novadoc, and the SS William B. Davock, as well as two smaller boats that sank.
- 13 people died in Illinois, 13 in Wisconsin, and 4 in Michigan.
Additionally, 1.5 million turkeys intended for Thanksgiving dinner across Minnesota perished from exposure.
Prior to this event, all of the weather forecasts for the region originated in Chicago. After the failure to provide an accurate forecast for this blizzard, forecasting responsibilities were expanded to include 24-hour coverage and more forecasting offices were created, yielding more accurate local forecasts.
- Williams, Jack (2001-11-28). "History, past weather events". USA Today. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
- "Minnesota History: A Chronology". Minnesota State University Mankato. Archived from the original on 7 January 2007. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
- Seely, Mark (2000-11-10). "Remembering the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940". Minnesota Climatology Office. Archived from the original on 7 December 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
- "Significant Minnesota Weather Events of the 20th Century". Minnesota Climatology Office. 1999-12-16. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
- "Biggest Snow Storms in the United States". NOAA. Archived from the original on 13 January 2007. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
- "N.W. Storm Rages On". Minneapolis Star Tribune. 1940-11-12. Archived from the original on 31 December 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
- Armistice Day Blizzard
- Yesterday's news: Storm paralyzes Minnesota
- Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940, a podcast by the Minnesota Historical Society on the storm and subsequent changes to the National Weather Service's forecasting practices.