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The Blizzard that Killed 145 People

11 Nov 2017, 4:30 pm

Almost 80 years ago this weeekend, a massive blizzard across the Upper Midwest took the lives of 149 people– mostly hunters.

Witnesses recount unprecedented numbers of waterfowl leading up to the devastating storm, beckoning the unsuspecting hunters out from their homes. But were the birds on the move because they knew what would come?

One Massive Storm

Nowadays it seems a little far-fetched for 145 people to die in a snow storm, but this was one massive storm– and things are a bit different these days.

Leading up to the storm, temperatures soared into the 50s across much of the Upper Midwest. The unseasonable warmth came from a strong southerly wind out in front of the storm. Giving residents a false sense of security and beckoned them outdoors.

As the storm moved in rain turned to sleet then snow in a matter of hours.
Temperatures in La Crosse, WI went from the 50s (above zero) to windchills below zero in 6 hours.
Wind gusts topped 50 miles per hour, causing whiteout conditions and rough waters.

By the time it came to an end many areas picked up more than a foot of snow!


Many hunters who were caught in the storm had to be rescued the following day. Many of the survivors suffering from hypothermia and frostbite.
But some of the stats of the storm are absolutely staggering.

  • 2 trains collided in Watkins, MN because they could not see each other in the white out conditions, leaving 2 dead.
  • 3 freighters sank in Lake Michigan leaving more than 60 sailors dead.
  • The sudden onset of cold and snow killed more than a million Thanksgiving turkeys in Minnesota.
  • 20 foot snow drifts stranded people in trains, planes, cars
  • Ended the apple industry in Iowa– farmers switched to crops to make money.

These are just some of the biggies. The list of destruction is jaw-droppingly extensive.

Changes in Forecasting

Officials knew the storm was coming, but didn’t know the size or scope of the historic blizzard.
This prompted a change in operations at the National Weather Service.
After the Storm offices stayed open around the clock and forecasting responsibilities were done on a more local level.

More Information

If you want to see pictures of the storm. Click here.

For a complete article and where I found my information for this article, check out this story from the National Weather Service.

For WeatherNation — Meteorologist Jeremy LaGoo

Cover photo: NOAA

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