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1940 Armistice Day Blizzard

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Formed  November 10, 1940
Casualties  154 fatalities
Dissipated  November 12, 1940
Damage  2.2 million USD (1940)
1940 Armistice Day Blizzard httpsimgapmcdnorg43e9667e6351eb4b690fc83791a
Type  Extratropical cyclone Blizzard Panhandle Hook
Lowest pressure  971 mbar (hPa) (at Duluth, MN)
Maximum snowfall or ice accretion  27 inches (68.6 cm) (Collegeville, MN)
Similar  1991 Halloween blizzard, Schoolhouse Blizzard, Great Storm of 1975, Great Blizzard of 1888, Knickerbocker storm

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The Armistice Day Blizzard (or the Armistice Day Storm) took place in the Midwest region of the United States on November 11 (Armistice Day) and November 12, 1940. The intense early-season "panhandle hook" winter storm cut a 1,000-mile-wide (1600 km) swath through the middle of the country from Kansas to Michigan.


1940 Armistice Day Blizzard 2 1940 Armistice Day Blizzard

Meteorological synopsis

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The morning of November 11, 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.

1940 Armistice Day Blizzard Green Sky Chaser Armistice Day Blizzard

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 (28 °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 made finding the dead and injured more difficult. The Armistice Day Blizzard ranks #2 in Minnesota's list of the top five weather events of the 20th century.


A total of 145 deaths were blamed on the storm, with the following instances being noteworthy:

1940 Armistice Day Blizzard 1000 images about 1940 Nov 1112 Armistice Day Blizzard on
  • 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 flight school owner and John R. "Bob" Bean (one of the flight school instructors) 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 to the cold conditions.


    1940 Armistice Day Blizzard Death in the wind the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 SeanMungercom

    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.

    1940 Armistice Day Blizzard The Armistice Day Blizzard Your Eastern Iowa


    1940 Armistice Day Blizzard Wikipedia