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1940 Armistice Day blizzard was fatal for dozens

by Mike McFeely

Today is Nov. 11, Veterans Day, a day on which we honor and celebrate those who served our nation.

It is also the anniversary of one of the deadliest winter storms Minnesota has ever seen. It was the Armistice Day blizzard of 1940. It killed 150 people nationwide, including 49 in Minnesota. 

Essentially what happened was the day began with sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures and turned into a hurricane-force blizzard that trapped under-dressed hunters in tiny duck boats.

About half those who died in Minnesota were duck hunters (mostly in southeastern Minnesota), who went to sloughs, rivers and lakes on a wonderful, "bluebird" morning and ended up being trapped when the storm dropped more than a foot-and-a-half of snow on the region.

The storm changed the way the National Weather Service did its work, because Minnesotans were given almost no advance warning of the storm. In fact, the NWS office in Chicago (which issued forecasts for Minnesota at the time) was closed the day of the storm.

Here is some great information on the storm from various sources.

Minnesota Public Radio did a nice piece in 2000, the 60th anniversary of the storm.

It is great stuff, with eyewitness accounts from a couple of survivors. 

Here is the audio file of the story, which is really well done:

The Minnesota State Historical Society put together this video and posted it on YouTube. It's a little dry (hey, it's history!), but it is very informative.

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)