Armistice Day Blizzard

Posted in Weather History, Winter Weather at 5:01 pm by Rebekah

Armistice Day Blizzard, Minneapolis. From the Minnesota Historical Society. Click to enlarge.

70 years ago today, biting cold winds and blowing snow unexpectedly struck the Midwest. On November 11, 1940, the Armistice Day Blizzard brought snowfall totals of up to 27 inches, winds of 50 to 80 mph, 20-foot snow drifts, and temperature drops of up to 50 °F (30 °C) to parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

The day started off unseasonably warm, prompting many hunters to go out looking for ducks. However, the National Weather Bureau/Service did a poor job of forecasting a strong low-pressure system that would come up from the Texas/Oklahoma Panhandles.

The lowest recorded pressure in the center of the cyclone was 971 mb in Duluth, Minnesota. Between the strong pressure gradient and a strong temperature gradient, temperatures plummeted and a blizzard wreaked havoc and sadly caused around 150 people to lose their lives (many were on ships on Lake Michigan, while many others included the unprepared duck hunters).

NOAA National Weather Bureau/Service surface map, showing the track of the cyclone, pressure, winds, and temperature lines. From Wikipedia. Click to enlarge.

Track of the low. From NWS La Crosse.
Time Temperature
430 am 52
635 am 49
735 am 39
835 am 30
935 am 25
1035 am 21
325 pm 14
La Crosse, WI temperatures (F) for November 11, 1940.

(Table from NWS La Crosse.)

Following the blizzard, the National Weather Service expanded forecast duties to 24 hours and expanded the number of forecast offices.

For more information, see the NWS La Crosse, Wikipedia, the Minnesota Historical Society (photos), and The 1940 Armistice Day Blizzard (on the Alabama Weather blog).

Armistice Day Blizzard, Minneapolis. From the Minnesota Historical Society. Click to enlarge.

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