Looking back: 31 Years since the 1991 Halloween Blizzard and Ice Storm

Published: Oct. 30, 2022 at 7:12 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Halloween is known for tricks and treats, but for those in southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa, the Halloween of 1991 was just plain scary.

The Midwest is no stranger to weather extremes and the Halloween Blizzard and Ice Storm of 1991 is no different.

On Halloween of 1991, a rapidly intensifying low-pressure system moved through the Midwest bringing with it loads of snow and ice.

Parts of southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa received an accumulation of up to three inches of ice. Anywhere from two to eight inches of snowfall fell on top of the ice.

Ted Pilgrim, a Rochester native, recalled the storm, “I just remember, when trick-or-treating came along - my daughter was three- years-old and we had so much snow on the ground...Basically everything got cut short because it was so bad out. We basically went down the street and back up and that was it.”

At least 20,000 residents were without power from October 31-November 2 as the ice wreaked havoc on power lines.

The national guard was activated in order to provide generators to rural communities as many rural communities in northeast Iowa and southeast Minnesota were without power for up to two weeks. Hundreds of linemen worked in the days after the storm to restore power to those without it.

Another Rochester resident, Debbie Quimby, spoke of her experience during the storm and said, “I was seven months pregnant with her [her daughter Holly]. And I remember losing electricity and calling my sister and going over to her house that night because we had lost power on the street we lived on.”

Through the worst of the storm, a one hundred and eighty mile stretch of I-90 - from the South Dakota border to Rochester - was closed.

In Minnesota alone, more than 20 fatalities resulted from the historic storm.

Although those in southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa remember the storm well, areas to the north received record snowfall.

The Twin Cities received 28.4″ of snow while Duluth picked up 36.9″ of snow, which still stands as the record for the largest single storm total in Minnesota history.