The weather may be an interesting topic of
conversation, but the history of weather? Here are some
highlights of the most unusual weather experienced by
residents of St. Louis Park and the Twin Cities.
1855-56 was a cold winter for new settlers to be out in
temporary quarters. The cold wave started on December 22,
1855, and except for a few hours on January 1 and 2, 1856,
the temperature was at or below zero for the next 20 days,
with many afternoon readings at -10 to -20 degrees.
On March 14-16, 1870, a blizzard hit Iowa and Minnesota,
dumping up to 16 inches of snow. The term blizzard was
reportedly coined by a newspaperman in Esterville, Iowa. It
was a boxing term, meaning a volley of punches. Others claim
it was derived from the German word "blitz." The term gained
official acceptance on December 8, 1876, when it was used in
the Weather Bureau publication Monthly Weather Review.
On August 20, 1904, a tornado of such historic proportions
that it was termed a cyclone, killed 14 people in the State,
including three in St. Louis Park. The storm heavily damaged
the Sugar Company, Malleable Iron Works, Fosston, Monitor,
the Peavy and Great Western Elevators, and 20 houses. On
September 12, 1904 the Village Council appropriated $100 for
the victims of the cyclone.
On June 23, 1914, a tornado hit St. Louis Park so powerfully
that those who lived through it swore it was a hurricane.
Pictures show tremendous damage to buildings in the Park,
but only one person was killed: 17-year old Esther Munson
died when her house collapsed after she and her father had
succeeded in dragging younger children from the house. A
heavy timber fell on Esther and other debris was piled upon
her. Her father was literally blown clear of the wreckage
and escaped injury. Proceeds of the Village’s 1914 Fourth of
July celebration went to Esther’s father to build a new
A terrific windstorm created considerable damage
on June 2, 1925. It hit the former St. Louis Park Bank
building, then the Post Office. The Minneapolis Journal
reported: "There was mail missing in St. Louis Park, Minn.
after the storm passed because it blew out the front of the
building and scattered letters and papers in all
Although the drought of the 1930's is primarily associated
with Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas, the same conditions
were present in Minnesota. Minnesota farms were subject to
drought and heat, and the dry soil blew away. It could be
100 degrees in May and stay there indefinitely. Winters were
especially cold - Bob Jorvig says that it would be 30 below
and kids would get off school for 3 days, but then it would
STAY at 30 below and the kids had to go to school anyway.
November 11, 1940 was the date of what is referred to as the
Armistice Day Blizzard. (Armistice Day is now called
Veterans' Day.) This infamous and deadly Blizzard killed 49
people statewide and more than 50 sailors on the Great
Lakes. The storm dumped 6.2 inches of snow in the Cities.
The temperature dropped to 30 below, with winds from 32 up
to 63 miles per hour. 20 of the fatalities were duck
hunters, who had heard a weather forecast of light snow,
perfect for tracking. The hunters were delayed in leaving by
the temptation of the enormous flocks flying furiously to
get away from the front.
The storm hit the area by surprise: the day started out in
the 60’s, and workers went to their downtown jobs on the
streetcars wearing light coats or sweaters. The snow started
about 10:15 AM, and by 11 it was coming down thick and fast.
By noon the streetcars were slowing down or stopping,
stranding workers in downtown hotels, their offices, or
anywhere they could find shelter. Cars were abandoned and
stayed in the street for at least five days. Many people in
the area walked on the rooftops of the cars to get to Al's
Bar, where they proceeded to make the best of things for
three days. It was estimated that 2,000 people were stranded
on Wayzata Blvd. Nearby homeowners took some people in, and
some found taverns along the way.
1965 was just a horrendous year for weather. It started on
March 17, when a blizzard shut down schools for first time
since 1950. 12 inches of snow fell in 24 hours, leaving 20
inches on the ground. Winds were clocked at 30-75 mph, and
temperatures plunged below zero in the days after. Only one
fatality was reported. As a result of all that snow, a
672-mile stretch of the Mississippi River experienced the
worst flooding in history, lasting for the entire month of
April. On April 14, the flood hit the Cities. 16 people were
To top it off, on May 5-6, 1965, as many as six F-4
tornadoes struck the northern and western portions of the
Twin Cities, killing 16 people and injuring 685. WCCO
announcers Dick Chapman and Charlie Boone won a Peabody
Award for their work keeping viewers informed of what was
going on. Tri-County Publications published a special
tabloid publication called "Suburbia's Longest Night" which
described the terrors of that night in words and pictures.
An early blizzard on Halloween 1991 caught people off guard
and the Cities slowed to a near halt before the tons of snow
could be removed. The storm broke many records, including
the most single storm snow total (28.4") and the most snow
to fall in a 24 hour period (21).
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