Halloween blizzard of 1991 remembered

November 1, 2016

NEW ULM - It has been a quarter-century since the record breaking snow storm of 1991, as of Monday.

The storm began on Halloween, a Thursday that year, and continued through Friday into Saturday. Over 13 inches of snow fell in New Ulm by that Saturday. Winds reached 30 miles per hour, and temperatures were dropping around zero degrees with windchill.

The storm broke two records in the Twin Cities, by dumping 21 inches within a 24-hour period. That beat the previous record from January 1982 of 20 inches. The second record was for October snowfall, which previously sat at 5.5 inches in 1905 but was broken by the 8.2 inches that fell that Halloween night.

The so-called megastorm had shut down roads across the state. I-90 was barricaded between Albert Lea and the South Dakota border.

That did not stop the trick-or-treaters. Kids were still marching through snow, with mittens and coats on over their costumes to get what candy they could.

Most businesses in New Ulm shut down Friday and Saturday. However, stores like K-Mart and Runnings made a killing on snow gear and snow removal equipment.

Saturday, when the snow plows shut down due to poor conditions, snowmobiles took over. The River Valley Dutchmen snowmobile club supplied the New Ulm Police Department and Brown County Sheriff’s department a list of members willing to give rides for emergency situations.

The storm was so fierce it even prevented The Journal from delivering papers for two days. Early Friday morning the van carrying the 6,000 papers from the printing plant in Madelia slid into a ditch near Hanska.

Later that morning, two employees took Circulation Manager Steve Grosam’s Suburban to try to retrieve them. They were unable to do it when they discovered that Highway 13 was under whiteout conditions leading them to crash in a ditch.

With the Suburban went any chance of Friday or Saturday’s papers reaching readers on their respective days.

Saturday afternoon then Journal Publisher Bruce Fenske decided to procure his own snow-capable vehicle and strike out to deliver Saturday’s paper to Madelia for printing.

He did not run into much trouble delivering the pages to the printing plant; however, he was almost stuck through the night until he was able to follow a plow and an ambulance back to New Ulm.

Grosam was able to retrieve Friday’s papers by following a homeward bound Brown County Highway Department worker to where the van had ended its journey.

By late Saturday afternoon, the Friday papers had arrived. Around then it was decided that there would be two issues delivered Sunday. The morning would be Saturday’s papers, and an evening one the paper for Sunday.