The Armistice Day Blizzard (or the Armistice Day Storm) took place in the Midwest region of the United States on November 11 (Armistice Day) and November 12, 1940. The intense early-season "panhandle hook" winter storm cut a 1,000-mile-wide (1600 km) swath through the middle of the country from Kansas to Michigan.
|Armistice Day Blizzard|
The storm track of the Armistice Day Blizzard
|Formed||November 10, 1940|
|Dissipated||November 12, 1940|
|Lowest pressure||971 mbar (hPa) (at Duluth, MN)|
|Maximum snowfall or ice accretion||27 inches (68.6 cm) (Collegeville, MN)|
|Damage||$2.2 million (1940)|
|Areas affected||Midwestern United States|
The morning of November 11, 1940 brought with it unseasonably high temperatures. By early afternoon, temperatures had warmed into the lower to middle 60s °F (18 °C) over most of the affected region. However, as the day wore on conditions quickly deteriorated. Severe weather was reported across much of the Midwest with heavy rain and snow, a tornado, and gale force winds were all reported. Temperatures dropped sharply, winds picked up and rain, followed by sleet and then snow, began to fall. An intense low pressure system had tracked from the southern plains northeastward into western Wisconsin, pulling Gulf of Mexico moisture up from the South and pulling down a cold arctic air mass from the North.
The result was a raging blizzard that would last into the next day. Snowfalls of up to 27 inches (69 cm), winds of 50 to 80 mph (80–130 km/h), 20-foot (6.1 m) snow drifts, and 50-degree Fahrenheit (28 °C) temperature drops were common over parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In Minnesota, 27 inches (69 cm) of snow fell at Collegeville, and the Twin Cities recorded 16 inches (41 cm). Record low pressures were recorded in La Crosse, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota. Transportation and communications were crippled, which made finding the dead and injured more difficult. The Armistice Day Blizzard ranks #2 in Minnesota's list of the top five weather events of the 20th century.
Survivors describe the cold as so severe that it was difficult to breathe, with the air so moisture laden it was thick like syrup and that the cold seared the survivors lungs like a red-hot blade. Many individuals claim that animals were aware of the upcoming weather shifts which led to animals moving rapidly from the area. Duck hunters who were out at the time were amazed at the amount of ducks that were in the area and on the move through the skies, one survivor recounting there were thousands.
A total of 145 deaths were blamed on the storm, with the following instances being noteworthy:
Additionally, 1.5 million turkeys intended for Thanksgiving dinner across Minnesota perished from exposure to the cold conditions.
Prior to this event, all of the weather forecasts for the region originated in Chicago. After the failure to provide an accurate forecast for this blizzard, forecasting responsibilities were expanded to include 24-hour coverage and more forecasting offices were created, yielding more accurate local forecasts.
The U.S. Weather Bureau was criticized that it failed to predict the huge blizzard, and Officials released a statement that they were aware that the storm was coming but wrong about its strength and scope. The Twin Cities branch of Meteorology was upgraded to issue forecasts and not rely on the Chicago site.
Minnesota has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. Minnesota's location in the Upper Midwest allows it to experience some of the widest variety of weather in the United States, with each of the four seasons having its own distinct characteristics. The areas near Lake Superior in the Minnesota Arrowhead region experience weather unique from the rest of the state. The moderating effect of Lake Superior keeps the surrounding area relatively cooler in the summer and relatively warmer in the winter, giving that region a smaller yearly temperature range. On the Köppen climate classification, much of the southern third of Minnesota—roughly from the Twin Cities region southward—falls in the hot summer humid continental climate zone (Dfa), and the northern two-thirds of Minnesota falls in the warm summer great continental climate zone (Dfb).
Winter in Minnesota is characterized by cold (below freezing) temperatures. Snow is the main form of winter precipitation, but freezing rain, sleet, and occasionally rain are all possible during the winter months. Common storm systems include Alberta clippers or Panhandle hooks; some of which develop into blizzards. Annual snowfall extremes have ranged from over 170 inches (432 cm) in the rugged Superior Highlands of the North Shore to as little as 5 inches (13 cm) in southern Minnesota. Temperatures as low as −60 °F (−51 °C) have occurred during Minnesota winters. Spring is a time of major transition in Minnesota. Snowstorms are common early in the spring, but by late-spring as temperatures begin to moderate the state can experience tornado outbreaks, a risk which diminishes but does not cease through the summer and into the autumn.
In summer, heat and humidity predominate in the south, while warm and less humid conditions are generally present in the north. These humid conditions initiate thunderstorm activity 30–40 days per year. Summer high temperatures in Minnesota average in the mid-80s F (30 °C) in the south to the upper-70s F (25 °C) in the north, with temperatures as hot as 114 °F (46 °C) possible. The growing season in Minnesota varies from 90 days per year in the Iron Range to 160 days in southeast Minnesota. Tornadoes are possible in Minnesota from March through November, but the peak tornado month is June, followed by July, May, and August. The state averages 27 tornadoes per year. Minnesota is the driest state in the Midwest. Average annual precipitation across the state ranges from around 35 inches (890 mm) in the southeast to 20 inches (510 mm) in the northwest. Autumn weather in Minnesota is largely the reverse of spring weather. The jet stream—which tends to weaken in summer—begins to re-strengthen, leading to a quicker changing of weather patterns and an increased variability of temperatures. By late October and November these storm systems become strong enough to form major winter storms. Autumn and spring are the windiest times of the year in Minnesota.SS Edward Y. Townsend
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