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The Frozen Four (and a few that were considered)

The Herald chose the following four blizzards for its "Final Four" of the past 100 years, based on research and interviews with several weather observers and experts.

The Herald chose the following four blizzards for its "Final Four" of the past 100 years, based on research and interviews with several weather observers and experts.

Grand Forks barometric pressure, snowfall and sustained or peak winds statistics at the end of each summary come from the National Weather Service:

1941 'Ides of March Blizzard'

A severe, rapid-moving "Alberta Clipper" storm March 15 resulted in 71 deaths in North Dakota and Minnesota, and another eight in Canada. Many were in the Red River Valley. Most of the victims were traveling, and died after abandoning their vehicles to seek shelter elsewhere. Three of the dead were from Grand Forks.

Like the November 1940 Armistice Day Blizzard, this Saturday storm surprised many people enjoying mild weather. It caused an uproar that led to changes in forecasting procedures north and west of the nation's Chicago weather office.


The blizzard produced sustained winds of at least 50 mph, with gusts reportedly reaching 85 mph in Grand Forks. At the airport, a 14-degree temperature drop was recorded in 15 minutes that night. Light snow was falling in Grand Forks when the winds rose abruptly, blowing snow cover and dirt enough to stall some car engines. Visibility was so poor that four UND students linked arms to form a human chain and rescue 12 marooned motorists near their fraternity house.

Grand Forks: Lowest barometric pressure, 29.32 inches; snow: 2.4 inches; sustained winds, n/a.

March 1966 blizzard

This storm, part of a vast weather system, lasted at least three days for most, and four for some. It started on the night of March 2, a Wednesday. Schools, businesses and other activity closed to an extent that few people had seen previously. The Herald stopped publishing for two days because it lacked a way to deliver the newspapers.

Snow totals in the region reached as high as 35 inches. Bismarck, with about 22 inches, reported zero to near-zero visibility for 42 consecutive hours. Temperatures during the blizzard stayed above zero in the Northern Plains. Sustained winds surpassed 70 mph in places, and blizzard-force winds lasted for days, creating 30- to 40-foot drifts. A 100-mph gust was reported in Broken Bow, Neb.

Similar to 1997's Hannah, this '66 blizzard contributed to major flooding in the Red River Valley, including - at the time - the third-worst flood on record for Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

Depending on the source, the blizzard caused 13 to 16 deaths, including five in Minnesota and two in North Dakota. Livestock losses totaled more than 130,000.

Grand Forks: Lowest barometric pressure, 28.99 inches; snow, 16.5 inches; sustained winds, 45 mph for hours.


1975 'Super Bowl Blizzard'

This wide-ranging Jan. 9-12 storm hit Minnesota and North Dakota particularly hard for several days. It was named for the Jan. 12 Super Bowl contest in New Orleans, in which the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The storm knocked out power in some areas and prevented fans from watching the game on TV.

Tragically, 14 Minnesotans and eight North Dakotans were among dozens of deaths attributed to blizzard, which stranded motorists and closed down cities and towns from Winnipeg to Wisconsin to Nebraska. The vast storm system was connected, directly or indirectly, to as many as 58 deaths. It spawned at least 45 tornadoes from Indiana to Oklahoma to Florida.

Snowfall, up to a foot or more in some areas, drifted to heights of 15 to 20 feet, thanks to sustained winds of 30 to 50 mph and wind gusts up to 90 mph. Temperatures plummeted to nearly 20 below.

Grand Forks: Lowest barometric pressure, 28.58 inches; snow, 9.6 inches; peak winds; 60 mph.

April 1997 'Blizzard Hannah'

The official blizzard warning lasted roughly a day, but the entirety of the storm system (1 or more inches of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow over three days) and its timing with the region's battle against floodwaters earned national attention.

The early April storm system that produced Hannah brought winds that reached 70 mph in places, quickly toppling or snapping power lines and poles, and even a 2,000-foot TV tower. Tens of thousands of people lost power and the use of their furnaces and heaters, some for days or even more than a week.


Several deaths were connected to the storm, which brought regional travel to a standstill. Throughout the valley, the storm complicated some flood fight efforts and worsened others. It provided miserable conditions during flooding and flood fights in Breckenridge, Minn., and neighboring Wahpeton, N.D., and it compounded flooding and complicated rescue efforts in Ada, Minn.

Runoff from the additonal moisture swelled the Red River to record heights at Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, overwhelming the two cities and contributing to a devastating downtown Grand Forks fire.

Grand Forks: Lowest barometric pressure, 28.85 inches; snow, 8 inches; peak winds, 58 mph (airport).

Others we considered

More on these at www.GrandForksHerald.com .

-- March 1920 blizzard: Lasting the equivalent of two days over March 15-18. . . . Killed 34 people, including eight school children, while bringing the region to virtual standstill, stopping rail service, cutting off telephone service and killing thousands of livestock. . . . Remembered best for the tragic story of an 18-year-old Center, N.D., teen, Hazel Miner, who took off her coat and wrapped it and blankets around her small brother and sister. When they were found in snowdrifts a day later, the children were alive, but Hazel died.

-- November 1940 'Armistice Day Blizzard': Most sources say 49 Minnesota deaths occurred in the huge Nov. 11 storm, before Armistice Day became known as Veterans Day. . . . One source atttributes 154 deaths in all - 59 in six shipwrecks on lakes Erie and Michigan - to the massive storm system that stretched across much of the country and also produced tornadoes. . . . Tragedy blamed in part on insufficient weather forecasts, back when Midwest forecasts came entirely out of Chicago and were updated infrequently.

-- February 1984 blizzard: A southward moving cold front out of Canada didn't create much snow, but it quickly produced a ground blizzard with zero- to near-zero visibility that abruptly changed a Saturday that began with mild temperatures under a sunny morning sky. . . . Twenty deaths were attributed directly or indirectly to the storm, including four people who died of carbon monoxide poisoning when their car got stuck in Fargo's 19th Avenue North underpass, and then buried under drifts.

-- January 1996 blizzard: Heavy snow, strong winds and subzero temperatures resulted from a strong low pressure system that rose from the Central Plains. . . . Twenty inches of snow fell in Wahpeton, 18 in Fargo and 8 to 13 over the rest of the state, with north winds that gusted up to 55 mph. . . . Some schools that closed on Jan. 17 didn't reopen until Jan. 22.

Sources: National Weather Service; Herald and wire services; New York Times; The Forum; Prairie Public Television; Intellicast; Minnesota State Climatology Office; "Looking for Candles iIn the Window: The March 15, 1941, Tragic Red River Valley Blizzard," by Doug Ramsey and Larry Skroch; "One to Remember: The Relentless Blizzard of March 1966," by Ramsey and Skroch; UND Regional Weather Information Service; American Meteorological Society.

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