If you think ghosts and goblins are scary, just try trick or treating in a blizzard. That's what residents in the upper Midwest faced 28 years ago this week with the historic Halloween blizzard of 1991. The storm was a monster. Here are some terrifying tidbits you might not have known.
And so it begins
The storm, which mostly affected Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, was born as moisture from the Gulf of Mexico collected over Texas the day before Halloween and met with a wave of cold air from Canada. The combination created what meteorologists would call a "megastorm." By the end of Halloween night, some parts of the Twin Cities reported 31 inches of snow on the ground.
In its path
The National Centers for Environmental Information estimates 23 million people were affected by the Halloween storm. Record snow fell in Minnesota, while Iowa was crippled by freezing rain and ice. Twenty people died as a result of the storm either from heart attacks while shoveling the heavy snow or in traffic accidents.
A snow day
On Nov. 1, children across Minnesota got to enjoy a day off eating the Halloween candy their parents probably couldn't pass out the night before. More than 900 schools and businesses were called off that day.
But you couldn't watch TV
Some school kids who thought they'd enjoy lounging around watching TV on their snow day, were sorely mistaken as three inches of ice downed power lines and poles and left at least 100,000 people in Minnesota and Iowa without power. Some homes were without power for a week.
Some people couldn't go home
Sixty mile per hour winds, together with massive snowfall amounts, created snowdrifts as high as 10 feet. Hundreds of motorists were stranded near Albert Lea and had to take shelter in a National Guard Armory and at a shopping mall.
A costly affair
It's estimated the storm's damage to utilities alone was more than $63 million dollars.
Hollywood took note
The upper Midwest was not alone in dealing with a megastorm on Halloween. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist Robert Case said the storm’s intensity had been caused by a perfect alignment of several factors. "Such a convergence of weather conditions," explained Case, "occurs only once every 50 to 100 years." Around Halloween, Hurricane Grace was moving up from Bermuda on a path to collide with a cyclone that had formed from the low-pressure front moving in from the Midwest and high pressure out of Canada. As the cyclone absorbed the power of what was left of Hurricane Grace, the storm intensified. If that weren't enough, another hurricane formed in the heart of the system. The end result was a storm that produced 100-foot rogue waves, 35-foot waves on the coast and 85-mile-per-hour winds. It caused more than $200 million in damage to coastal towns and homes. More than 12 people died, including the six-man crew of the Andrea Gail, a swordfishing boat caught at sea. Author Sebastian Junger immortalized that story in his 1997 book, "The Perfect Storm" and 2000 movie of the same name.
Meteorologist Daryl Ritchison, Director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network, says the weather in New England even had an impact here.
"The 'perfect storm' off the east coast likely adjusted the Halloween blizzard in the upper-Midwest to track slower for an increase in snow totals and longer duration of the high wind, than what would have happened if the storm in the Atlantic wasn’t there," he said.
Fargo-Moorhead was spared the nightmare
People living in Fargo-Moorhead most likely remember the Halloween blizzard much differently than their friends in the Twin Cities and Duluth do. The Red River Valley was on the western edge of the storm, so it was spared the worst of it.
"No snow technically on Halloween, although the low was 9 degrees, so trick or treating that evening was bitterly cold," Ritchison said.
Fargo only recorded 1.7 inches of snow on November 1 and 2, but nonetheless was under a blizzard warning with wind gusts of 40 miles per hour and reduced visibility.