Armistice Day Storm
November 11th, 1940

In 1940, a rapidly deepening low pressure system moved northeast from Kansas City, MO, through the Upper Mississippi Valley, into the Upper Great Lakes where Duluth, MN reported a barometric pressure of 28.66 inches. Armistice Day (now known as Veteran's Day) began with blue skies and temperatures in the 40s and 50s. The day was so nice that duck hunters dressed in short-sleeved shirts and rushed to the marshes along the Mississippi River early that morning. However, during the late morning and early afternoon, a strong cold front moved through the region. Behind the cold front, the weather became rather blustery and the temperature plunged to the single digits by the next morning.

track of low pressure center
Time Temperature
430 am 52
635 am 49
735 am 39
835 am 30
935 am 25
1035 am 21
325 pm 14
La Crosse, WI temperatures (F) for November 11, 1940.

The rain turned to sleet and eventually to driving snow. More than twenty duck hunters within a 50 mile radius of Winona, MN remained trapped on the Mississippi River by gusty winds and threatening waves. They had sought shelter on small islands and eventually froze to death. The howling winds and blinding snow brought all movement in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas to a grinding halt. Winona, MN received 22" of snow and up to 17" of snow fell in Iowa. Winds estimated at 50 to 80 mph whipped snow into drifts 20 ft deep isolating whole towns. The blizzard left 49 dead in Minnesota, and gales on Lake Michigan caused ship wrecks resulting in another 59 deaths. The blizzard claimed a total of 154 lives, and killed thousands of cattle in Iowa. More than a million turkeys were killed by the storm in Wisconsin, Minnesota and other states. The storm became known as the "Armistice Day Storm".

This storm, along with a slow moving blizzard which would move across northern Minnesota in mid March 1941, caused the Weather Bureau to rethink its forecasting procedures. Forecasting for the entire region had been directed by the Chicago office, but in the wake of this storm, responsibilities were distributed to regional centers to provide more timely and accurate predictions.


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