Blizzard of 1941

The most severe blizzard in modern history struck North Dakota and Minnesota.

The blizzard hit on a Saturday night while many are traveling, and thus claimed 71 lives. Winds gusted to 75 mph at Duluth MN, and reached 85 mph at Grand Forks ND. Snow drifts twelve feet high were reported in north central Minnesota. A cold front traveling 30 mph crossed Minnesota in just seven hours.

A fast-moving and severe blizzard hits North Dakota and Minnesota, killing 151 people, on this day in 1941. Weather forecasting and reporting made important advances following this disaster that would have prevented the loss of life that occurred due to the sudden storm.

The people of North Dakota and northern Minnesota had nearly no warning of the blizzard that swept in suddenly from the west on March 15. In some locations, temperatures dropped 20 degrees in less than 15 minutes. Fifty-mile-per-hour sustained winds (with gusts reaching 85 mph in Grand Forks and 75 mph in Duluth) brought blinding snow and huge 7-foot-high snow drifts across the states.

Most of the victims of the blizzard were traveling in their cars when it hit. Highway 2, running from Duluth, Minnesota, to North Dakota, was shut down, as were Highways 75 and 81. Attempts to rescue those stranded in their cars came too late. In one incident, six-year-old Wilbert Treichel died from exposure to the cold as his parents attempted to carry him through the blizzard to safety.

Saturday March 15, 1941 was a beautiful spring day that saw much of the winter’s snow melting quickly away. The afternoon took a turn for the worse, however, when an Alberta Clipper, a particularly devastating type of blizzard, swept across the Canadian Prairie Provinces and into the United States. This type of storm arises and dissipates with little to no warning and as a result, is one of the deadliest types of blizzards experienced on the prairies. This particular storm, although lasting only 7 hours, took the lives of 8 Canadians and at least 70 Americans.