Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, November 11, 2016

Armistice Day Blizzard Revisited

In an earlier time Veteran’s Day was known as Armistice Day.  And on November 11, each year the holiday commemorated the service from veterans and peace marking the end of World War One.  For a generation of Minnesotans, the day also sparks memories of one of the worst snowstorms to ever hit Minnesota: The Armistice Day Blizzard.
Snow began to fall on November 11, and continues into the next day.  In total, 27 inches fell.  Winds blew up to 80 miles per hour.  In some areas of the state 20 foot snow drifts were records.   The snow impeded transportation and threatened lives.  In one report, two locomotives collided in the blowing and blinding snow.  In total, throughout the upper Midwest, 145 people died in the snowstorm. 

Locally, in Sherburne County, the memories are fresh.  In the memoirs of Virginia Johnson, she recalls the challenges of getting home from school during the storm.  She wrote, “Two fathers brought me home.  The road to our home was blocked.  That one fourth mile was hard going following in the far apart tracks of the men.”  

Although not from the Armistice Day Blizzard,
this 1965 photo gives an indication of the
snow buildup in Sherburne County.
From SHC photograph collections 2007.040.058
To further challenge transportation, temperatures dropped fifty degrees in that 24 hour period.  An oral history from Jesse Hibbard recalls, “I was home alone that day. My wife was down to her folks and one daughter was going to school in Minneapolis and the other daughter was up town and the boy, he used to catch a ride to go to high school. I think he just started high school, and he stayed with the girls then two-three days. One daughter and another girl had a little apartment in St. Cloud and he stayed with them until Wednesday and then he came walking up. That was the problem that time - it got cold. Wednesday morning it was 8 below, the storm was Monday, Wednesday morning was 8 below and that kid came walking home, wading through the snow.”   

The snow challenged everyone throughout the state.  It threatened lives and isolated the country.  And the Armistice Day Blizzard was a significant memory to a generation of Sherburne County residents.

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