Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Tidbits of tales ­- 1991 blizzard

Wick's World

 


Gale force winds from a storm wreaked a half billion dollars of havoc on the Eastern Seaboard, from Nova Scotia to Florida, and spawned northern Minnesota’s legendary Halloween blizzard of 1991. The eastern gales later became known as “The Perfect Storm,” which was eventually documented in a 1997 book. Three years later, it appeared as a movie starring George Clooney. Meanwhile, although our legendary storm received minimal national press, Northlanders will never forget our own Halloween blizzard of 1991.

In the final days of October, the remnants from “The Perfect Storm” curved around Florida and landed at the bottom of Texas. Only minor obstacles, a few fence posts dotting the prairie, stood between the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Superior. As the wet warm air began its trek north, the first saucer-sized snowflakes began to fall shortly before I closed the post office for the day. Thus began our memorable storm on the afternoon of October 31, 1991. By the storm’s end, Duluth set a record with 36.9 inches of snow, to be exact. The entire area was paralyzed for days by several feet of snow.

By utilizing a not-so-exact science of measurement, Moose Lake's memorable meteorologist Benny Mohelski claimed a record 38 inches of snow. Even today, Moose Lakers still stand by his claim. You may remember Benny as the guy who picked up his mail every morning at the Moose lake Post Office and began his day with a discussion about the weather.

If I made the claim that the lowest temperature reported to me at the post office that morning came in from Beaver Township at 34 degrees below zero, Benny would state “his thermometer” read minus 35. Conversely, on those rare July days when the thermometer reached 98 degrees, Benny’s always had 99. His exact science was the fact he was always "exactly" one degree higher or lower than the next guy. If Benny was alive today, he would not only verify this story, he would embellish it by exactly one degree.

By 4 p.m. Halloween, school kids were making last minute preparations, fine-tuning their costumes. Meanwhile, frantic parents reinforced the obesity bags that would hold the collected sugar-laden candy. My wife and I arrived home that afternoon at about the same time a decision was due; do we trick or treat or cancel? She cancelled while I hurriedly got the two youngest boys in their Halloween costumes. The Minnesota Twins had just won the 1991 World Series so I dressed them as baseball players. One went as “New Jack City Morris” and the other as “The Dazzle Man Dan,” although they were difficult to differentiate under their parkas and snow boots.

We decided to make this a drive-by Halloween — driving by the areas of Moose Lake where we could hit the most houses in the shortest amount of time. This happened a quarter of a century ago, so my accuracy may mimic Mohelski’s meteorology. I might be off a degree. I do know we began our trek down Lakeshore Drive, covered First Street and then headed over to Birch Street and the school. By the time we hit Hillside Trailer Park, the snow was starting to pile up. The real drifting began later that night and really picked up the next day.

As postmaster, I was stubborn enough to continue my streak of never having closed the window at the Moose Lake Post Office. I put on my cross country skis and arrived in time to open at 8 a.m. Although I was one of the few businesses open for the day, I was not the most popular. Mark Skelton can tell you about brisk business at the Moose Lake Municipal Liquor Store.

At some point as the snow waned, Bennie Mohelski plunged a yardstick into the snow and added one inch (twice).

 

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