National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

The Blizzard of December 2-4, 1990

Low pressure over the Rockies pushed its way into northwest Oklahoma (Fig 1) during the early morning hours of December 1, 1990. The low intensified rapidly as it moved northeastward into Missouri, causing widespread snow to break out across Iowa on the 2nd. Much of the state of Iowa received 6" or more of snow, except the southeastern half, which saw more freezing rain than snow.

As the winter storm continued its northeastward push, it intensified even more. As snow began falling in southeastern Minnesota, it quickly became heavy, with reports of thunder accompanying the snow over the extreme southeast corner of the state. Winds howling out of the northwest at 50 mph caused whiteout conditions, closing many schools and sending numerous cars into ditches. Snowfall amounts of a foot or more were common over the extreme southeast corner of Minnesota, with 13" in Lanesboro, 14" in Winona, and 15" in Hokah.

Path of the low center
Fig 1. The path and location of the low at 6 am on December 2, 3, and 4. The shaded area depicts the location of heaviest snowfall, which fell mainly on December 3-4, 1990.

In Wisconsin, blizzard conditions ravaged the southern two-thirds of the state, depositing more than a foot of snow in a swath from Grant County in southwestern Wisconsin, through Madison to Green Bay. Snowfall amounts of 14-18" were common in these areas, with amounts of 10-12" around the La Crosse area. Adams-Friendship saw the most snow, with 22" falling on the small community. With winds gusting to 60 mph, significant blowing and drifting snow created drifts as high as 7 feet in Madison. Hundreds of car accidents were reported throughout the area, as well as widespread power outages. Nine people in Wisconsin died of heart attacks as a result of shoveling the heavy snow.