National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Memorable Northland Storms
Compiled by the NWS Duluth, MN

Chronological order from oldest on record, to more recent.

Blizzard of January 10-12, 1975

This storm was billed as Minnesota’s “Storm of the Century”. For three days snow, rain, sleet, and freezing rain fell and winds gusted up to 80 mph. Eight inches of snow fell in Duluth along with periods of rain, freezing rain, and sleet. 23.5 inches of snow fell at International Falls. Drifts were up to 20 feet. The snow and wind were accompanied by falling temperatures. Duluth’s high temperatures fell from 33 degrees on the 11th to -3 on the 12th.

Blizzard March 23-25, 1975

Heavy snow accumulated 7 to 15 inches with winds gusting to 60 mph. Most roads were blocked by drifts up to 20 feet. Interstate 35 was closed from Forest Lake to Duluth. The high winds whipped electric lines together causing prolonged and major power failures. Schools and businesses were closed.

A foot of snow and winds unofficially recorded in excess of 100 mph paralyzed the city of Duluth. Waves up to 20 feet pounded the Lake Superior shore, flooding basements and blowing out store windows. Waves and ice buckled metal and glass safety wall at lakefront motel, forcing evacuation of 10 rooms as knee-deep water flooded into hallways. Waves destroyed 40 foot wall at Two Harbors, flooding municipal Water Pumping stations. Large chunks of beach along Lake Superior shore were washed away. Property damage reached up to $5 million.

Blizzard March 26-29, 1975

In Duluth 13 inches of snow with winds up to 70 mph caused 4 foot drifts, making roads impassable. The airport, businesses, and schools were closed. Property damage totaled up to $50,000

Blizzard March 11-12, 1976

Five to 12 inches of new snow was whipped up by winds over 50 mph across northern Minnesota. The sheriff’s office in International Falls rescued dozens of motorists stranded on county roads during the night. 

Windstorm January 26-29, 1977

Winds gusting over 60 mph caused major blowing and drifting snow, closing most roads in Minnesota. The winds combined with subzero temperatures created wind chills of -30 to -70. Many schools were closed.

Ice Storm February 23-24, 1977

This was a major snow and ice storm for the state. A foot of snow fell over the Northland, mixing at times with freezing rain. Winds were gusting up to 80 mph in Duluth. There were dozens of accidents in the city.

Cold/blizzard January 9-10, 1982

Strong winds created near blizzard conditions and caused wind chills below -70.

Many roads were impassable, including I-35. Numerous cases of frostbite were reported. Winds estimated at 80 mph blew part of the roof off the Silver Bay Credit Union. Power lines were down from Silver Bay, Little Marais, Finland, and Isabella.

Blizzard March 3-4, 1985

Heavy snow and high winds made for whiteout conditions across the state of Minnesota. Strong winds pounded the Duluth area, blowing off roofing material and snapping power lines. a wind gust of 71 mph was recorded at the Duluth Airport. A steady 80 to 85 mph wind with gusts over 90 mph were measured at the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth. Snow drifts in Duluth exceeded20 feet and Park Point remained isolated for almost 4 days. International Falls, which received 7.6 inches of snow, closed schools for the first time ever.

High winds October 7, 1985

Strong winds and high Lake Superior water levels combined to inundate Park Point of Duluth. Sky Harbor Airport was under water, basements were flooded, and erosion occurred along the shore. A peak wind gust of 53 mph was recorded at the Duluth Airport.

High Winds November 18, 1985

Strong winds and heavy seas beached the Greek freighter, Socrates, on Minnesota Point in Duluth. The freighter began to drag anchor between 2000CST and 2200CST on the lake side of the point and was subsequently grounded. Waves also broke down a cement barrier and caused heavy damage to a home along the Lake Superior shore in Duluth. A ship approaching the western tip of the lake that evening reported a 69 mph wind. Property damaged was estimated up to $500,000.

Ice Storm March 22-23, 1991

An intense ice storm, the worst to affect the Duluth area in 25 years, began in the afternoon on the 22 across northeastern Minnesota and lasted until early afternoon on the 23rd before changed to heavy, wet snow.

Freezing rain, accompanied at time with thunder, coated the city of Duluth with as much as 6 inches of ice. The 850-foot WDIO-TV tower was topple as winds gusted to 40 mph, buffeting the heavily ice-covered tower. The tower fell onto a nearby utility line which provided power to the remainder of Duluth’s television stations, and all but one AM radio station. Telephone and power lines snapped leaving Duluth and many northeastern Minnesota communities with utility services for 24 hours. The DNR reported that four million pine trees were damaged or destroyed.

Halloween Snow Storm, October 31 – November 2, 1991

A major early-season snowstorm struck northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin from late on Halloween, 1991, into the early morning of November 2. The storm dumped 15 to 36 inches of snow, with the highest totals falling along the Wisconsin-Minnesota border. Snowfall rates occasionally ranged from 1 to 2 inches per hour. Strongnorthwest winds created 6 to 10 foot drifts. The storm closed schools, businesses, and transportation systems- some for several days.

Heavy snow and high winds November 1-2, 1992

Heavy wet snow fell across the area. The Arrowhead was especially hard hit by strong winds and snow as the storm intensified near the Great Lakes. Seventy mph winds threw huge waves crashing over rock walls that were 130 feet high. Part of the lake wall near the DECC was damaged. Several businesses in the Duluth and Grand Marais areas were flooded by the high waves. Snowfall amounts over 1 foot occurred from International Falls, Tower, Mora, and Duluth.

This summary was researched and created by Carol and Andy