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Driving in the Storm of the Century, October 31, 1991


Speaker: Judy W.
Interviewed by daughter Jenna W.
February 20, 2004
Lake Neganamon, WI

Jenna: Hello. I am here today with my mom to talk about a weather related story that she has taken part in. So Mom, what is this weather related story that you’re talking about today?

Judy: Well, we had a huge snow storm here in 1991. I’d like to talk about that.

Jenna: Yeah, what was it like and what happened to you and stuff?

Judy: Well it started—I can remember—it started close to Halloween. It was in 1991. It started around October 31 and it was snowing that day. I was going to take you and your brother out trick treating. Your dad and I were going to drive you around trick or treating. And it just kept snowing and snowing and the snow was getting heavier.

And I can remember that you were Casper that day on Halloween. And we thought, ‘Well, can we go trick or treating? It was really snowing because by that time we had had about 6 inches of snow. But we took our 4-wheel drive—it was a Jeep Cherokee—and we all got it and we took you around the village of Lake Nabagomon trick or treating.

And it just kept snowing. Not that many people were out. We drove you around. We took you to different houses and we took you to that little grocery store there, Malinoski’s and you tricked or treated. And then we got done and we drove home and we went to bed and it continued to snow all night.

And in the morning, I can’t remember exactly how much snow there was, but there was a lot of snow. The schools were closed and throughout the day the malls were closed in Duluth. Everything started to close because we were getting more and more and more snow. And it continued through that day, Friday, and everything was closed. And then it kept snowing all weekend. And we ended up with 39 inches of snow all together, which is a huge amount of snow. And people around here started to call it “The Mega Snowstorm” because it was such a huge snowstorm. And we spent the weekend at home because you couldn’t go anywhere and we got all this snow.

Well we had just moved into our house that year and we thought, ‘How are we going to blow all this snow? How are we going to get it out of our driveway?’ because we didn’t have a snow blower. We didn’t have a plow. We didn’t have anything. And here we were with 39 inches of snow. It was more snow than we’d ever had—you kids were, it was taller than you, the amount of snow that we had. It was just incredible! And, so, we saw the snow plow going by after it was all over and the snow plow stopped for coffee at our neighbors and so we went out and we flagged them down after they got done with coffee and asked if we could pay them to plow our driveway or just come in it a ways, because we couldn’t get out our driveway with all this snow. And so the man on the plow came in and plowed our driveway for us. And that was the only way we could have gotten out. And he ran the plow right through our driveway.

And some other interesting things, you want to know some other stories about it?

Jenna: Yeah.

Judy: I mean, school was even canceled on Monday. If it was cancelled Friday; it was cancelled Monday; and I believe Tuesday as well. I’m a teacher and a—so there was no school. People couldn’t get around for the longest time because we had so much snow. And during it all, we decided to have our neighbors over to eat, just something festive. They were stuck inside. We were stuck inside, so we invited the neighbors over. And they’re kind of, they’re not that tall. And the man had to walk in front of the woman just to plow the snow so she could walk. It was above her waist, how deep it was. I mean, it was just so much snow. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like that.

Jenna: Why did they close the malls?

Judy: Because people couldn’t get to work. People couldn’t get around at all. That is so much snow that you can’t possibly drive your car in it, you can’t hardly walk in it because it’s so deep. So, everything had to close. I don’t know what was happening at the hospitals because it’s just so much snow.

They speculate on the nurses and the hospital. I do know at St. Mary’s, they have some 4-wheel drives, big vehicles that they’ll go and pick up medical people if they can’t get out from their houses, they’ll go and get them so that they can come to work.

We also had to go and find milk at one point and it was so, we took our car out. We drove into Lake Nabagamon because we were running out of milk and oh, that was a challenge! But we did it.

Jenna: What was the challenging part about that?

Judy: Driving! Because there was just so much snow! And the plows weren’t plowing the roads very good cause they couldn’t get through it….They had to use a variety of different means to get the snow off that they don’t normally use because it was too deep. They had to scoop it first, make a little path and then come with a bigger plow that makes a wider path.

Jenna: Most years, the snow’s gone about the end of March or whatever. Did it stay a lot longer that year?

Judy: It did stay longer that year. I can’t remember for sure when the ice went out in the lake that year, but there was a lot of snow that year just because that storm started it out and it’s interesting because it happened on Halloween and so people had their Halloween decorations out and they got buried in the snow—their pumpkins, and their leaf bags were all buried in the snow and then they didn’t show up until spring, all these Halloween decorations. When the snow melted away you could see them. Our dock was still out and we usually take our dock out of the lake with a jeep, an old jeep that’s a 4-wheel drive but we couldn’t get it down there so we had to winch it out. It was really hard to get out and it almost froze in the lake. So people weren’t prepared for the storm. They had all their hoses out and all these things that you usually don’t put away until later and they just got buried under snow and were left out.

Jenna: Did kids participate in a lot more activities? Did they go ice skating and stuff more than most years?

Judy: Well they did, yes, I think they liked to slide and it was really deep, fun, full snow. There was a lot of snow.

Jenna: Do you recall if the snow was like really puffy or if it was good for like snow forts or whatever?

Judy: Yah, it was good for snow forts because where you would, you know, there were huge piles so you couldn’t build them right away. It was later in the season, but it was good for snow forts just because. And the kids really did enjoy playing in it. It was nice.

We saw igloos. We saw snow piles that was hard when you drove to see around the corners and things because the snow piles were so high that year. And we also continued to get heavy snow that year so every time it started snowing, for a long period of time we’d just stock up on milk as soon as we saw it snowing we’d start stocking up on groceries because we’d think, “Ahh, it could be another mega-storm and we need to be prepared!’ because we were in for so many days.

Jenna: Has there been any bad storms since then that has to do with snow?

Judy: There’s been storms but nothing like that one. It was snowing an inch an hour during that snow storm. It just kept adding up and adding up and we just couldn’t get over how much there was.

Jenna: Were there like a lot of accidents…?

Judy: explains that there were more accidents. Lots of ice on the roads for a long time made driving difficult.

Judy: It was a huge storm and it really affected the people around here.

Jenna: Do you know how exactly it got the mega-storm name? Did the villagers or whatever they call them, did they make up the name? Or did the Weather Channel start calling it that?

Judy: I think the TV channels and the radio channels started to call it that.

Jenna: Thank you.


Sponsored by:
Wisconsin Arts Board CIMSS UW Folklore Program