Meteorologist Jonathan Wolfe knows how unpredictable the weather can be, but the Halloween blizzard of 1991 was remarkable even by his standards.

“It absolutely was a very large storm that blanketed the entire region,” Wolfe said. “The significance is in the fact that it had so much snowfall over a widespread area and so early in the year.”

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The Halloween blizzard ranked as a Category 5 on the Regional Snowfall Index — the most extreme category — according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

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“It's not super surprising that it actually occurred because when you're transitioning from summer air masses, which are full of a lot of moisture, to winter ones, which are much drier … it's conceivable that you could see these several-foot snowstorms,” Wolfe said.


“I'd say it probably only happens once every … probably 30, 40 years.”

— Jonathan Wolfe


According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, 30 locations broke daily snowfall records in Iowa, 25 in Minnesota and seven in Wisconsin on Halloween 1991.

“Brainerd was not in the teeth of the storm, so to speak,” Wolfe said Tuesday, Oct. 26. “You guys were kind of on the far western edge. The Duluth area and northward to Ely and down to the Twin Cities are kind of the axis of highest snowfall totals.”

This photo appeared on the front page of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch from Sunday, Nov. 3, 1991, with the caption: "It was tough going on Brainerd lakes area streets and highways Friday and Saturday as a vigorous early season snowstorm dropped up to a foot of snow. This was the dismal scene Saturday morning on Highway 371 near North Long Lake."
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
This photo appeared on the front page of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch from Sunday, Nov. 3, 1991, with the caption: "It was tough going on Brainerd lakes area streets and highways Friday and Saturday as a vigorous early season snowstorm dropped up to a foot of snow. This was the dismal scene Saturday morning on Highway 371 near North Long Lake." Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

The Brainerd lakes area received 11 inches of snow from Oct. 31, 1991, to Nov. 3, 1991, according to Wolfe, a lead meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth.

“The Brainerd lakes area — while you still got, you know, a foot of snow in late October — you guys weren’t in the crosshairs, so to speak,” Wolfe said of the Halloween blizzard of 1991.

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A mixture of snow, sleet and freezing rain blanketed southeast Minnesota by mid-morning on Halloween 1991.

“From a weather standpoint, it's not uncommon to get snow this time of year. Usually, our first snow falls somewhere mid-October to early October,” Wolfe said. “But to get, you know, a foot of snow is pretty rare. I'd say it probably only happens once every … probably 30, 40 years.”

Wolfe said he did not reside in Minnesota at the time. He lived in Illinois in 1991 … and he was in grade school.

“I remember we had friends up here because we were in the process of moving, and I remember them calling us to let us know that they're trick-or-treating in several feet of snow. … I was just like, ‘Wow, that's amazing!’” Wolfe recalled.

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And — the day after Halloween — on Nov. 1, 1991, there were 56 locations in Iowa that broke daily snowfall records, 88 in Minnesota and 29 in Wisconsin, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

“In this particular instance, they were trudging through snow or shoveling out cars and, you know, that sort of thing — building snowmen — and it’s just, you know, kind of nostalgic in that sense,” Wolfe said.

And as far as the weather forecast for the Brainerd lakes area this Halloween Sunday, Oct. 31? No precipitation in sight, according to Wolfe.

“There's a cold front that’s going to be moving through and temperatures on Halloween evening will probably be in the 40s around Brained. But, by the next morning, you'll probably be down close to 20 or maybe even the upper teens on Nov. 1,” Wolfe said.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL.