This Week in History: Armistice Day blizzard wreaks havoc on the area

Published 8:20 pm Monday, November 9, 2020

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Nov. 11, 1940: Bob Wolf from Waseca was alone in a boat on Freeborn Lake when the temperature started to drop. The lake began to freeze over, but Wolf didn’t realize until too late. Stuck on the water, he had no choice other than to wait for the lake to freeze completely before attempting to crawl off the ice. Wolf survived the ordeal, but spent several weeks in Naeve Hospital recovering. It was reported that 59 Minnesotans died from exposure when the fast-moving Armistice Day blizzard swept through the Upper Midwest.

Kermit Nilsen, blinded by blowing snow, searched for a fence line that he prayed would lead him to safety. He had been duck hunting on Bear Lake when the Armistice Day blizzard hit. Nilsen located the fence, following it back to a hunting cabin on the Ed Larson farm. Mert Meixell and George Boyum were at the cabin when Nilsen arrived. The three hunters attempted to drive to Kansota Farms, but winds of 80 mph pushed them into the ditch. A Mercury sedan, already loaded with nine people, stopped to pick them up. The tightly packed vehicle made it back to Albert Lea.

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Sherman Booen, announcer and engineer at KATE radio in Albert Lea, went into action as the Armistice Day blizzard turned into a major crisis. Booen instigated a novel radio link with KYSM in Mankato to relay messages, and in the evening used his amateur short-wave station to disseminate information to a stranded community. Booen contributed to “All Hell Broke Loose,” a book about the blizzard by William H. Hull.



2011: After 46 seasons as Penn State’s head football coach and a record 409 victories, Joe Paterno was fired along with the university president, Graham Spanier, over their handling of child sex abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

2000: A statewide recount began in Florida, which emerged as critical in deciding the winner of the 2000 presidential election. Earlier that day, Vice President Al Gore had telephoned Texas Gov. George W. Bush to concede, but called back about an hour later to retract his concession.

1998: President Bill Clinton ordered warships, planes and troops to the Persian Gulf as he laid out his case for a possible attack on Iraq. Iraq, meanwhile, showed no sign of backing down from its refusal to deal with U.N. weapons inspectors.

1987: The American Medical Association issued a policy statement saying it was unethical for a doctor to refuse to treat someone solely because that person had AIDS or was HIV-positive.

1982: The newly finished Vietnam Veterans Memorial was opened to its first visitors in Washington, D.C., three days before its dedication.

1974: A federal judge in Cleveland dismissed charges against eight Ohio National Guardsmen accused of violating the civil rights of students who were killed or wounded in the 1970 Kent State shootings.

1921: The remains of an unidentified American service member were interred in a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in a ceremony presided over by President Warren G. Harding.

1919: The American Legion opened its first national convention in Minneapolis.

Nov. 11, 1918: Fighting in World War I ended as the Allies and Germany signed an armistice in the Forest of Compiegne.

Nov. 10, 1775: The U.S. Marines were organized under authority of the Continental Congress.

1620: The passengers and crew of the Mayflower sighted Cape Cod.