10 years ago tonight: Zamboni explodes, Peterson Arena burns

Tonight – Dec. 19, 2014 – marks the 10th anniversary of the night a Zamboni exploded and sparked a fire that destroyed Peterson Arena in West Duluth. Thanks to Perfect Duluth Day for the reminder of the anniversary.

Here’s a look back at some stories and photos from the News Tribune files, starting with this story and photos that ran the next day – Dec. 20, 2004:

Duluth firefighters run hoses to battle a fire at Peterson Arena after a Zamboni exploded on Dec. 19, 2004. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)


By Christa Lawler, News Tribune

A Zamboni exploded Sunday night inside Peterson Arena in West Duluth, starting a fire at the ice rink at Wheeler Fields.

About 30 people — two broomball teams and a handful of fans — were inside the building at the time of the explosion. One player was taken to the hospital. The extent of his injuries was not known.

A small blast at 9:40 p.m. was followed by a larger explosion, which knocked the doors off the boards surrounding the ice surface onto the ice.

Spectator Cade Ledingham, who was in the arena and witnessed the explosion, estimated that four players were thrown from the ice by the blast.

The building was quickly evacuated and the players watched the fire from a small warming house about 30 yards away. Both teams confirmed that all of their players and fans were accounted for, but all of their belongings — including street clothes, keys and even shoes — were inside the burning building.

The Duluth Police Department blocked off busy Grand Avenue as fire crews struggled to battle the fire. The temperature hovered near zero at the time of the explosion.

Duluth firefighters battle a fire at Peterson Arena after a Zamboni exploded on Dec. 19, 2004. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)

By 10:15 p.m., the fire had engulfed the north side of the building, at 3501 Grand Ave. Police cleared out the warming house when it looked like the fire might reach nearby power lines. Power was cut to the area at 10:25 p.m. A Duluth Transit Authority bus was brought in to pick up the players.

Joe Buckley, the Zamboni driver, said he was sweeping up when the blast occurred. He thought propane tanks had caused the explosion.

A Zamboni is a vehicle used to resurface ice.

Player Ryan Ringsred, who was bandaged, had picked small pieces of Plexiglas from the back of his neck. He was on the ice when the explosion occurred.

“I was facing the boards when they blew up,” Ringsred said. “I was on the ice and the Zamboni blew up behind me. I was flat on the ice.”

Even his helmet was dented.

“It’s brand new,” he said. “It did its job, I guess.”

There were about seven minutes left in the broomball game between the Rapid Fire and Budweiser teams when the blast occurred.

“These are two teams that battle every year for the league championship,” said player Dave Reyelts, who was in the penalty box at the time. “It puts things in perspective. When it happened, guys from both teams were grabbing each other. Even in rivalry, the guys were looking out for each other.”

Brandon Kolquist, another player, also had small cuts on the back of his neck.

“I just got blown over the boards with the explosion,” he said. “It was crazy. Everybody was trying to hit one door at the same time.”

Here’s a follow-up story and photos that ran Dec. 21, 2004:

Duluth firefighters inspect the interior of Peterson Arena on Dec. 20, 2004, after a major fire the night before. (Bob King / News Tribune)


By Mark Stodghill and Scott Thistle, News Tribune 

The loss of one of its two indoor hockey arenas is a major blow to the Duluth Amateur Hockey Association.

“We’re down a facility, and this is the prime time of the season,” DAHA Executive Director Clarke Coole said. “This is going to impact our program enormously.”

Coole met with Duluth city officials Monday to discuss the explosion and fire that destroyed Peterson Arena on Sunday night in the midst of a broomball game.

DAHA serves more than 800 youth hockey players, and tournaments were scheduled every weekend in the building through January, February and two weeks in March, Coole said.

The building’s loss also creates a hardship for Duluth high school boys and girls hockey teams, who practiced at Peterson, Coole said.

“Right now, we’re looking for a short-term fix to salvage this year,” Coole said. “We’re going to need a lot of city officials’ support for the kids.”

Coole’s organization will try to get ice time from the University of Minnesota Duluth and the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Other area youth programs have already offered to help.

“There’s been tons of support from area associations — Cloquet, Proctor, Hermantown, Superior and Mars Lakeview Arena,” Coole said. “They’re asking if there’s anything they can do to help out with bits and pieces (of ice time). The support has been awesome.”

The Duluth Central-Denfeld girls high school hockey team had four practices scheduled at Peterson that must be rescheduled, coach Shawna Davidson said. She’ll talk with DECC officials to see if there are any times available. The team normally practices at the DECC, but had several Wednesdays scheduled at the West Duluth arena because the DECC ice wasn’t available until after 9 p.m.

Kevin Smalley, the Denfeld boys hockey coach, has rescheduled his team’s Peterson practice dates to before school at the DECC, Davidson said.

Exterior view of Peterson Arena in West Duluth on Monday morning, Dec. 20. 2004, after the fire. Broomball players and friends of players (right) leave after looking through the equipment bags for anything salvageable. There was little worth keeping. (Bob King / News Tribune)


On Monday night, the Duluth City Council wasted no time in weighing in on the loss. City Attorney Bryan Brown told councilors he was still investigating whether the arena is insured. Although two buildings at the Wheeler Fields athletic complex are insured, the policy is somewhat unclear as to exactly which two, he said.

“We have reported the loss to the insurance company,” Brown said. “I am hoping that the reply is that there is no problem with coverage.”

City Administrative Assistant Mark Winson said that, if necessary, the city could shift some money from next year’s capital improvement budget to help rebuild the arena.

Because of the fire, Councilor Neill Atkins said he would like the city to take another look at what facilities the city insures.

Construction workers with Advanced Restoration and Construction begin work after their lunch break on a protective roof that will cover the fire damage at Peterson Arena on dec. 21, 2004. The protective roof is for insurance purposes. (Amanda Odeski / News Tribune)

DAMAGE $850,000

City fire officials said Monday the blast was probably the result of leaking propane from a Zamboni ice-resurfacing machine. Damage was estimated at $850,000 by city officials, according to a release issued by Mayor Herb Bergson.

Propane used to fuel the Zamboni built up in the resurfacing machine’s storage room. It was eventually ignited by the flame of a gas-fired water heater and exploded, Duluth Fire Chief John Strongitharm said.

Broomball players and fans, who escaped serious injury, said the initial blast blew the doors to the storage room across the rink, injuring some players. Others were injured by shards of Plexiglas, blasted into their skin. But most of the players were at the opposite end of the rink from the explosion, Strongitharm said.

“I would think it is very fortunate that the explosion happened when the people were away from that door, and they all had the sense to drop their broomball sticks and get out,” Strongitharm said. He said calm, quick thinking by players and fans probably saved lives.
After the initial blast, there were at least two other explosions, which Strongitharm believes may have been caused by empty propane tanks stored in the arena.

Another view of the interior of the Peterson Arena on Monday morning, Dec. 20, 2004 after the devastation of Sunday night’s fire caused by a Zamboni explosion. (Bob King / News Tribune)        


Propane is the fuel generally used by resurfacing machines, although some are operated by electric batteries and others use natural gas, said Walt Bruley, who has operated resurfacing machines for more than 30 years.

Bruley, a district representative for the Minnesota Ice Arenas Managers’ Association, said all DAHA resurfacing crews regularly attend safety training.

“They’re one of our star groups when it comes to that,” Bruley said.

It would be highly unlikely that the Zamboni would actually have exploded by itself, he said. The machines are built with safety valves to contain potential propane leaks, he said.

“These things don’t just blow up,” said Bruley, who was on his way to drive a Zamboni at the DECC on Monday afternoon. “There were many things in that room that probably could have blown up besides the machine.”

Propane is generally considered a safer fuel than gasoline because it doesn’t ignite as easily and it has an additive that gives it a distinct smell, making leaks easily detectable. Propane, which is heavier than air, generally sinks to floor or ground level, where it can easily be vented, Bruley said.

“If there was a leak, it would have been something that could have been smelled,” Bruley said. “This is a very, very rare occasion.”

He said Sunday’s explosion was truly a freak incident. “In my 30 years, I’ve never heard of another situation like this,” he said.

Lynn Skafte (left) and Steph Truscott, good friends of the adult broomball team whose equipment was smoke and water-damaged by the Peterson Arena fire, pick through the equipment bags hoping to find some salvageable items on Dec. 20, 2004. (Bob King / News Tribune)


Firefighters weren’t injured by subsequent explosions, Strongitharm said. A second blast occurred just after a frozen fire hydrant prompted firefighters to seek an alternative water source, Strongitharm said.

“It’s hard to say what impact the frozen hydrant had,” Strongitharm said. “It was freezing cold and it was fully involved when we got there. They did run out of water . . . but right after they ran out of water, the explosion took place.”

Extreme cold and a slope made containing the blaze difficult. “There were a number of falls because we were fighting on a hill, but no major injuries,” Strongitharm said.

The speed at which the fire spread and the heat were remarkable, he said. “It was a surprise,” Strongitharm said.

The fire was so intense that the building’s steel framework bent in places, which may make it unsalvageable. The arena had just been outfitted with new rink boards, which were destroyed in the inferno.

“It doesn’t look good for the building,” Strongitharm said.

The arena’s days may have been numbered anyway. It was proposed to be leveled with other neighboring structures, including a closed gas station and the athletic complex tennis courts, to make way for a proposed $55 million sports complex and community center.

The city project hinges on funding from the $1.5 billion estate of McDonald’s restaurants founder Ray Kroc and his wife, Joan Kroc. They left the money to the Salvation Army to build sports and community complexes nationwide. Salvation Army is expected to announce by spring which communities will get the money.

Staff writers Chuck Frederick, Chad Thomas and Nikki Overfelt contributed to this report.

Peterson Arena was razed and not rebuilt. After a number of years, western Duluth finally got another ice rink when the Duluth Heritage Sports Center opened.

Here’s one more view of Peterson Arena from before the fire, during a horseshoe tournament on July 7, 2001:

Donald Stangland (left) and Tom Warneke, class G horseshoe pitchers participating in the 38th annual Duluth Open Horseshoe Tournament, split hairs determining points during their match Saturday afternoon, July 7, 2001, at Peterson Arena. Stangland beat Warneke, 29-22. (Rick Scibelli / News-Tribune)

Share your memories of Peterson Arena by posting a comment.

Aerial view of West Duluth, 1970

Circa 1970

This News Tribune file photo shows Interstate 35 under construction through West Duluth. It has two dates written on the back – 1969 and 1970 – so perhaps an alert reader can pick out some details from this image to determine which year is correct.

This photo certainly shows how important Cody Street was as an entrance to Duluth before the freeway was completed.

Click on the photo for a much larger version of the image. Here are a couple of zoomed-in views, starting with the West Duluth commercial district (this was a time before Kmart and Super One):

And here’s the area around Laura MacArthur School, what was then Shoppers City and the long-gone railroad viaduct:

Here are links to a couple of past Attic posts on West Duluth:

West Duluth, early 1980s

West Duluth before the paper mill, 1986

What interesting things do you spot in these photos? Share your observations and memories by posting a comment.

West Duluth before the paper mill, 1986

The site of the proposed paper mill in West Duluth, south of Interstate 35 and east of Central Avenue, as seen in February 1986. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the NewPage paper mill in West Duluth, which opened its doors in 1987 as Lake Superior Paper Industries. To build the plant, a neighborhood of homes in West Duluth was cleared. Here are some views of that lost neighborhood; click on the photos for a larger view.

Another aerial view of the proposed paper mill site in West Duluth, taken in February 1986 after plans for the paper mill were announced but before construction started. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)


Stan and Marilyn Wabik fought eviction from their home at 32 N. 53rd Ave. W, on the site of the proposed paper mill. They’re seen here on Feb. 8, 1986. (John Rott / News-Tribune)


The paper mill site in West Duluth with some construction under way on July 22, 1986. Jeno Paulucci’s Chun King plant is visible at lower left, with Interstate 35 at lower right in this view looking south. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)


The paper mill site in West Duluth with some construction under way on July 22, 1986. Jeno Paulucci’s Chun King plant is visible at center left, with the Bong Bridge in the distance. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Explosion at Laura MacArthur School, 1982

Story printed September 28, 1982

Apprehension and excitement show on the faces of first-graders outside Laura MacArthur-West Elementary School following a boiler explosion on September 27, 1982. They’re waiting with teachers Gail Olson and Evelyn Clancy. Click on the photo for a larger version. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune & Herald)

Boiler room explosion rocks elementary school; 2 injured

By Barbara Kucera, News-Tribune & Herald staff writer

More than 700 pupls will stay home today from Laura MacArthur-West Elementary School in West Duluth after an explosion in the boiler room rocked the school Monday.

The school will remain closed at least two days, said Franklin Bradshaw, director of elementary education for the Duluth public schools.

Two men were injured in the explosion, which occurred about 11 a.m. Richard Meadowcroft, a school engineer, and Lyle “Butch” Seeley, an employee of General Heating and Engineering Co., were reported in satisfactory condition Monday in Miller-Dwan Hospital. They suffered first-degree burns on their faces and hands.

No pupils or teachers were injured in the blast.

Two boilers, located in the former West Junior High School at 725 N. Central Ave., provided heat for both the West and MacArthur buildings. The boilers were rendered inoperable by the explosion.

“At this point, we’re assuming that after a couple of days, we’ll have that boiler fixed,” Bradshaw said.

Firefighters prepare to remove windows damaged by the boiler explosion at Laura MacArthur-West Elementary School. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune & Herald)

The two men were working on the boilers when “apparently there was some kind of a malfunction,” said LeRoy Moore, director of physical plant for the school system.

The explosion occurred in the stack connecting the two boilers with the chimney, Moore said.

Fire officials said the blast occurred because of a buildup of gas in the stack, but they do not know what ignited the gas. An investigation was continuing Monday. Neither fire nor school officials had a dollar estimate of the damage.

After the explosion, the fire bell sounded and the school was evacuated. Three engine companies, two ladder trucks, two rescue squads and an assistant chief responded to the alarm, but no fire followed the blast.

About 45 minutes later – after firefighters checked the blast scene – pupils and school employees were allowed back in the school.

Richard Meadowcroft, a school engineer at Laura MacArthur-West Elementary School, winces as distilled water is poured over burns on his head by paramedic Ken Danelski, Firefighter Rick Raimo assists. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune & Herald)

Damage was confined to the basement and an entrance to the school located on the floor above the boiler room.

The blast caused some cracks in the walls in adjoining rooms, and shattered windows at the school entrance on the next floor.

Bradshaw said school officials are not sure the boilers can be fixed in two days. Parents will be notified when they can send their children back to school, he said.

“We can’t have the children sitting in a classroom without heat,” Bradshaw said. Busing to other schools isn’t possible because not enough space is available to house the 710 MacArthur-West pupils, he said.

The hall next to the boiler room was damaged by the explosion at Laura MacArthur-West Elementary School in West Duluth on Sept. 27, 1982. Two people were injured. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune & Herald)

The boiler room was extensively damaged by the explosion. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune & Herald)


Demolition is under way at the former Laura MacArthur School in West Duluth, which closed at the end of the 2010-11 school year. The new Laura MacArthur Elementary School stands across Central Avenue.

Here’s some information about the school’s history, from a May 2011 issue of the News Tribune: The original 1914 wing of the old school was the original Denfeld High School. When the present Denfeld opened in 1926, it became West Junior High. The elementary wing opened in 1957; it shared a cafeteria and administrative offices with West Junior High and was named Laura MacArthur after a longtime Duluth educator. West Junior High closed in the 1970s, and the entire complex became an elementary school.

Here are some more Laura MacArthur photos from the News Tribune files:

Laura MacArthur Elementary School, as seen from Central Avenue in 1959; click on the photo for a larger version. (News Tribune file photo)


Community Schools students at Laura MacArthur work on a mural on July 16, 1979. The students were working with artist Mary McDunn of Duluth. Click on the photo for a larger version; note the use of Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets as paint pails. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)


High fashion at Laura MacArthur-West: Modeling can be a tough business, as second-grader Jeremy Hagen found as he wrestled with a sweatshirt while trying to take it off to show a shirt underneath during a fashion show at the school on March 17, 1986. (Bob King / News-Tribune)


Mary Holz helps her daughter Mandi Anderson, 7, put on a pair of dainty gloves prior to her getting on stage for a fashion show at Laura MacArthur-West Elementary School in West Duluth on March 17, 1986. (Bob King / News-Tribune)


Students at Laura MacArthur-West Elementary School listen to the Duluth Accordionaires perform in the school auditorium on March 7, 1986. (John Rott / News-Tribune)


Share your memories by posting a comment.

Vintage view of Gary-New Duluth fire and police hall

This undated view shows the fire hall and police station on Commonwealth Avenue in the Gary-New Duluth neighborhood. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable about cars can date the photo based on the police squad parked in front:


And, when this photo was taken the building didn’t just house a fire station and police station – it had a branch of the library in the basement:

The fire hall still stands, and still serves as a fire hall. The police station portion of the building now houses the Gary-New Duluth Community Center.

Share your memories by posting a comment.

Morgan Park High School memories

This year marks the end of the line for classes at what is now Morgan Park Middle School; students from Morgan Park will attend classes at the new Lincoln Park Middle School starting in the fall.

It’s also the 30th anniversary of the closing of Morgan Park High School in that building; the high school combined with Denfeld in 1982, and the building then housed a junior high and, later, a middle school.

This week’s News Tribune Sunday Opinion section features memories of Morgan Park, and I thought it was a good time to dig up some more photos of the school from the News Tribune Attic. These photos are from the last years of Morgan Park High School; click on the photos for larger versions, and enjoy (and look for a surprise in one of these pictures)…

At a noisy pep rally on March 7, 1979, at Morgan Park High School, faculty members staged a parody of the Lake City cheerleaders and basketball team, which Morgan Park will meet in the state Class A tournament later in the week at the Met Sports Center in Bloomington. (Charles Curtis / Duluth Herald)


Morgan Park High School Principal Milan Karich asks students not to walk out of classes on March 25, 1981, to protest plans to close the school. (Karl Jaros / Duluth Herald)


Morgan Park students march down 88th Avenue West on April 1, 1981, during a protest against plans to close the senior high school. (Charles Curtis / Duluth Herald)


Morgan Park students march down 88th Avenue West on April 1, 1981, during a protest against plans to close the senior high school. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)


Morgan Park junior and senior high school students listen to Duluth Schools Superintendent Richard Pearson on April 13, 1981, in the school auditorium as he discusses plans to close the senior high school. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)


Morgan Park students watch a Dec. 3, 1981, hearing on plans to close the senior high portion of their school. (Bob King / News-Tribune)


Morgan Park High School senior Chris Black and junior Bob Delancey work on May 11, 1982, on an 8-foot-by-8-foot sports mural titled “Winners,” to be included in the school’s Festival of Arts exhibit in the school library. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)


Although they may be among the last seniors to graduate from Morgan Park High School, Terri Smith (front left) and Mary Spehar (front right) appear ebullient on June 8, 1982, as they rehearse for the graduation ceremony. (Jack Rendulich / Duluth Herald)


Morgan Park seventh-grader Chris Skull leans back and puts his feet up on his teacher’s desk while talking to classmates Bill Gronseth (center) and Laura Sinclair on the last day of the school year at Morgan Park on June 10, 1982. At the time, it was unclear if high school students would be returning to the school in the fall. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)


Morgan Park football coach Kyle Inforzato speaks with some of his team members and backers at a potluck dinner held in the school’s cafeteria on Aug. 28, 1982. The team’s fate was up in the air at the time after the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned a lower-court ruling that had barred the school district from closing the senior high school. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)


The Duluth School Board voted in December 1981 to close Morgan Park Senior High School at the end of the 1981-82 school year. Eleven residents and 10 community groups challenged that decision in District Court, and in July 1982 a judge barred the school district from closing the senior high and transferring its 253 students to Denfeld.

But on Aug. 27, 1982, the Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the District Court ruling and allowed the school district to move ahead with closure plans.

Recognize anyone in these photos? Share your stories and memories by posting a comment.

Photos of winter in the Twin Ports in the 1980s

Before our snow disappears in the next few days – highs may reach the 50s by next week – I thought I’d take the chance to dig through the “winter” photo files in the News Tribune Attic and post some shots from the 1980s of people having fun – or at work – in the snow. Here they are…

Judy VanDell and daughter Kristin, 4, stroll by a snowman on top of a car at the corner of 24th Avenue West and Fourth Street on Dec. 3, 1986. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

First-graders at Congdon Elementary School roll a big snowball for the base of a snowman on March 10, 1986. Their teacher, Sharon Rud, said she let the kids build a snow village after their gym class was canceled that day. (Bob King / News Tribune)

Paul Guello sculpts the snowman’s face while assisted by his son Michael, 3, (far left) and neighborhood kids Christopher and Tiffany Lee, ages 6 and 3, at Superior’s Central Park on Nov. 24, 1986. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Kids gather at Portland Square Park in Duluth on Nov. 22, 1986, to build a snow fort. They are, left to right, Katie McRae, 6; Shawn Hoffman, 10; Jeff Clasen, 6; Alex Ross, 11; and Jacob Akervik, 9. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

David O’Brien, 7, son of Don and Barb O’Brien, blasts down a sledding hill near Commonwealth Avenue in Gary on Jan. 25, 1985. He was sliding with his friend Mike McDevitt, 6. (Jack Rendulich / News-Tribune)

Kids from the West Duluth and Duluth Heights soccer clubs cooperated to roll two giant snowballs to use as the bases for goalposts for the game at Irving Field in West Duluth on Nov. 16, 1985. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Susan Gross starts a seemingly insurmountable job shoveling wet, heavy snow in front of her house on Red Wing Street in Duluth on Nov. 29, 1983. (John Rott / News-Tribune)

Scott Tousignant, 11, makes a speedy descent of snow-covered stairs leading from Second Street to First Street at Sixth Avenue East in Duluth on Nov. 26, 1983. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)

Mabel Smevoll, 84, sweeps a light dusting of snow from her walkway in West Duluth on Dec. 8, 1988. Smevoll said she loves to work even at her age, and said she was “making room for some more” snow. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

Harry Staaf, 85, clears his driveway along 27th Avenue West on Dec. 27, 1988. “If you’re going to live in Duluth, you gotta expect shoveling,” Staaf said. “By summer we will all forget this anyway.” (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

Ryan Wiisanen, 6, tosses a snowball at his aunt, Shirkey Uraniak, on Oct. 14, 1986, at Uraniak’s house in Maple. (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

Gary Kniep heads home from the grocery store on Nov. 20, 1988, carrying the groceries and pulling his son Garrett, 4, down St. Marie Street near the UMD campus. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

A 6-foot-tall snowman on the corner of Second Avenue West and Superior Street in downtown Duluth caught a lot of glances and the attention of Kelly Larson, 3, and her mother, Sally, as they waited for her dad, Jim, to join them for shopping on Dec. 14, 1988. The snowman’s creator was not known to nearby shop employees. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

Trina, Mark and Charity Hansen of Duluth take a snowy glide down a hill near Portland Square in Duluth on Nov. 5, 1988. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

Do you recognize the people in any of these photos? Are you one of the people in these photos? Share your memories by posting a comment.

Remembering Mike Colalillo, Medal of Honor recipient from Duluth

Sgt. Mike Colalillo of Duluth phones relatives in December 1945 with news that he’ll be meeting with President Truman later that month to receive the Medal of Honor. (News-Tribune file photo)

Mike Colalillo, a World War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient from Duluth, died Friday at age 86.

Here is the citation which accompanied his medal:

“He was pinned down with other members of his company during an attack against strong enemy positions in the vicinity of Untergriesheim, Germany. Heavy artillery, mortar, and machine-gun fire made any move hazardous when he stood up, shouted to the company to follow, and ran forward in the wake of a supporting tank, firing his machine pistol. Inspired by his example, his comrades advanced in the face of savage enemy fire. When his weapon was struck by shrapnel and rendered useless, he climbed to the deck of a friendly tank, manned an exposed machine gun on the turret of the vehicle, and, while bullets rattled about him, fired at an enemy emplacement with such devastating accuracy that he killed or wounded at least 10 hostile soldiers and destroyed their machine gun. Maintaining his extremely dangerous post as the tank forged ahead, he blasted 3 more positions, destroyed another machine gun emplacement and silenced all resistance in his area, killing at least 3 and wounding an undetermined number of riflemen as they fled. His machine gun eventually jammed; so he secured a sub-machine gun from the tank crew to continue his attack on foot. When our armored forces exhausted their ammunition and the order to withdraw was given, he remained behind to help a seriously wounded comrade over several hundred yards of open terrain rocked by an intense enemy artillery and mortar barrage. By his intrepidity and inspiring courage Pfc. Colalillo gave tremendous impetus to his company’s attack, killed or wounded 25 of the enemy in bitter fighting, and assisted a wounded soldier in reaching the American lines at great risk of his own life.”

Here are some photos of Colalillo from the News Tribune files, along with an article from when he received the medal.

It’s not like packing barracks bags, Sgt. Mike Colalillo learns from his sister, Mrs. Anthony Sisto, who shows him how civilians pack in this photo from December 1945. Mike is getting set for a ceremony in Washington in which he’ll receive the Medal of Honor from President Truman. Lending moral support in the preparations are Mike’s father, Carlo, and his niece, Diane, 7. (News-Tribune file photo)

This article ran in the News-Tribune on Dec. 18, 1945, the morning he received the medal from President Truman:

Mike is calmest of Colalillos

Eager family awaits CMH presentation today

By Gustaf A. Nordin, News-Tribune staff writer

WASHINGTON — Sgt. Mike Colalillo came to the world’s busiest capital Monday with his family and was the calmest of the Colalillos as they prepared for presentation of the Congressional Medal of Honor by the President of the United States today.

“What did you do to earn the Congressional Medal, Mike?” he was asked as an informal press conference.

“Oh, they’ve got a citation around here on it someplace” was the answer. Mike looked tough enough to be a sergeant, but his outward calm belied the fireball his friends say he was earlier this year on a battlefield near Untergriesheim, Germany. He certainly didn’t act the part of a Yankee infantryman who had blasted 25 Germans out of his path as he and his buddies went rushing in on what he calls “a pretty big battle, I guess.”

The proudest Colalillo in Washington this week is Carlo, the hero’s father. He complained of a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He has had it for two months, but doesn’t attribute it to excitement over his son’s return from the European war one of the country’s top heroes. Mike returned two months ago.

The rest of the Colalillos from Duluth were not to be left behind. Patrick, a brother; Mrs. Patrick Sisto and Mrs. Anthony Sisto, sisters; and Mrs. Lorraine Colalillo, sister-in-law, were on hand for the biggest event in their lives.

The women battled Washington’s Christmas shopping mob Monday afternoon. Mike, along with three other Congressional Medal recipients who will be honored by the country at 12:30 p.m. today, were in the hands of war department personnel. The sergeant was issued a new uniform for the occasion. He went to Capitol Hill for a brief visit.

President Truman presents the Medal of Honor to Sgt. Mike Colalillo of Duluth in Washington on Dec. 18, 1945. (News Tribune file photo)

The 20-year-old lad who went to West Junior high school in Duluth and turned to earning his own living early in life is considering the GI Bill of Rights to further his education. But he doesn’t know yet what he will study.

He will drive a truck for his brother, Patrick, a mechanic shop operator in Duluth, “until something better might turn up.”

The Colalillos plan to leave here Wednesday, returning to Duluth.

Papa Colalillo works at the Zenith Furnace Co. in Duluth when he is well, and is amember of the AFL Coke and Gas Workers’ union.

Mike was asked, “Aren’t you a bit excited about meeting the President?”

“I guess so,” he answered. But you wouldn’t believe it. His superior officers commented on the side later that he wasn’t as calm when he rescued a buddy and knocked more than a score of Germans out of action during a second push on a major objective.

A captain with the group took me aside after the conference with Sergeant Colalillo. Very simply, with a genuine feeling of affection in his voice, the captain said of the sergeant:

“There goes one swell fella.”

– end –

Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich shakes the hand of Medal of Honor recipient Mike Colalillo of Duluth during a ceremony at the Duluth City Hall on May 25, 1978. (News-Tribune file photo)

Mike Colalillo stands next to a bust of himself after it was unveiled at Duluth City Hall on May 25, 1978. (News-Tribune file photo)

Colalillo returned to Duluth after receiving the Medal of Honor, and worked for some time at the Port Terminal. In May 1978, with Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich and Vice President Walter Mondale on hand, a bust of Colalillo was unveiled at Duluth City Hall.

In 1995, near the 50th anniversary of the act of heroism that earned Colalillo the Medal of Honor, the News Tribune’s Mark Stodghill visited with Colalillo, and wrote this column….

Mike Colalillo of Duluth, pictured here in May 1995, was presented with special license plates in recognition of receiving the Medal of Honor. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

Medal of Honor recipient a down-to-earth hero

By Mark Stodghill, News-Tribune

Maybe it was Mike Colalillo’s melodic Italian surname.

His quiet dignity.

His surprising shyness.

His touch of greatness.

As I sat across the table from Colalillo in his rural Duluth home, I was reminded of American sports legend Joe DiMaggio. Both men share all the aforementioned qualities.

I interviewed the great DiMaggio once and have read a lot about him. Ernest Hemingway thought enough of DiMaggio’s fame to mention the Hall of Fame baseball player in “The Old Man and the Sea.”

Colalillo is mentioned in a book, too. It’s titled “America’s Medal of Honor Recipients.”

While DiMaggio is a sophisticated legend known across America, Colalillo is something more — a down-to-earth hero, but he isn’t widely known in his hometown.

The 69-year-old native Duluthian is uncomfortable being labeled a hero, but after a long hesitation said, “I suppose I am.”

You bet he is.

Fifty years ago, Colalillo risked his life to save his Army company during an attack against enemy positions near Untergriesheim, Germany. His actions resulted in him receiving the Medal of Honor, the highest military award for bravery that can be given to an American serviceman.

In this undated photo, probably taken in fall 1945, then-Pfc. Mike Colalillo of Duluth, stationed with the U.S. Army 100th Division’s 398th Infantry in Germany, writes home to his dad with news that he has been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. (U.S. Army photo / News-Tribune files)

Yesterday, on Armed Forces Day, a plaque honoring the World War II veteran was scheduled to be dedicated on Mike Colalillo Drive on West Duluth.

Colalillo appreciates his latest honor, but wasn’t looking forward to having to make a speech.

“I’ll have to thank the dignitaries who are there to speak and thank the people who came out to wish me a good fortune, but it’s going to be short and sweet,” he said on Monday.

I wondered how Colalillo’s life would be different had he not received the medal.

“I have no idea, but it didn’t change me,” he said. “I’m still a shy guy who doesn’t like to talk about himself.”

Colalillo treats fame like perfume. It’s great to be around and wonderful to smell, but he wouldn’t want to swallow it.

Fame came to him in December 1945 when he and members of his family entered the Oval Office of the White House and watched President Harry Truman put the Medal of Honor around Colalillo’s neck.

“He (Truman) said, ‘I’d rather have the medal than be president,’ ” Colalillo remembered. “I just said, ‘Thank you.’ ”

According to the citation accompanying the medal, here’s part of what the 19-year-old, 5-foot-11, 145-pound Colalillo did on April 7, 1945:

Under heavy enemy fire, he ran forward firing his machine pistol. When his weapon was struck by shrapnel and rendered useless, he climbed to the deck of a friendly tank, manned a machine gun and while bullets rattled about him, fired at an enemy emplacement killing or wounding at least 10 hostile soldiers and destroying their machine gun.

He destroyed another machine gun emplacement, killing at least three and wounding an undetermined number as they fled.He then helped a wounded comrade to safety over several hundred yards of open terrain, rocked by an intense enemy artillery and mortar barrage.

What does Colalillo remember about it?

“I don’t like to remember it to tell you the truth,” he said. “I was scared Very scared. The feeling I had was to shoot or they’d shoot me. It was something you had to do. I think of how your friends got killed alongside you. That comes back to you once in a while.”

To truly understand how Colalillo found the courage to do what he did on that day in Germany you probably had to be there.

We can be thankful he was.

– end –

Here are a few more photos of Mike Colalillo from the News Tribune files:

Sgt. Mike Colalillo with his family in December 1945, shortly before leaving to receive the Medal of Honor from President Truman in Washington, D.C. (News-Tribune file photo)


Sgt. Mike Colalillo of Duluth tinkers with his car a few days before leaving for Washington to receive the Medal of Honor from President Truman in December 1945. (News-Tribune file photo)


Mike Colalillo of Duluth, pictured here in November 2001, shows the Medal of Honor he received for his heroism while serving in World War II. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

Share your memories by posting a comment.


The history of Kmart in Duluth

It was announced today the the Kmart in Duluth near the Miller Hill Mall is slated for closure. When it does close, it will mark the end of a more-than-36-year run for the store at its Mall Drive location.

Kmart opened at that site in a new building on May 7, 1975. Here’s an article and some photos from its opening:

The new Kmart near the Miller Hill Mall in Duluth, taken shortly before it opened in May 1975. (Duluth News-Tribune photo)

Kmart doors open Wednesday

Duluth Herald

Duluth’s hilltop commercial area welcomes another major occupant Wednesday with the opening of Kmart, the city’s fourth large discount department store.

Doors will be open to the public at 9 a.m. following a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony at the main entrance to the department store.

A number of Duluth city officials and civic leaders will participate in the ribbon-cutting at 8:30 a.m. Several executives of the parent S.S. Kresge Co., Troy, Mich., also are expected to take part.

The Duluth Kmart, the company’s 11th in Minnesota, occupies 84,120 square feet on a 12-acre site at the Village Mall just northwest of the Decker Road and just south of the Maple Grove Road west of the Miller Trunk Highway.

The complex, estimated to cost about $1.5 million, also will include a Super Valu supermarket operation which is scheduled to open in early June.

Kmart management said police have been asked to give special attention to traffic in the area during the first hours of the store’s opening because of the expected crowds. Space for about 800 vehicles is provided in a blacktopped parking lot in front of the store.

Thomas R. Hallett, formerly of Wood River, Ill., manager of the new store, pointed out the size of the complex is the largest the company is building at present.

“It reflects the company’s confidence in the long-term outlook and the economy of the area,” he said. “We are looking forward to a successful, permanent stay in Duluth.”

Except for a few key personnel, the majority of the 150 employees, mostly in sales capacities, were hired locally. …

Mrs. Diane Curd arranges some of the thousands of shoes on display at the new Duluth Kmart store in May 1975. Low-profile counters permit easy viewing of other areas. (Duluth Herald photo)

Hallett said the display counters contain more than 22,000 items in a wide variety of merchandise, including appliances, furniture, building tools, floor coverings, draperies, yard goods, sewing materials, women’s fashions, clothing for men, boys, girls and infants, bedding, jewelry, camera supplies, books and records, pets and pet supplies, and health and beauty aids.

Kmart also has a complete automotive center with a large auto music section featuring stereo tape players and tapes. Several bays will be available to expedite light maintenance and parts replacement service. …

The store also features a full-line sporting goods department and a self-serve grille with seating capacity for 72 persons. …

A major feature of the Duluth store’s interior is spaciousness and brightness resulting from light-colored floor and ceiling tile and extensive use of fluorescent lighting. Shoulder-high display counters permit unobstructed views of department signs on walls in farther areas of the store.

– end –

Kmart on Mall Drive in Duluth, Dec. 20, 2000. (Bob King / News Tribune)


Glen Nelson of Duluth scans the price of an automobile air filter Friday afternoon as he uses the automated check-out at Kmart, 1734 Mall Drive, for the first time. By using the new self-serve station, Nelson avoided lines while checking out. (Justin Hayworth / News Tribune)


In other Kmart history in Duluth…

– the Kmart in West Duluth opened in October 1980 in the former Shoppers City building at 50th and Wadena; you can see it here.

It opened in its present location in the Spirit Valley shopping center in November 1991. The Shoppers City / Kmart building was gutted and expanded, and now houses Menards.

– The Miller Hill Kmart apparently was the first store in Duluth to introduce automated, self-serve checkouts, in fall 2001.

– the auto service center (it later was a Penske auto center) at the Miller Hill Kmart location closed in April 2002

– The Kmart parent company also operated Kresge and Jupiter stores. In 1980, there was a Jupiter store in downtown Duluth and a Kresge store in Superior.


Here are a couple of photos of the Miller Hill / Mall Drive Kmart under construction:

Kmart under construction near Miller Hill Mall in Duluth, Jan. 19, 1975. (News-Tribune file photo)

Earth-moving equipment prepares the site of the new Kmart store at the Village Mall, near Miller Hill Mall in Duluth on May 28, 1974. (Duluth Herald file photo)

If you zoom in on that previous photo, you can see an A&W restaurent in the distance – does anyone know if this building still stands as some other business, or was it torn down?

Share your Kmart memories by posting a comment.

Anniversary of the 1991 Halloween megastorm

At 11 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 4, 1991, Duluth residents continued to dig out from the storm on East Seventh Street. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

NOTE: This post was compiled in 2011…
This week is the 20th anniversary of the Halloween megastorm, which ranks among the most severe – if not the most severe – winter storms to strike Minnesota and the Northland.

It certainly sits atop the snowfall record books for Duluth, having dumped nearly 37 inches of snow – 36.9 inches to be exact. That shattered the previous single-storm record by nearly a foot.

Copied below are two articles that ran in the News Tribune in October 2001, looking back at the storm on its 10th anniversary – one a chronological account of the storm’s sweep across the region, and the other a look at the meteorology of the blizzard. And there are more photos that ran in the News Tribune as the storm raged two decades ago; I apologize for the marks on the photos; they had to be photographed off microfilm because the original glossy prints have gone missing.

You can share your storm memories by posting a comment (click the “voice bubble” at the top right of this post). And if you have any storm photos to share, send them to akrueger(at)duluthnews.com.

Traffic is sparse and pedestrians few on Superior Street in downtown Duluth as heavy snow falls on the morning of November 1, 1991. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)


By Chuck Frederick, News-Tribune staff writer, October 2001

A little snow on the pumpkin — no biggie.

And that’s all it was.

At first.

Before it ended, though, the storm that hit Minnesota and then the Northland 10 years ago today would be the stuff of legend. It would even get its own nickname: the Halloween megastorm.

Decades-old records fell during the three-day winter blast. Duluth alone received more than a yard of snow. Across the state, blinding whiteouts hampered travel, cars slid into ditches, forecasters issued blizzard warnings, power outages darkened homes, principals closed more than 400 schools and owners shut down more than 500 businesses.

An estimated 190 million cubic feet of snow had to be plowed, shoveled and blown away by crews in Duluth.

Everyone was left with a story.

Cars lost under snowbanks. Kids sledding down suddenly deserted hillside avenues. Workers stranded. Snowmobilers in full glory. Weddings called off. Births that couldn’t be. And trick-or-treating. Did anyone make it to more than just a few houses that night?

The storm wound up clouding Duluth’s mayoral election, with supporters of one candidate charging that supporters of the other candidate were plowed out while they were forced to wait.

Who could ever forget it? Who’d ever want to? Here’s a look back at the largest snowstorm in Duluth history.

A group of current and former UMD students didn’t let the heavy snow deter them from enjoying an afternoon in a hot tub at a home on Second Street on Nov. 1, 1991. Clockwise from far right are Kris Simon, Mike Erickson, Brenda Berglund, Cal Matten, Dennis Karp, Jay Lyle, Becky Sunnarberg, Aaron Stoskopf and Eric Rajala.  (Dave Ballard / News-Tribune)

THURSDAY, OCT. 31, 1991

7 a.m. — Railroad worker Tom Johnston of Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood wades into the Brule River in Northwestern Wisconsin. “The fish were literally jumping on the banks,” he reports. “I don’t know how many I caught, but it was a ton.”

1:30 p.m. — A light, fluffy, postcard-quality snow swirls across Duluth and parts of the Northland.

2 p.m. — With the snow just beginning and with winter weather advisories posted, Duluth’s Judy Rogers remembers an order of 120 tulip bulbs she received weeks earlier from a mail-order catalog. She hurries home from work at a travel agency, slips a snowsuit over her good clothes, and then sets out digging six-inch holes, one for each bulb. Motorists honk in support of her earnestness. “Better hurry up,” one of them shouts from East Superior Street.

3 p.m. — Snow begins to accumulate on the edges of roads, then in grassy areas. The storm strengthens.

4 p.m. — The Walter J. McCarthy, a 1,000-foot coal carrier that makes weekly trips from Superior to Michigan, sails toward Duluth. Unable to see the Aerial Lift Bridge through what is now a whiteout, the boat’s captain joins several others in deciding to anchor off-shore.

4:15 p.m. — Duluth angler Tom Johnston leaves the Brule River after a huge day of fishing. He trudges through the deepening snow and climbs into his truck. For several hours, he tries but fails to climb a hill that leads from the remote parking area back to the sleepy country road above. “I didn’t think I was going to make it home at all,” he said. “I thought I’d spend the night in my truck. It was scary.”

4:30 p.m. — Like other kids across the Northland, Bobbi Pirkola’s children bundle winter clothing under their Halloween costumes in Esko and prepare to set out for trick-or-treating.

4:45 p.m. — With the storm raging, the Pirkola children abandon their plans. Instead, they join Mom in shoveling the driveway. “I’m sure we made quite a picture,” Bobbi Pirkola said. “An ugly witch, an old bum and Rambo all out shoveling snow. It was one of the best Halloweens ever.”

5 p.m. — Emily Meyer, 3, sets out for trick-or-treating in her Lincoln Park/West End neighborhood, the long green fin of her Little Mermaid costume leaving a wake in the fresh snow behind her.

7:30 p.m. — Back along the shores of the Brule River, snowbound angler Tom Johnston perks up. Headlights. A 4-by-4 truck pulls into the parking lot where he’s been stuck for hours. “He broke trail for me,” Johnston said. “He crawled up that hill and I followed. I tried two or three times and finally, thankfully, I made it, too. Nowadays when it snows, I head home real quick.”

Rachel Armstrong of Duluth tries to dig her car out of deep snow on Nov. 1, 1991, during the worst of the Halloween megastorm. (Bob King / News-Tribune)

FRIDAY, NOV. 1, 1991

2 a.m. — Furniture topples and cabinets pour open aboard the 1,000-foot Walter J. McCarthy Jr. The boat rolls wildly in the storm, reports watchman John Clark of Duluth. The captain decides to pull up anchor and head for Thunder Bay, where he hopes there are calmer waters. “It was waist deep on the deck,” Clark said. “Sailors just aren’t used to moving around in that. It was awful.”

8 a.m. — Don Johnson steps into his Lakeside home’s attached garage and presses the garage door opener. A floor-to-ceiling wall of white fills the garage’s opening. “A snowblower would be useless,” he said. “Where would a person put the snow?”

8:15 a.m. — After weeks of praying for snow, Dorothy Carlson’s granddaughter is delighted as she makes her way to the breakfast table in Two Harbors. The eighth-grader is visiting from the Philippines, where her parents serve in the Navy. She had never seen snow. “Tina, you didn’t have to pray so hard,” her grandmother teasingly scolds.

8:30 a.m. — In Ely, Vermilion Community College student and football player Tim Myles fights through the storm to pick up a marriage license. He realizes there’s no way he and his fiancee will make it to the courthouse in Virginia for the ceremony.

11 a.m. — The phone rings in Marcella Von Goertz’s Hunters Park home. “How are you doing over there?” a voice comes from across the street. “Just fine,” Von Goertz answers, “as long as I have electricity, heat and telephone. Only I can’t get out of the house.” The front door is drifted shut.

11:15 a.m. — Betty Plaunt, the owner of the voice across the street, crawls over the snow piles with shovel in hand. She pokes holes in the snow like an ice angler. Then, an inch of snow at a time, she frees Von Goertz’s door from its tomb.

Noon — Gusts up to 60 mph whip the fresh snow. Nearly 4 1/2 additional inches fall during the morning, pushing the storm total past 13 inches, with no sign of letting up.

12:15 p.m. — With license in hand but no way to get to the courthouse in Virginia, Tim Myles calls churches around Ely. On the third call, he finds a pastor who agrees to perform the ceremony.

1 p.m. — Marti Switzer calls an ambulance to her Lincoln Park/West End home. Her 19-month old daughter Carleigh is lethargic and running a fever, likely a reaction to immunization shots the day before. But an ambulance can’t get through the snow. A pair of snowmobilers happen by and offer help. They go to the house and carry Switzer and her daughter back to the main road, where emergency personnel await. “I never did get to thank them,” Switzer said. “They may have saved my daughter’s life.”

3 p.m. — The best man and maid of honor both snowbound, Ely’s Tim Myles corrals two teammates from his college football team. The vows are exchanged — with a free safety as best man and a linebacker as maid of honor. The happy couple celebrates with Hot Pockets at the Holiday gas station, about the only business open. Theirs is one of only a few Northland weddings to go on despite the storm.

5:30 p.m. — With no stores open, restaurants operating with skeleton crews, and 300 guests in town for a tourist-railroad convention, Leo McDonnell of Duluth’s railroad museum finally makes arrangements for a family-style meal at the Chinese Lantern. His group sets out en masse from the Radisson Hotel a block away. But three women, all from Mississippi, refuse to go. “They were afraid,” McDonnell said. “They were afraid they’d fall into the snow and drown.”

6 p.m. — Storm in full gale with continuing high winds and more than 9 inches of fresh powder falling during the afternoon alone. Thunder crackles overhead and lightning flashes.

8:30 p.m. — With the storm whipping into a fury, Minnesota Department of Transportation officials scramble to choose a message for the flashing warning signs they have along Interstate 35. “How about I-35 parking lot,” plow driver Brad Miller jokes. “But that’s what it was,” said the department’s Wendy Frederickson, also on duty that night. “You looked out and it was this sea of white and then all these abandoned cars that looked like they just parked there.”

11:59 p.m. — An additional 5 1/2 inches of snow fall during the evening, stranding workers downtown and residents in their homes. Only four-wheel-drive vehicles move. And only on main roads as snowplow crews can only hope to keep main arteries open.

The front page of the Saturday, Nov. 2, 1991, Duluth News-Tribune, with coverage of the Halloween megastorm. My apologies for the creases – this copy had been folded and stored in a drawer for years. Click on the image for a larger view in which you can read the stories (you can click on most photos in Attic posts to enlarge them).

SATURDAY, NOV. 2, 1991

4 a.m. — Back in Duluth’s Lincoln Park/West End neighborhood, the mother of “Little Mermaid” trick-or-treater Emily Meyer, Barb Meyer, awakens with a wave of sheet-ripping pain. The family’s expected baby decides it doesn’t want to miss the storm.

4:30 a.m. — With emergency lights flashing, a police 4-by-4 arrives at the Meyers’ home. A fire truck follows, then a snowplow, sanding truck and finally an ambulance. “Boy, they’ll do anything to get their road snowplowed,” a neighbor jokes.

5:30 a.m. — After more than a half hour of white-knuckle, siren-wailing driving, the ambulance with Barb Meyer and her soon-to-be-born baby arrives at St. Luke’s Hospital. The family realizes quickly theirs will be one of many storm-baby stories. The maternity ward is jammed with mothers about to give birth and with new mothers unable to be discharged because of the snow.

6 a.m. — Northland residents wake up and can’t believe their eyes. Nearly 4 more inches fall overnight as strong winds continue. Drifts reach the tops of grocery stores. Snowbound and abandoned cars make plowing difficult.

10 a.m. – Unable to drive in the deep snow, Dr. Niles Bartdorf arrives at St. Luke’s Hospital on cross-country skis to help deliver Barb and Ron Meyer’s new baby.

Noon — Two more inches of fresh snow fall during the morning hours. Residents emerge to shovel or to walk to stores for junk food.

12:15 p.m. — Fran Tollefson’s eyes fill with tears in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood. Her husband, Dave, who had fallen off a paint ladder over the summer and suffered a life-threatening brain injury, is out blowing snow with his son. In that moment, she realizes for the first time he’ll be OK. “I hurried for my camera,” she said. “It was hard to see through the lens because my eyes were filled with tears.”

1:13 p.m. — Amy Meyer is born to Lincoln Park/West End couple Ron and Barb Meyer. The little girl is quickly nicknamed “Amy Storm” or simply “Stormy.”

6 p.m. — Nearly 2 1/2 inches of fresh snow fall during the afternoon.

11:59 p.m. — High winds continue, but the snow begins to taper. Less than half an inch of new snow falls during the evening.

There was a lot of digging out to do at Catlin Courts in Superior on Nov. 3, 1991, as the Halloween megastorm wound down. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

SUNDAY, NOV. 3, 1991

6 a.m. — Barely a trace of new snow falls overnight, marking an end to the Halloween megastorm and the beginning of the cleanup. Most streets are still impassable. Hundreds of snowbound cars are still buried.

1 p.m. — After three frustrating days of scrapped-and-updated forecasts, TV weatherman Collin Ventrella pays a group of college students a case of beer to dig his car out of a snowdrift. “Probably the best deal I’ve ever made,” he said.

Liz Howard’s coat bears a silent plea as she shovels out the front entrance of the Archer Building in Duluth’s Canal Park on Nov. 3, 1991. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)


Barb Meyer wraps “Amy Storm” into her stroller and heads out on a spring walk along Lincoln Park Drive. A city of Duluth street-cleaning truck pulls up alongside her. “Was that the baby born during the megastorm?” the driver asks. “Yes,” Barb Meyer says. The driver beams. “I was the one driving the snowplow that night.”


The Birthplace at St. Mary’s Medical Center is very, very busy, reports nurse Holly Calantoc.


Don Syring fixes the snowmobile he used to get from his Woodland home to IGA Foods on East Superior Street during the winter storm on Nov. 2, 1991. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune) 


News-Tribune, October 2001

The Halloween megastorm wasn’t done after it dumped record amounts of snow on Duluth and the Twin Cities.

The 1991 storm was one of three that headed to the East Coast and produced the now-famous “perfect storm,” the one written about by Sebastian Junger and later turned into a feature film starring George Clooney.

Around here, it snowed like crazy because of a high pressure ridge across the eastern Great Lakes that held the storm in place for the better part of three days.

According to the National Weather Service, a low-pressure system roared north from Texas that week on a jet stream pointed straight at Minnesota. The weather system carried humidity, and tons of it, from the Gulf of Mexico.

When it reached Minnesota and then Duluth, the low-pressure system met a cold air mass moving south from the Canadian plains. Snow developed. It fell and just kept on falling, because the high-pressure ridge over the eastern Great Lakes was stubborn about letting it shake free.

With a Halloween pumpkin grinning behind him, Ben Bjoralt, 11, of Duluth, used a shovel to make a snow fort at a friend’s 21st Avenue East home on Saturday, Nov. 2, 1991. (Steve Stearns / News-Tribune)

At least two feet of snow fell from a line just west of Mankato, through the Twin Cities to Duluth and finally to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Southeastern Minnesota was hit with a deadly ice storm. The Twin Cities got 28 inches of snow, topping the single-storm record there by eight inches.

Duluth also set records. With 36.9 inches of snow, the city easily topped the suddenly wimpy former single-storm mark of 25.4 inches. That one had been set in December 1950.

For the month, Duluth wound up receiving 50.1 inches. That easily iced the old snowiest November mark of 37.7 inches set in 1983.

– end –


Click here for some additional interesting information about the Halloween megastorm from the National Weather Service in Duluth.

And, as mentioned up top, share your Halloween megastorm memories by posting a comment.