DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Feeling miserable about this winter weather? This should cheer you up — it could be a lot worse, and in the winter of 1996-1997, it was worse with a vengeance.
Temperatures were way below average in November, December and January, and that winter saw one blizzard after another.
It was so bad that 40 Minnesota counties were declared a disaster area.
“Pure frustration is what’s going on out there,” read a headline from Jan. 9, 1997, Detroit Lakes Tribune. A foot of snow had just fallen with 35 mph wind gusts in the worst storm of the season. Highway 10 had been closed and stranded motorists filled up Detroit Lakes motels. Tow truck drivers had been operating on adrenaline for over a week of cold temperatures and snowy weather, and there were long wait times to get help.
A Detroit Lakes woman, who had been dropped off by a friend, froze to death outside her home and was found covered in snow.
And it wasn’t just Detroit Lakes, the whole region was hammered.
The record-breaking snowfall during the 1996-97 winter was followed by a 500-year flood during which Fargo eclipsed previous recorded Red River flooding high marks as it rose to 37.55 feet on April 17, 1997.
While Fargo-Moorhead narrowly skirted disaster, Grand Forks and East Grand Forks were not so lucky, and suffered major flooding from the Red River.
The winter of 1996-1997 brought the greatest snowfall totals ever recorded over large areas of the Red River and upper Minnesota River basins, according to a DNR climate report. “Not only was the snowfall noteworthy in its intensity,” the report said, “but also in geographical extent. Six to eight blizzards, and numerous smaller snowstorms, dropped over six feet of snow over northwestern and west central Minnesota.”
Tough times, but it kinda puts this winter in perspective, doesn’t it?