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Yesterday in La Crosse

Hello, darkness, my old friend…at 10 a.m.?

Brad Williams

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Fifty years ago, on February 19th, 1971, towns from Dubuque to Prairie du Chien saw the late morning sky turn dark enough to cause street lights to come on at 10 o’clock in the morning, and causing a bit of panic among children and adults.  The sudden darkness was not expected, like an eclipse.  Weather experts said ice in the atmosphere blocked out the sun for a brief time that day, with rain and even tornadoes in some parts of the Midwest.   

The scary change in the sky happened on the same Friday that La Crosse State conducted a mock disaster drill for emergency workers.  They had to react to fictitious reports of tornadoes causing many deaths and building collapses at the college, along with businesses on fire and looting in the city.  

If that wasn’t enough to scare you, the following day, a false alarm about a national emergency was accidentally transmitted by the government to TV and radio stations which were expecting “only a test.”  Some stations actually went off the air for a short time, until the mistake was corrected.   

The false alarm might have disrupted some Saturday morning kids shows on TV, such as “The Pink Panther,” “Scooby Doo,” “The Harlem Globetrotters,” and “Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp,” in February 1971, yesterday in La Crosse.             

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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