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.