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Halloween Blizzard of ’91 recalled by La Crosse weather forecaster

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A Halloween weekend 30 years ago many in the Midwest remember vividly.

On Oct. 31, 1991, snow began to develop in several states and set records.

Cathy Zapotocny, now with the National Weather Service – La Crosse, was a meteorologist in Omaha at the time and experienced the blizzard there.

“We actually did have snowfall in that area (Omaha), not quite as much as Minnesota, but we definitely did have some 6 to 12 inches of snowfall,” Zapotocny said. “Unfortunately, a lot of Halloweens were cancelled.”

La Crosse had rain on that Thursday of Halloween and it didn’t change over to snow until Friday.

The city received 8-9 inches of snow starting Nov. 1.

The Twin Cities had a total of 28 inches of snow when the blizzard was done. At least 22 people died from the storm, including two hunters, who were caught in a boat on Lake Onalaska.

Zapotocny remembers trees causing plenty of damage in that snow and ice storm, because they were still loaded with leaves that were weighed down by heavy snow. She said forecasters could more easily see a late October storm coming today, compared to 30 years ago.

“We’ve really dedicated a lot more resources related to computer models, and being able to project farther and farther out with better accuracy,” Zapotocny said.

La Crosse has had measurable snow on Halloween just once since that ’91 blizzard — in 1995, when half-an-inch fell in the city.

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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