Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Memories

I had recently quit my flight attendant job with PanAm and was back working at Sweeney's full-time. I had bought a 1-bedroom condo (15-foot ceilings, walls painted turquoise and cranberry -- very hip) that was conveniently situated a block and a half away.

It was Halloween, I think it was a Friday, and it started snowing. I must have worked the lunch shift (odd) but I feel like it was around the time residents, in their cars, were returning to the neighborhood from their work day. Snow had started to pile up at least a foot. The then head cook, Duke, and I got bundled up in our parkas and Sorel boots and headed out to play in the storm that seemed to come out of nowhere.

We didn't know it at that moment, but that event would come to be known and remembered fondly as the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. A real "where were you when . . . ?" or "I survived the . . . " event.

The snow was heavy and clingy and cars were getting stuck, so Duke and I jumped in to help push a few out of their snow-bound ruts. The snow kept falling for most of the evening. Such circumstances are considered by neighbors and bar regulars occasions for drinking, so everyone within walking or snow-shoeing distance gathered at the bar to drink hot chocolate with Rumplemintz or some other ear-reddening beverage.

Sometime around midnight I decided it would be a good idea to get in my car and drive to Minneapolis to track down a lover who didn't have a phone, and got my own car (a late 70s Dodge Colt with a hole in the passenger-side floor) stuck on Lake of the Isles Parkway. It was dark and there was no other traffic, nobody around to help.

I eventually worked my car out of the rut and got myself home. Yes, I was sufficiently humiliated by the stupidity of my impetuousness (but equally proud of my winter driving skills).

The city was shut down for a few days. Nobody would get in their cars. Most of the neighborhood denizens were smug about being such hearty Nordic specimens and eager to hunker down and wait out the winter just like that. There was talk that the bar would run out of booze because the vendors would be unable to reach us to make deliveries. Since I lived so close, some of the Sweeney's gang spent the next couple nights on my floor.

But within days the possibility of being snowed in lost its charm. Eventually, the streets were cleared, life returned to normal, cars returned to the roads, and my ad-hoc roommates stopped showing up.

This morning, Mark Seeley, U of Mn climatologist and regular weather guru on MPR, had this to report:

"For many Minnesotans the most memorable Halloween was that of 1991 when a blizzard started and began to paralyze the state well into the first two days of November. At least 30 communities reported a snowfall of 20 inches or more from this storm, including a record 28.4 inches in the Twin Cities, and 36.9 inches at Duluth. A 180-mile stretch of Interstate 90 was closed as winds up to 60 mph produced snow drifts of 10 feet or higher. Snowfall intensity at times was equivalent to 2 inches per hour during the storm."

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