Memories From 1940 Blizzard
Nov. 11 Armistice Day Storm Was Surprisingly Strong for Late-Fall
Thursday, November 19, 2015 10:39 AM
by: Eldrid Karnitz
My memory of this killer storm is very clear as I became a part of the history that has been told many times.
The day started with a very strong east wind which would indicate that rain was coming, but about 55 for the temperature.
My part is about our family, Dad, Mother and myself.
My dad said we had to get a new battery in the car so we went to Art Splestosters garage. It was located where the Waddell & Reed Investment office is now.
This was next to the fire station. Well things went pretty slow and by noon we could see some white snow flying, faster and faster, along with the increasing wind.
Mother had groceries from Christian’s store, this was located where Tom Meger had the jewelry store until last month.
We lived about 3 miles north east of town, and as we left town it was becoming almost impossible to see the roads. As we left State Highway 169, we turned onto the township road that is now #59, which goes down to the St. Lawrence State Park. We lived on the first place on the left, above the hill. No, we did not get to the house, but we landed on a huge drift about 3 blocks from the house, so we could not shovel the car out. By now, the wind is howling. You could not get your breath. We did leave the car and walked to the house and then we had to start the fire in the big furnace and also the kitchen stove to boil coffee, now this is all with wood that had been hauled in the basement.
Dad and I started to the barn to get the horses harnessed and get back to pull the car out. He let me steer the car while he sat on the fender driving Fanny and Daisy to pull it back to the barn yard, as this is what it was called if you lived in the country.
Living in the country had many problems that my cousins in town did not have to contend with. We had to feed the livestock and now this became a very difficult chore combined with this blizzard.
To continue, my parents had agreed to rent a room to the local school teacher, this was located along the highway about a half mile to the east. My dad said we had to bring her to the house before nightfall, this now became my job. I pulled the bob sled out of the shed and put a box bed on it, to have a place to carry people. I then got Fanny and Daisy out to hitch them to the sled so I could set out to bring the teacher back to our house.
By now, all the parents had picked up the students and the teacher had decided to stay in the building. When I knocked on the door, she was very happy to see me. I had her sit on a box that I covered with a large lap robe. This was all before snowmobile suits and to think, no cell phones. I had a large over coat and a winter cap that I could pull over my ears to prevent from freezing them.
Now as we were facing the raging wind on the return, the horses noses were freezing shut and they refused to walk. They would just stop. I tried to holler to urge them but they would just walk about 10 feet and then turn their heads back and stop.
I was forced to get off the sled and take the lines down over my body and lead them back to the house. As I crossed the field, I could follow the shocks of soybeans that now gave me some direction, to help keep my direction toward our farm.
Later as we returned to the house to eat our evening meal we called supper, this teacher, oh I did not give her name. It was Arianna Fandrey. She was from Carver. She came to me and after a big hug she kissed me to say thank you for getting her home safe. I was only 15 and she was 22. I did not appreciate her way as I did not want to be kissed by a girl. I know time changes your mind.
To continue more stories about the losses that occurred from the storm, was the big story near Belle Plaine. Two salesmen who were driving to Mankato to a meeting got near the top of the “Devine Hill” as it was called. (I guess Julia Devine lived on the bottom end of the Hwy. 169. Near the top was the farm of Albert and Violet Trost, this on the left side. The next farm was also on the left side about 3 blocks south. This was the John and Anna Ahrens farm, which is now Mark Koepp’s hog farm.)
As the story is told, one of the salesmen walked to one of the farms to use the telephone to tell the people in Mankato they had become stuck and would be late. If I have this correct, both of the farmers went to tell the men to come to the house to wait out the storm. They refused by saying they would wait for the plow so they could move on. Well, the plow never got through and they both died in the car as they had the motor running. The gas tank was empty so they must have died from the exhaust being blocked up. The temperature dropped below freezing and they were also frozen when they were found late the next day.
So many of the farmers were not ready for this severe blizzard so many turkeys, chickens and cattle were lost due to this storm. We had a large boar pig we could not find for about 5 days. Then as the sun came out, it must have warmed his body and he had lay under about 5 feet of snow and had eaten snow around his body. He was ok.
Today, what a different season and warm weather. As I look out of the window I see we have three large roses that have opened in the past 3 days. Also, my wife Wilmay has a nice row of red geraniums along the east side of the garage. I did cover them one night, but today they are still beautiful.
No, I do not have a book of records, but this is from my memory. I do not like to tell my age, but I was born February 22, 1925, one of the first babies that was delivered by the well-remembered Dr. Herman Juergens. I share this birth of John Halloran, I think he was born in October.
Do not call me with any corrections about the Storm.