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PROJECT BLIZZARD: Do you remember the Halloween storm of ’91?

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Ask any Minnesotan, Halloween 1991, is a day that lives in Midwestern infamy.

"Nobody expected to have the storm we had," RPU Lineworker and Cable Locater Dan Helmbrecht remembered. Helmbrecht was in his fifth year of his career at the time. The storm still stands out in his mind today.

"Everything you looked at or touched had ice on it," Helmbrecht's collegue and Lead Lineworker Tom St. Marie echoed.

Friday, Oct. 31, 1991 started off innocently enough, but it soon proved to be one of the scariest Halloweens the state has seen. It started raining, then it got cold and rain turned into snow. By the end of the weekend, thousands were without power. Trees were downed, roads were closed and Freeborn and Mower Counties were declared disaster areas.

"I don't know how you can be prepared for the magnitude of damage," the Freeborn County Sheriff told KTTC in 1991.

It's been nearly 30 years since Mother Nature wreaked havoc across the state, yet, the memories are easy to recall. Especially for those working in it.

"A lot of us worked two, three, four days in a row...," Helmbrecht said. "Everything had ice on it. You had to get the ice off to work on anything. The ice was actually like a quarter inch thick on a lot of stuff."

Helmbrecht, along with his collogues who worked to bring power back to the thousands without it that Halloween night, remember the ice the most -- that, and the snapping of trees.

"It was very frightening," a woman told KTTC in 1991. "It was very eerie to hear the crackling of the branches falling."

RPU Lead Utility Technician Jeff Kranz remembers that, too.

"So, you just freeze, kinda hunch your shoulders down and wait for things to stop making noise," Kranz said. "You know then, that you're in a bad place."

Those cracking trees would often fall on more power lines, making for a harder and longer clean up for Kranz and his crew. He says it was never ending that night.

"You'd hear just a horrible crack in the woods and you would just freeze and wait to figure out whether or not the tree limb had fallen in front of you, behind you or top of you," he said. "And it just was all day the next day one limb after another. Sometimes you'd put stuff back up and the time you get the wire up a tree fell on the same wire you were working on. It just seemed unending to me."

It took two weeks, hundreds of linemen and $2.5 million to fully restore power.

"It was difficult to climb poles," St. Marie said. "We had to knock ice off wire to try to get them to come back up. So, they weren't touching each other or touching tree branches to create outages or problems."

It made the start of winter 1991, an unforgettable one.

"When a storm comes through, the lineman show up. It doesn't matter if it's freezing rain, snow, blizzard, our guys get the trucks and they go to work," Kranz said.

Beret Leone

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