How the Right Insurance Helped Victims after the 1991 Halloween Blizzard

And how learning from it can help you can prepare for your own worst disasters.
Christine Lacagnina Written by Christine Lacagnina
Christine Lacagnina
Written by Christine Lacagnina

Christine Lacagnina has written thousands of insurance-based articles for by authoring consumable, understandable content.

paul martin Reviewed by Paul Martin
paul martin
Reviewed by Paul Martin

Paul Martin is the Director of Education and Development for Myron Steves, one of the largest, most respected insurance wholesalers in the southern U.S.

1991 Halloween Blizzard

While you can’t always count on the weather forecast to be accurate, you can count on insurance to cover you from unforeseen disasters. When the Halloween blizzard struck Minnesota in 1991, no one was expecting the storm to be the catastrophe it was. The blizzard caused millions of dollars in damages, claimed lives, left hundreds stranded, and thousands without power.

Fortunately for victims of this extreme blizzard, insurance was there to help get their lives back on track. But insurance can also help protect you from your own worst disasters, and an independent insurance agent can get you set up with exactly the coverages you need, long before you ever need them. For starters, though, here’s a closer look at the Halloween blizzard of 1991, and all the ways insurance helped victims to recover.

What Was the Impact of the 1991 Halloween Blizzard?

Also nicknamed the “Perfect Storm,” the Halloween blizzard of 1991 struck the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan, beginning the morning of the festive holiday. While snow was in the forecast, a blizzard was not. Residents were caught off guard by the severity of the storm then, and its impact is still remembered vividly today.

Quick stats about the 1991 Halloween blizzard:

  • 22 deaths were reported
  • Some deaths were due to heart attacks while shoveling
  • 23 million people total were affected by the storm
  • In just one day, certain areas in the Twin Cities reported 31 inches of snowfall
  • Minnesota was hit hardest with snow, while Iowa was hit with mostly freezing rain and ice
  • More than 900 schools and businesses in Minnesota were closed on November 1, 1991
  • More than 100,000 residents in Minnesota and Iowa were without power
  • Wind speeds reached a reported 60 MPH
  • Snow drifts as high as 10 feet were reported
  • The storm’s damage to utilities alone totaled $63 million
  • Trick-or-treating was canceled in many cities due to severe weather
  • Several inches of ice accumulated on top of the deep snow
  • At least 20,000 people were without power
  • Hundreds of drivers were stranded overnight and took shelter in the National Guard Armory and a local mall
  • The blizzard ranked as a Category 5 on the Regional Snowfall Index, the most severe category
  • 30 cities and towns broke daily records for snowfall in Iowa, 25 in Minnesota, and 7 in Wisconsin
  • After just three days, 36.5 inches of snow was reported at the Duluth Airport, and 45 inches in the city of Superior

The Halloween blizzard of 1991 took millions of people by surprise and disrupted life for several days, but fortunately victims were able to receive much needed financial aid and other help through insurance and other relief efforts.

Who Provided Help to the Victims of the 1991 Halloween Blizzard?

Hundreds of folks were stranded overnight on October 31, 1991, due to the unexpected extreme snowfall and ice accumulation. Residents had to abandon their cars and seek shelter, many of which doing so at the National Guard Armory and a mall in Albert Lea. Red Cross volunteers also helped about 120 victims who stayed at the Austin Armory. Many folks took shelter in these locations through November 3.

The National Guard also provided relief to victims by providing generators to rural farmsteads. However, the true heroes of storm relief efforts are said to have been the hundreds of utility and electrical workers. More than 1,000 broken poles had to be cleared following the storm, and it took almost 12 days of work to get all power stations back to being fully operational.

Is Blizzard Coverage Part of Every Homeowners Policy?

Yes, which is fortunate for victims of the 1991 Halloween blizzard along with homeowners everywhere. Standard homeowners policies nationwide include provide protection for damages and liabilities associated with several covered natural disasters, including blizzards. Homeowners insurance protects against damage to your home’s structure as well as personal property stored inside the home and detached structures like sheds in the event of a blizzard.

Homeowners insurance also provides coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) in the event a blizzard forces you to leave your home temporarily while awaiting repairs. ALE coverage provides funds for hotel room stays, as well as extra gas mileage for commuting to work, meals eaten out, laundry services, and more.

If victims of the 1991 Halloween blizzard had lacked homeowners insurance, they would have been stuck paying out of pocket for damages to their home and other property. Talk with your independent insurance agent to get your home set up with all the coverage it needs against blizzards and other disasters.

How Did Property Insurance Help Victims Get Back to Their Lives?

Victims of the 1991 Halloween blizzard got much needed relief from property insurance to rebuild their homes and get back to their lives. For victims of this severe blizzard, property insurance coverage provided protection in the following ways:

  • Rebuilding homes and ending homelessness: Many victims of the 1991 Halloween blizzard were left temporarily homeless due to the disaster. Fortunately, property insurance covers the rebuilding of homes if they’re destroyed by blizzards or other covered perils. Fees for temporary housing were also provided by property insurance.
  • Replacing personal property: Halloween blizzard victims could replace, repair, and recover lost, damaged, or destroyed personal belongings such as clothing, furniture, silverware, etc. following the blizzard. Property insurance typically covers personal property up to 50% to 70% of the insured value of the structure of the home if it’s lost/damaged/destroyed by a blizzard.
  • Replacing property stored away from home: Halloween blizzard victims also used their property insurance to replace personal belongings stored off-premises, such as in storage units. Limits on off-premises stored property are sometimes 10% of the total value of personal property coverage, but additional coverage can be added.
  • Repairing/replacing greenery: Property insurance also covers trees, plants, and shrubs if they are damaged or destroyed by a blizzard. Limits typically cap at $500 per plant, but coverage amounts can be increased. Halloween blizzard victims were able to repair their gardens thanks to property insurance.

It’s helpful to see all the ways property insurance helped victims of the 1991 Halloween blizzard so that even if you never find yourself in the same situation, you can still imagine what this coverage could do for you.

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How Did Car Insurance Help Victims to Get Back to Their Lives?

Halloween blizzard victims were also able to resume life as they knew it before thanks to their auto insurance. Car insurance helped Halloween blizzard victims in the following ways:

  • Repairs/replacements: Victims whose cars were damaged by accidents in the blizzard were able to repair their vehicles thanks to their collision coverage. Totaled vehicles were able to be replaced through auto insurance as well.
  • Rental cars: Auto insurance provided victims who were awaiting repairs to their vehicles with rental cars so they could continue their routine activities.
  • Medical payments: Victims who got injured during the Halloween blizzard were  compensated by their auto insurance for medical payments while receiving treatment.

Your car insurance claims may not stem from such a devastating blizzard, but it’s good to know all the ways this important coverage can protect you from your own worst disasters.

How Did Business Insurance Help Owners Get Back to Work?

Professionals who were impacted by the 1991 Halloween blizzard also needed assistance in getting back to work. Luckily their business insurance provided crucial protection to help owners reopen their doors and resume normal operations.

Business insurance helped victims of the 1991 Halloween blizzard in the following ways:

  • Loss of income: Halloween blizzard victims were able to recover lost income while their businesses were temporarily closed thanks to their business insurance. Blizzards are a covered disaster under business insurance.
  • Property repairs: Halloween blizzard victims were also able to repair their business’s property, including office/building structures and inventory thanks to their business coverage.
  • Lost employee wages: For victims of the blizzard who had employees on payroll, their business insurance allowed them to compensate these workers while operations were temporarily suspended.

Business insurance provides tons of important protections, not just from natural disasters like the 1991 Halloween blizzard. Your independent insurance agent can help you understand all the ways this important coverage can protect you from your own catastrophes.

Are the 1991 Halloween Blizzard Victims and the States Impacted Back to Normal Now?

Life for the vast majority of victims of the 1991 Halloween blizzard was able to return to normal thanks to insurance payouts and relief efforts by organizations like the National Guard. Payouts from homeowners insurance claims allowed victims to repair or rebuild their homes and end homelessness. Car insurance allowed victims to repair or replace lost or damaged vehicles and business insurance allowed professionals to reopen their doors and get back to work.

The blizzard broke about a dozen records in total, including the largest 24-hour snowfall, the largest Halloween snowfall, the largest storm in metro history, and the largest October snowfall. Residents who were around during the storm, especially in Minnesota, cite it as a truly unforgettable event, and so did Hollywood. The film “The Perfect Storm,” released in 2000, was based on the storm that spawned the legendary 1991 Halloween blizzard.

Here’s How an Independent Insurance Agent Can Help Protect You From Your Own Disasters

You’ll hopefully never encounter a storm as monumental as the 1991 Halloween blizzard, but independent insurance agents can certainly help protect you from your own disasters. Independent insurance agents search through multiple carriers to find providers who specialize in home, auto, business, and all other forms of insurance, deliver quotes from a number of different sources, and help you walk through them all to find the best blend of coverage and cost.

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