Discover the Biggest Snowstorm to Ever Hit Minnesota During the Month of March

Written by Gray Chapman
Published: March 6, 2023
© Plume Photography/
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When people think of Minnesota, they often associate it with cold and snowy winters. The state typically receives an average of 30 to 75 inches of snow per year, depending on the region. Although the snow may challenge some visitors, it’s a regular part of life for Minnesotans. Even when the snow is deep enough to reach our knees, we embrace it and find ways to enjoy it.

However, imagine waking up to find your world blanketed in snow overnight. You step outside, and the snow is waist-deep, with more falling fast. This was the reality for many Minnesotans on March 3rd and 4th, 1985, when a historic snowstorm hit the state. 

The storm was so severe that it broke records for snowfall and caused chaos on the roads, leaving countless people stranded and unable to travel. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what happened during the biggest snowstorm ever to hit Minnesota in the month of March and how it affected the lives of those who experienced it firsthand.

What is the Typical Weather for the State of Minnesota During March?

March in Minnesota is known for its unpredictable and varying weather patterns. In the span of a few days, the temperature and precipitation can change significantly. It’s not uncommon for snow, rain, and thunderstorms to occur within the same week.

This variability is due to the state’s location and exposure to different weather systems from the north and south. In fact, the temperatures can differ throughout the state, with colder temperatures typically in the northern regions and milder in the south. On average, the high temperatures in March can range from the mid-20s to the mid-40s Fahrenheit, and the low temperatures can be as low as the single digits or as high as the mid-20s Fahrenheit.  That is why it is common to experience snowfall during this month, with the southern areas averaging around 6 inches and the northern areas averaging up to 20 inches of snow.

Despite the challenges in predicting the weather during this month, March is still an exciting time for many Minnesotans as it signals the start of the transition from winter to spring. People look forward to the longer days and warmer temperatures that lie ahead.

What was the Biggest Snowstorm to Ever Hit Minnesota During the Month of March?

On a winter day in March of 1985, a heavy blizzard swept across the northern counties of Minnesota, dropping an incredible amount of snow ranging from 6 to 24 inches. The city of Duluth was particularly hard hit by this storm, with winds gusting up to 90 mph and snowdrifts reaching as high as 25 feet. 

The record-breaking nature of this storm is a testament to the raw power of nature and the unpredictability of the weather. Despite advances in meteorological technology, there is still much to learn about the complex mechanisms that drive weather patterns and how to better prepare for their potential impacts. But, for now, the legacy of the biggest March snowstorm in Minnesota history is a powerful reminder of nature’s awesome and sometimes humbling force.

Lake Superior in Minnesota
In March of 1985, a heavy blizzard swept across the northern counties of Minnesota, dropping an incredible amount of snow ranging from 6 to 24 inches.

©Mark Herreid/

How Did the Snowstorm Affect Residents Living in the State?

The biggest snowstorm hitting Minnesota in March posed numerous challenges to its residents. These are some of them.

Closed Schools and Businesses

The blizzard’s effects were so severe that businesses and schools in some areas remained closed for 2-3 days. For those who lived near Lake Superior, the Duluth Blizzard of 1985 was an unforgettable experience that they would remember for a long time.

In addition to the disruption of learning, there was also an emotional strain put on students due to the extreme amount of snowfall. Many young children felt scared and overwhelmed by the sudden change in weather conditions, which could have led to feelings of restlessness and anxiety. 

For those businesses that remained open despite the adverse conditions, they faced a number of unique challenges. Commutes would often take longer than usual due to slippery driving conditions and hazardous weather. 

Moreover, employees may have felt more anxiety about traveling to work during such a significant storm, which took an emotional toll on them. Businesses also had to navigate around other issues, such as a lack of staff due to transportation delays or concerns about how customers would be affected due to the storm. 

Poor Road Conditions

The snowstorm also severely affected transportation throughout the state. Highways and interstates were shut down for days, and airports canceled flights due to the hazardous weather. Public transportation was also impacted, with buses and trains halted in many areas due to the heavy snow.

Many cars were stuck on highways or roads, preventing them from driving anywhere safely. Additionally, due to power outages caused by heavy snow falling on trees and electricity lines, thousands of homes were without heat or electricity for days. This lack of access to basic amenities put a strain on many families who had to resort to alternative methods such as fireplaces and camping stoves. 

The storm severely impacted businesses that relied heavily on transportation and delivery services due to impeded travel conditions. As a result, these companies lost money due to canceled orders and shipments which were delayed by the snow. Additionally, the storm significantly affected farmers in rural areas as they had to contend with difficult road conditions and transportation obstacles to market their products. 

Loss of Livestock

Livestock owners also faced a greater risk of losing their livestock due to heavy snowfall burying feed sources and pastures. People who owned livestock couldn’t get to the hay or grain their animals needed to eat or transport them long distances if they wanted to sell them or take them elsewhere. 

This storm caused a lot of stress and sadness for many people in rural areas who lost some or all of their animals without being able to do anything about it. All in all, this storm posed numerous challenges to Minnesota residents and businesses alike. 

Flight Cancellations

Due to the severity of the snowstorm in 1985, many airports across Minnesota were forced to cancel flights. The icy roads and unsafe driving conditions caused by the heavy snowfall impacted even those that worked for airlines, making it difficult for staff to reach their destinations on time. 

Furthermore, airport runways were covered with thick snow, making it impossible for planes to take off or land safely. As a result of these cancellations, passengers faced significant disruption in their travel plans and financial losses due to expensive airline tickets being wasted. Additionally, some people had no other option but to find alternative means of transportation, such as trains and buses, to reach their destination.

To ensure safety and efficiency, airlines also took extra precautions, such as sending out earlier warnings about possible cancellations and advising travelers not to proceed with their journey until they received confirmation from the airline. 

They also began implementing additional measures like de-icing airplanes prior to takeoff and setting up guidelines regarding visibility on runways during inclement weather conditions. Furthermore, airlines began offering incentives such as refunding a portion of ticket costs or providing vouchers for future flights to alleviate customer dissatisfaction caused by the snowstorm’s flight cancellations. 

Despite the challenges brought on by the snowstorm, Minnesotans showed their true colors by coming together to help each other. Neighbors pitched in to shovel driveways and sidewalks, and emergency services worked around the clock to clear snow from roads and restore normalcy to affected areas. While the snowstorm was a challenging experience for everyone involved, it highlighted the resilience and strength of the people of Minnesota.

Piles of snow bury a truck and home in a North American suburb.
The biggest snowstorm hitting Minnesota in March posed numerous challenges to its residents.


How Do Late-Season Snow Storms Impact Wildlife in the Area?

Late-season snow storms can have a severe impact on Minnesota’s wildlife. The extreme cold, limited food sources, and deep snow can put many species at risk. Smaller animals, such as voles and deer mice, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of winter weather. 

Additionally, birds that rely on seeds and insects to survive may struggle to find food, leading to starvation and other health issues. Therefore, it’s essential to consider the impact of these weather events on local wildlife and take necessary measures to protect and support them during challenging conditions.

arrivesMoreover, when spring begins to arrive late due to excess snowfall, it can lead to delayed breeding within specific bird populations, further reducing their chances of survival. Wildlife conservation organizations in Minnesota often work diligently to help protect these animals during difficult winter months by providing supplemental food sources such as hay and grains. 

They also provide temporary shelters made of straw bales where animals can find refuge from the cold. Additionally, organizations such as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources research the effects of winter storms on local wildlife to understand better how best to protect them.  

Where Do Animals Go in the Midst of a Snow Storm? 

When a snowstorm hits, animals must find ways to survive the cold weather and lack of food. This means looking for shelter or finding alternative food sources for some animals. But for many species, the only option is to hunker down and wait out the storm in whatever environment they’re already living in. This can be dangerous for small mammals like voles and deer mice, who are particularly vulnerable to cold temperatures and lack of sustenance due to their size. It’s also difficult for birds that rely on seeds or insects as part of their diet because these items may not be available during a winter storm.

Wildlife conservation organizations work hard to help protect these animals by providing supplemental food sources such as hay and grains and temporary shelters made from straw bales where they can seek refuge from harsh conditions. In addition, by understanding how different animal species react when faced with extreme weather events like snowstorms, we can better know how best to protect them during trying times.


Squirrels are good at surviving snowstorms. They have lots of fur to keep them warm, so they stay in their nests and group up together. The deep snow can make it hard for them to find food, so they store nuts and other things before the storm comes.


Rabbits usually take shelter in tunnels or other underground burrows during a snowstorm. They are able to keep warm by huddling together and conserving body heat, as well as insulating their nests with fur and leaves. Rabbits will also eat whatever food they can find during the storm, including leftover seeds and vegetation that is still available on the ground. 


Birds stay close to the ground during snowstorms to find food. They use artificial shelters and trees for protection and look for alternative food sources like insects and small animals. This helps them survive until spring arrives late due to all the extra snow. 


Deers look for shelter in woodlands during snowstorms to keep warm. It’s hard for them to find food due to the deep snow, so they rely on whatever vegetation is still available or take advantage of hay and grain stored by wildlife conservation organizations. This helps them survive until spring returns with warmer temperatures. 


Fish typically stay in deep waters during a snowstorm, as this is the safest place for them to hide from predators. Although they may have difficulty finding food due to the cold weather, some fish can adapt by lowering their metabolic rates and entering into a state of hibernation. This allows them to survive prolonged periods with little food until the storm has passed. Additionally, fish may also take advantage of artificial structures near their habitats, such as docks and piers, where they can find refuge from freezing temperatures.

Pair of cardinals perching on a tree branch in the snow
Birds stay close to the ground during snowstorms to find food, like this pair of cardinals perching on a tree branch in the snow.

© Wang

Bottom Line

The snowstorm that hit Minnesota on the 3rd of March 1985 was one for the record books, without a doubt. You’ve probably seen your fair share of winter storms, but this was a doozy. On this day, the snow kept coming down for days, and the wind was fierce.

What was impressive, however, was how everyone pulled together to help each other out. Despite the challenging conditions, residents shoveled driveways and sidewalks for their neighbors in the harsh weather. Emergency crews worked around the clock to keep the roads clear and people safe. This is undoubtedly the biggest snowstorm to remain in Minnesota’s history books.

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Heavy snow in Minnesota
Minnesota is known for heavy snows in winter.
© Plume Photography/

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