The Biggest Snowstorm to Ever Hit Wisconsin in the Month of October

Written by Marisa Higgins
Updated: October 9, 2023
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Wisconsin has seen its fair share of snowstorms. Due to its location off the Great Lakes, this state is no stranger to snow. Longtime residents of the state have seen massive blizzards, record-breaking snowfall, and occasionally early flakes. The biggest snowstorm to ever hit Wisconsin in the month of October arrived on October 31, 1991. During this time, Wisconsin celebrated the Spooky Season with a Halloween blizzard. 

winter landscape

In 1991, Wisconsin endured a Halloween blizzard.


Octobers in Wisconsin

Typically, October is the heart of fall in Wisconsin. The colors are vibrant, and the temperatures are mild. Generally, average high temperatures are 57°F to 62°F. The nights might dip into the 30s, with the average low temperature ranging from 32°F to 45°F.

In October, the weather is predictably dry with an average rainfall of approximately 3 inches. The mid-Autumn season is perfect for tourists, as midday temperatures are often comfortable enough for a walk or bike ride.

1991 Halloween Blizzard

American town architecture and city life background.

After winter storms, Madison, Wisconsin’s capitol, features a snowy street in front of the state’s capitol.

©UWMadison/iStock via Getty Images

Snow during the month of October in Wisconsin is not unheard of. It has ranged from half an inch to 6 inches. Before 1991, the most snow the state had seen on Halloween was in 1926, when approximately half an inch of snow fell across parts of the state. However, that half an inch was nothing compared to the amount of snow Wisconsin saw in 1991. 

A massive low-pressure system moved up from Texas. Moisture from the Gulf was funneled into impressively terrifying amounts of snow across Wisconsin and other states in the Upper Midwest. 

The heavy snow began falling across Northwest Wisconsin and parts of Central Minnesota during the afternoon of October 31. It is thought that approximately 2 inches of snow accumulating each hour. The snow continued to fall until November 3rd. 

The Detriment of Wisconsin’s October Snow

Some parts of Wisconsin saw upwards of 30 inches, while others saw as little as 1 inch or less. Wind speeds were 30 to 40 mph. These gusts, coupled with the amount of snow and ice, contributed to thousands of homes losing power. 

In some areas, high winds caused power lines to fall across roadways, preventing people from passing. The storm’s utility damage alone was estimated to have been around $63 million.

Twenty deaths were attributed to the storm, and the total economic losses surmounted $11 million. By November 4th, many cities were up and running again. However, the state’s long-time residents will always remember the Halloween Blizzard.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © UWMadison/iStock via Getty Images

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About the Author

Dr. Marisa Higgins is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on travel, places to visit, and fun activities. Marisa holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and French, a Master of Arts in English, and a Ph.D. in English, and she's spent the past decade teaching, writing, and researching. She lives in Knoxville, TN with her husband, and their Beagle-Chihuahua, Rumi, and cat, Rory.

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