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Halloween Blizzard not easy to forget

Twenty years ago, there was close to two feet of snow on the ground, which was understandable since it had snowed for close to three consecutive days.

Ah, the good, old Halloween Blizzard.

It started on Oct. 30 in Iowa where it began to snow. Overnight, the storm moved north and the snow began to fall as ice. This area had about two to three inches of ice underneath the snow that was still to come.

And come it did.

The snow fell at a rate of one to two inches per hour and then the wind started to howl. Thirty, 40, 50 miles per hour. Gusts reached as high as 60.

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Power poles snapped and trees came down. Thousands were stranded. Eleven counties were declared disaster areas.

Everything — and I mean everything — came to a screeching halt.

Really, you just wanted to crawl in a hole and not come out until spring. Wake me when it's over.

In the world of high school sports, anything played outside was affected, obviously. Try running cross country or kicking an extra point in a blizzard.

Luckily, the boys and girls state soccer championships were completed in the nick of time — on Halloween night — at the Metrodome.

The regular season for high school football had been completed but a few southeastern Minnesota teams were still alive in the state playoffs, which were scheduled to continue on Friday, Nov. 1.

Likewise for cross country. Rochester Mayo, for one, was getting ready to compete in the state meet, which was scheduled to be run on Saturday at the University of Minnesota's Les Bolstad golf Course in St. Paul.

Well, good luck. The course was covered with 28.5 inches of snow.

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"Everyone was in the locker room on that Friday morning, getting ready to drive up to the meet,'' said John Trolander, the Mayo coach at the time. "We had hotel reservations but at the last minute received a call saying the meet had been postponed.

"That was very good news, actually, because I really didn't know how we were ever going to make it up there.''

The meet was postponed a week and moved to the Arrowhead Resort Golf Course in Alexandria and run on Nov. 9.

"That area received only about five or six inches of snow, a dusting in comparison,'' said Trolander, "and they were able to use some street sweepers to plow a path around the course.

"It was decent running, not as nice as the course in St. Paul, but all things considered, it turned out to be a great day.''

Nobody was able to play football, either. Section final games were scheduled for that Friday night and, well, that wasn't going to happen.

"Kasson looked like a war zone with branches piled up along the streets,'' said Kasson-Mantorville coach Ivan Kroulik, whose KoMets were in the finals against Waterville-Elysian-Morristown.

They moved that game to the following Wednesday at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls — a two-hour drive — under the friendly confines of the UNI Dome.

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"We had to practice in the gym,'' said Kroulik, who said that storm was the worst he's seen by far in his more than 20 years as coach. "I mean, that's all you could do.''

The Lourdes at St. Charles and Chatfield at Rushford-Peterson section games were also moved to the UNI Dome, but played on Sunday afternoon. That was an exception to the Minnesota State High School League rule which bans high school play on Sundays.

"I talked to Dave Gisvold at Rushford-Peterson (the R-P athletic director and also section director) the night before our game and he assured me that we were going to play,'' said Chatfield coach Ken Jacobson. "I think he said, ‘they never postpone football games.' ''

Well, they did.

"The ice was the main problem,'' said Jacobson. "It was pretty wicked. And then it got so cold. That's the worst I've ever seen.''

Both St. Charles and Chatfield won their UNI games, and moved on to the Metrodome for the state quarterfinals.

Several section finals were played at the Metrodome, which also served as host to all the state quarterfinal and semifinal games along with Prep Bowl X.

In all, 27 of the early round games were squeezed into the Dome, resulting in some early morning wakeups. In a Class A quarterfinal, for example, St. Charles played Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop at 9 a.m. on a Thursday.

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And the Prep Bowl? This is another good story. Five championship games were scheduled for the Metrodome on Nov. 29 and according to a report by the Minnesota State High School League, "snow pummeled the Twin Cities area the day of the Prep Bowl, forcing Metrodome workers to scale the inflated roof and remove the heavy, wet snow which threatened to collapse the structure.''

Collapse the Metrodome roof you say?

Nah, that could never happen, right?

Well, maybe.

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