Wisconsin’s Biggest Christmas Snowstorm Ever Turned the State Into a Winter Wonderland

Wisconsin is known for its cold and snowy winters, but some storms stand out more than others. In this article, we will look at two of the most memorable snowstorms that hit Wisconsin around Christmas time, and how they affected the people and the landscape of the state.

The Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940

One of the deadliest and most destructive snowstorms in Wisconsin history occurred on November 11, 1940, also known as Armistice Day (now Veterans Day). The storm ripped through the Heartland with blinding snow as winds howled upwards of 80 miles an hour. Such ferocity piled the falling snow into 20-foot drifts. The storm slammed into Milwaukee with such cruelty that it buried parked cars and shut down the city’s streetcar system.

The storm caught many people off guard, as the morning of November 11 was mild and sunny. Many hunters, fishermen, and farmers ventured outdoors, unaware of the approaching danger. The sudden drop in temperature and the fierce winds made it impossible for them to return to safety. More than 150 people died in the storm, many of them in Wisconsin. The storm also killed thousands of livestock and wildlife, and caused millions of dollars in damage.

The Christmas Week Blizzard of 2012

Another storm that turned Wisconsin into a winter wonderland was the Christmas week blizzard of 2012. The storm began as an upper-level disturbance south of the Gulf of Alaska. It quickly moved across the ocean and by December 17 had reached the continental United States in the Pacific Northwest. As the disturbance crawled east, a trough of low pressure dipped over the Rocky Mountains growing stronger each day, ultimately intensifying into a low-pressure system. By the morning of December 19, a surface low developed over eastern Colorado, blanketing the region with a foot of snow.

The storm continued moving east and then turned northeast over Kansas, taking direct aim at Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The storm brought heavy snow, strong winds, and freezing rain to these states, creating hazardous travel conditions and widespread power outages. Wisconsin received the brunt of the storm, with some areas getting more than 20 inches of snow. The storm also set a record for the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in Wisconsin, at 28.38 inches.

The storm created a beautiful scenery for the holiday season, as the snow-covered trees and buildings sparkled in the sun. Many people enjoyed the snow by skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, and building snowmen. However, the storm also caused some problems, such as flight cancellations, road closures, and roof collapses. The storm also delayed the delivery of some Christmas gifts, as the postal service and other carriers struggled to cope with the weather.


Wisconsin’s winters can be harsh and unpredictable, but they can also be magical and enchanting. The two snowstorms we discussed are examples of how nature can transform the state into a winter wonderland, but also pose challenges and dangers to the people who live there. These storms are part of Wisconsin’s history and culture, and will be remembered for years to come.

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