35 years ago, another April 14 blizzard blasted the Twin Cities

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This photo went viral Aaron Brown

A lot is made of Minnesotans’ ability to withstand a punishing winter, but the key to resolve is the understanding that to everything there is a season.

There is a time to drink a gin and tonic on a patio, and a time to eat cereal for three days because it’s not safe to drive to the store. As long as there is a time and a place for all things, there is a confidence that the season will turn and even the harshest winters will pass.

The blizzard last weekend made a crack in that resolve.

The snow fell in clumps, then curtains, and then sideways, like white anchovies swimming in midair. Shops closed at 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 6 p.m. -- a histogram of which stores were willing to risk a few more hours of low traffic before letting their employees fight their ways home. Meanwhile, meal delivery services like Postmates and DoorDash were sending texts to their drivers. Get out there. There’s money to be made.

But in spite of the chaos, there is one lasting comfort: Minnesota winters are nothing if not consistent in their inconsistency. There is a precedent for the weekend’s storm, and it took place the exact same day 35 years ago: April 14, 1983.

The Star Tribune article from the following day sounds like a prophecy for 2018. “Thousands of motorists were stalled and many were stranded across Minnesota Thursday as major state highways were closed by the heaviest April snowstorm in the state’s history,” it read.

The Twin Cities came to a standstill. Ice tore a 20-foot gash in the roof of the Metrodome, which, like so many springtime baseball dreams, had to be deflated.

Meanwhile, citizens tried to unbury their homes, their cars, their lives. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office reported two men dying while shoveling snow. They each had a heart attack.

Nearly 22 inches of snow buried the Twin Cities, and there was no sign of it melting anytime soon. Last weekend’s blizzard beat the 1983 record by a half inch.

If anything can be comforting or sweet about a blizzard, perhaps it’s watching two blizzards on the same calendar date, 35 years apart, holding hands.

Burnsville resident Aaron Brown encapsulated that feeling with a pair of photos he posted to Twitter. In one picture, he’s standing in the driveway with his son, a happy 2-year-old named Wyatt. They’re holding a cardboard sign with the improbable date on it: April 14, 2018.

The other looks remarkably similar. It’s a photo of a man and his young son standing in a driveway, holding a sign with a date: April 14, 1983. But this time, the boy is Aaron. The man is his father.

“On Saturday my brother texted me the picture,” Aaron says. He doesn’t remember that day. Wyatt, on the other hand, played in the snow all day, pretending to shovel but mostly moving snow back into the driveway.

The picture has blown up on Twitter. Hundreds of thousands of people liked it. Not that Aaron’s parents care much about that. They’re not on Twitter. But they think it’s cool to have this new photo as a sort of echo in time: blizzard and son-of-blizzard.

Aaron doesn’t think Wyatt will remember this day either, or how much fun he had. They made one attempt to leave the house that day and decided right then that they were stuck. But that’s part of living where he lives, he says. He’s not going to get too worked up about it. When the next big snow comes, if Wyatt’s in Minnesota to see it, he probably won’t get too worked up, either.
 


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