x
Breaking News
More () »

Why do Minnesotans remember the Halloween Blizzard of 1991 so vividly? Memory expert weighs in

"It's like a perfect storm for memory. Every factor that creates a strong memory was present," St. Thomas psychology professor Greg Robinson-Riegler said.

MINNEAPOLIS — Here in Minnesota, we love to talk about the weather.

Thirty years ago this week was possibly the most infamous weather story of them all: the Halloween blizzard of 1991.

But why, after all these years, are people still talking about it?

To find out why, KARE 11 sat down with Greg Robinson-Riegler, a psychology professor at the University of St. Thomas.

He specializes in memories — why we create them and why some memories are stronger than others.

GORDON SEVERSON (KARE 11):  Do you remember the Halloween blizzard of 1991?

ROBINSON-RIEGLER: Very vividly. I remember walking in it and just being absolutely smacked by the fact that it was all the way up to my thighs. I had never, you know, I'm from Cincinnati, so, they get shut down by two inches. So, this was just really exhilarating.

GORDON: That was kind of like a welcome to Minnesota moment for you.

ROBINSON-RIEGLER:  It really was. It really was.

GORDON: Why does everyone remember that blizzard so vividly?

ROBINSON-RIEGLER: It's like a perfect storm for memory. Every factor that creates a strong memory was present.

It was on Halloween. Kids were trick or treating the night it was occurring. It was in October and it was so much. All of those things make it really distinctive.

And then just the retelling of the story over and over again. When you think about a memory or an event and repeat it and rehearse it, that makes it even stronger.

And also over time, it's a pleasant memory; it's emotionally positive and you tend to remember things that are emotionally positive. You tend to forget the negatives but remember the positives.

I'm sure there were a lot of people cursing about how much snow there was and digging out and driving in it, but nobody talks about that now, they just talk about, "Oh man, wasn't that something?"

GORDON: Do you feel like with how many times it has been retold, are people kind of building upon their memories? Almost like creating new ones?

ROBINSON-RIEGLER: Absolutely. Memory is a reconstructive thing. People take liberties, and if you retell something enough and kind of add a detail here and there, it might actually become part of the memory.

Another thing that I think factors in is people like to talk about the past because of the nostalgia. When times are stressful, nostalgia is a comfort, so people might be talking about it a lot more the last year or two because these have been really stressful times.

GORDON: What do you think we're going to see in the years to come with this memory as it gets passed on to more people that weren't even alive at that point?

ROBINSON-RIEGLER: I don't think it will ever go away. I think people might get tired of hearing about it. I'm sure they are tired of hearing about it.

It will be something that will always be remembered and always be brought up as history.

Special thanks to Minnesota Public Radio, our media partner, for helping us with this news story.