Before I can tell this story, I need to supply a little bit of technical background or you won't understand it. During my teenage years and before, the Twin Cities Metro area had a telephone "dating service" similar to Internet Chat Lines of today. We called it the Jam Line, and I have since discovered that some cities in other parts of the country had them too, but called them by a different term: "Beep Line." Anyway, the cause of the Jam Line was the telephone company's building of the new Electronic Switching (ESS) that we use today. In order for ESS to work correctly, it had to be built in parallel to the old mechanical switching used in the 1950's - 1970's. This created a Loop in the telephone lines allowing people to talk to each other when getting a Busy Signal. Us teens would dial the local radio station's request line, which was always busy, and get the Jam Line; where one would shout out their telephone number between the beeps of the busy signal and the guys/girls would call each other back. Now that you've got the background here's the story:


It was about 8:30 pm on April 26, 1984. A teenage girl was standing in a phone booth in the parking lot of the SuperAmerica gas station on 37th Ave. NE, in Minneapolis, MN talking on the Jam Line, when suddenly the telephone line went dead, then was followed by some clicking sounds, went dead again, and just as suddenly the Jam Line was back on. Moments later the power went out all around her, then an F-3 tornado hit the Apache Plaza Shopping Mall about a 1/2 mile away. The resulting damage would trigger the eventual bankruptcy and demolition of the mid-sized indoor mall built in 1961.

For days afterwards the local evening News casts would focus on how there were no warning sirens sounded before this tornado struck the mall. There was a lot of public outcry for a better system to activate the civil-defense warning network. It turned out that the civil-defense sirens were triggered by telephone line, and for some reason the system had failed in the 781/788/789 telephone prefix areas. The sirens worked fine in other areas of the city. The Weather Service was baffled.

The Jam Line that existed on the 781/788/789 prefix was the last ever in the Twin Cities, MN area. It was shut down in 1984, about a month after the tornado, but not before I talked to the teenage girl who was in the phone booth that stormy night. She was one of the last girls I ever talked to off of the Jam Line, and she talked about this strange story of how the tornado had momentarily knocked out the Jam Line, and how she was so close she could see a "green-glow" in the darkness traveling along the ground towards Apache Mall. To her, the NWS, and the TV News Reporters, there was no explanation for the failures that night. To me and a select few others, we knew exactly what had happened.

One of my friend’s mom’s was a NorthWestern Bell Telephone Operator. Both my friend and I were heavily into the Jam Line. We had been told by his mom that the telephone company didn’t like the Jam Line because with so many people calling into a certain prefix, it would over-load the circuits, crash the relay switching station, and block in-coming calls. The phone company would have to try and reroute traffic, but they could only do so much. That teenage girl told me the Jam Line was very busy that night and there were about 20 people screaming on the Line. She had been a bit frustrated trying to dial in because it was hard to get through. It didn’t take an Einstein to figure out what had happened, but the phone company kept it quiet. The Jam Line had overloaded the circuits and blocked the trigger signal for the warning sirens in the area.

Many residents and shoppers lives were put at risk that night because they had no warning. No one could have ever predicted that the Jam Line would have caused such a mess. These events are a true story; but the conclusions are purely speculation on my part.

Contact Metro Skywarn Help

Please contact Metro Skywarn with any questions, concerns, or suggestions regarding the Website, information presented here, or about training and education outreach.

Someone will get back to you within a few days.

Net Status Indicator

My Account

You must be a trained Metro Skywarn spotter to log in to this Website. Passwords were not transferred to this new site. Use "Forgot Login?" to reset your password. If you previously had a number for a username, try MSW#### now!

Latest Newsletter

Latest Gallery Images

 
  1. MSWInfo
  2. MSWAlert
  3. MPX
  • Fwd: Metro Skywarn Spotter Appreciation Picnic
    Metro Skywarn Spotter Appreciation Picnic Metro Skywarn is proud to announce the 4rd annual Spotter Appreciation picnic to be held on Saturday May 16th from 12pm - 3pm. We have planned Sunday May 17th as the rain date alternative. The picnic will be held at the NWS Chanhassen facilities located
  • MN Severe Storms Conference
    While the MN Severe Storms Conference (formerly the MN Skywarn Workshop) is not affiliated with Metro Skywarn, we do encourage you to attend as it's a great learning experience! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The
  • Board Meeting this Saturday
    The board of directors will be meeting this Saturday from 10am – 12pm at Maple Grove Fire Station 2, 13450 Maple Knoll Way. Everyone is welcome to attend. If you have an agenda item, please let me know. Have a good day! Theresa
  • 09/20 18:30 NET SECURED at 18:30
    Nets are secured for the evening. Thanks for the participation this late in the season!
  • 09/20 18:07 WARNING
    Severe Thunderstorm warning for Eastern Dakota and Goodhue Counties valid till 18:45
  • 09/20 17:41 UPDATE
    SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR WESTERN DAKOTA,SOUTHEASTERN HENNEPIN, NORTHEASTERN LE SUEUR, RICE AND SCOTT COUNTY UNTIL 1815
  • Special Weather Statement issued March 31 at 7:24AM CDT by NWS
    ...SCATTERED SLIPPERY SPOTS ON ROADS AND SIDEWALKS... A FEW VERY LIGHT RAIN SHOWERS MOVED THROUGH THE REGION OVERNIGHT. THIS...COMBINED WITH REFREEZING ON AREA ROADS...HAS CAUSED SOME SCATTERED SLIPPERY SPOTS ON AREA ROADS AND SIDEWALKS THIS MORNING. THE MORNING COMMUTE WILL BE A BIT SLICK IN SPOTS. PLEASE ALLOW ENOUGH TIME TO REACH YOUR DESTINATION SAFELY.
  • Special Weather Statement issued March 31 at 7:24AM CDT until March 31 at 10:00AM CDT by NWS
    ...SCATTERED SLIPPERY SPOTS ON ROADS AND SIDEWALKS... A FEW VERY LIGHT RAIN SHOWERS MOVED THROUGH THE REGION OVERNIGHT. THIS...COMBINED WITH REFREEZING ON AREA ROADS...HAS CAUSED SOME SCATTERED SLIPPERY SPOTS ON AREA ROADS AND SIDEWALKS THIS MORNING. THE MORNING COMMUTE WILL BE A BIT SLICK IN SPOTS. PLEASE ALLOW ENOUGH TIME TO REACH YOUR DESTINATION SAFELY.
  • Dense Fog Advisory issued March 31 at 7:08AM CDT until March 31 at 10:00AM CDT by NWS
    ...DENSE FOG OVER PORTIONS OF NORTHERN MINNESOTA AND NORTHWEST WISCONSIN... .RECENT RAINFALL...LIGHT WINDS AND COOLING TEMPERATURES ARE ALLOWING FOG TO DEVELOP ACROSS PORTIONS OF NORTHERN MINNESOTA AND NORTHWEST WISCONSIN. VISIBILITIES WILL BE LESS THAN A QUARTER MILE AT TIMES...AND THESE CONDITIONS WILL LAST INTO MID MORNING

metro skywarn logo small

Our website is new. Please take time to look around, view the site map, or search for information.

The location of some information has changed.