The Warmest & Coldest New Years Days of Record

December 28th, 2010 at 3:33 pm by under Chad's WLFI Weather Blog

Early Lafayette/West Lafayette records on New Years Day Since 1860:

*Note……..notice the -10* on January 1, 1887.  Lafayette holds the official (early Smithsonian/NOAA pre-cursor record) state record for lowest recorded temperature 1840-1895 with -33*.  However, in Rapin Andrews diary, he states that he recorded at temperature of -34* on his farm in Allen County in January 1873.

THE COLDEST NEW YEARS DAY & DEEPEST SNOWPACK IN ALL OF RECORDED WEATHER HISTORY OF THE MIDWEST:  JANUARY 1, 1864

It appears the temperature crashed from near 38 to -5 quickly in our viewing area with the onset of heavy snow & winds gusting to 50 mph.  9-14″ accumulated area-wide, driven by 50-60 mph winds.  A total white-out was reported & drifts were reportedly as high as 10′ in open “prairie lands”.  The snow stopped after midnight New Years night, but the temperature plunged to near -16 by morning, moving very little during the day with strong winds.  By evening, readings were down to -20 to -30 degrees & leveled off for the night as the winds calmed.

Looking at weather observations, it appears an Arctic front blasted through while a “bombing” low formed on it over western Ohio.  Similar situation to the Blizzard of 1978 & Blizzard of 1918, the 1864 event appears to exhibit the same barometer readings, wind gusts & cold.

If 1978 was the “Cleveland Bomb” & 1918 was the “Toledo Bomb”, it appears December 31, 1863-January 1, 1864 was likely a “Toledo Bomb”.

The following information is from the diary of Elfreth Family, a Quaker family from Pennsylvania, who settled in Cass County, Indiana.  They kept very important records of weather events in Cass County 1812 to the 1870s.

EXTREME WEATHER CONDITIONS RECORDED THROUGHOUT THE STATE OF INDIANA

The coldest day in Cass County was probably January 1, 1864, when the mercury registered 30° below zero (Fahrenheit), with the wind blowing a gale. The previous day was warm and pleasant but a blizzard from the northwest suddenly swept down on the section, with an unprecedented fall of temperature.

Data from Rapin Andrews, who kept weather records on his farm 1839-1873 in Allen County, made notes of the blizzard on New Years Eve & extreme cold on January 1, 1864……

He reported the same high temperature as Chicago (-16°), with a low of -21°. In his weather diary he made the remark “rough day”.  On a side note, Louisville, KY dropped 67 degrees to -20°.  Lansing, MI set a record low with -23° & the high, yes high temperature at Minneapolis was -25° with a morning low of -38°.

January 1, 1864 remains, by far, the most brutal New Year’s Day in any early or modern weather record data set in the Midwest all the way back to 1790.

Excerpt from History of Wayne County, Indiana:

TEMPERATURE DROPPED 88 DEGREES IN 12 HOURS

Wayne County, Indiana; January 1, 1864. Wayne County newspapers reported the following news on New Years Day, 1864; The temperature dropped 88 degrees in 12 hours! On the 31st day of December, 1863 at 7 o’clock in the evening the thermometer recorded a temperature of 60 degrees above zero, and at 7 o’clock on New Year’s morning it was 28 degrees below zero. The states of Indiana, Ohio and Illinois were all effected by this abnormal weather.

THE WARMEST NEW YEARS DAY IN ALL OF RECORDED WEATHER HISTORY OF THE MIDWEST:  January 1, 1876

The warmest New Year’s Day on record occurred in 1876.  Temperatures rose 68-73 degrees after morning rain & t’storms.  A squall line of strong to severe storm blew up in the afternoon in Illinois, causing widespread, heavy damage.  Given the degree of damage in some of the reports, if appears several corridors of damaging winds of +75 mph with some localized microbursts of 100 mph occurred.  An F2 tornado touched down in Springfield, Illinois.

References of hail, wind & thunder/lightning are made in eastern Illinois, but very few references in Indiana.  The only local one I could find was of “hurricane” & “storm gale” in the Cass County record.  It is likely there was some damage, but it may have been in the most rural areas.  Also, it is possible that one main bow of extreme severe weather may have just by-passed areas to our northwest.  This similar situation occurred in a November 2010 severe weather outbreak were there was heavy damage in northern & central Illinois & less here.

I have the high temperatures for January 1, but most of the area was around 70 on December 31, 1875.  For example, Lansing, Michigan hit 70 degrees on December 31 & Lafayette was up around 70 degrees.

This is an excerpt from the Elfreth diary in Cass County:
The warmest winter was probably that of 1875-76.  New Year’s day, 1876, the mercury registered 72°; the sun shone brightly, the grass was green, and it had more the appearance of a June day than New Years.  It rained nearly every other day during January but February was warm, dry and dusty; spring birds, robins, bluebirds, etc., made their appearance and farmers were breaking their corn ground.
In a letter written by Rutherford B. Hayes, he makes reference to the very warm weather in central Ohio:
  January 1, 1876. -- Yesterday and today the warmest winter

days remembered in this climate. Seventy degrees in the shade!

Sun bright and clear and spring-like. . . . I go to Colum-

bus to assume the governor's office soon; leave here the fourth.
This data from the National Weather Service at Lincoln, Illinois:
1/1/1876
A tornado briefly touched down in Springfield, tearing the roof off a factory and damaging several homes. The iron girders of a steel mill were reportedly bent in half by the F2 strength tornado.
This information is from Illinois & southern Wisconsin newspapers articles from the time detailing the January 1, 1876 severe weather:

Chicago, Illinois:

Church Spires Blown Into the Street, Sidewalks Uptorn, and Roofs Uplifted.

The Telegraph Wires Seriously damaged Throughout the Country.

A Series of Disasters Sustained in the City from the Effects of the Windstorm.

In The City.
……………..In fact, all the bunting which had floated in the spring-like zephyrs of the morning was wrecked and torn to shreds long before midnight. The Centennial of the flag was rudely celebrated before 7 o’clock, at which time the fury of the elements began to be exhibited.

The old year passed out in a stream of mud and a stream of mist. Bootblacks were busy during the early part of the day, and the aggregate amount of youthful profanity expended in restoring blackness and brilliancy to the boots of the multitude was largely in excess of the average. Real estate, too, was livelier than usual, tons of it being removed by the brigade here alluded to. The morning broke beautiful. At 6 o’clock the rain ceased, and as the Catholic churches began to fill the mist was dissipated, and a soft warm spring morning resulted. Later on the fashionables began to throng the thoroughfares, and at midday the rare spectacle of New Year’s callers carrying their overcoats on their arms, or dispensing entirely with this superfluous raiment was exhibited. Stranger yet was the sight of receptions with open windows. The sky clouded over during the afternoon, and at nearly 4 o’clock rain fell heavily, dispersing the crowds and filling the street cars. The ceremony of dining on New Year’s Day does not amount to much, but those who strolled out for an appetizing walk before dinner hour returned home moistened from head to foot. Shortly after 6 the wind arose, and in a few minutes reduced all bunting then flying into lint and raveling. Ulsters offered a broadside of resistance to the gale, and the wearers of the most rational garment” had a hard time facing it. The great and good Klokke and his brethren of the hat trade gloat over the impetus given to it by the gale; beavers, felts, and even fur caps being converted into revolving parachutes or rendered amphibious by too close a relation with the mud. Ladies congratulated themselves on the pull-back which had reduced the amount of sail usually carried, and put them nearer to the condition of a ship scudding under bare poles. The suggestion here thrown out applies rather more literally to some of the unfortunates whose garments were not as tightly pinned back as fashion decreed.

The effect on telegraph wires was very disastrous………the receipt of telegraphic news from East and South ceased, and an hour later there was scarcely a wire standing over a great area of country. From all indication the storm extended over all the continent. The fire-alarm telegraph wires snapped like thread. With a hurricane blowing, it became of paramount importance to keep up communication between the central office and the fire-alarm boxes. Fortunately the city was pretty thoroughly saturated, but had a fire been allowed to gain headway anywhere, only one result could have followed, namely; the obliteration of the city north of the point at which it started. The repairers were kept busy mending the wires every time they broke. In a short time, however, they found a two-days job before them. Fortunately no fires occurred during the prevalence of the gale.

There were numerous accidents.  To record, some of them of a serious nature:………a four story brick building, Nos. 319 and 321 South Canal Street, in the process of erection, was blown down. It was built by Ryan & Hagerman, contractors, at a cost of $7,000. It was of the balloon order of architecture and its destruction is not altogether to be deplored.

A church spire gone………the spire of the German Lutheran Church, corner of Wentworth avenue and Twenty-Fifth Street, was blown down. It fell heavily upon the house adjoining-that pf Mrs. Bridges-which was occupied by her as a dry goods store and dwelling house. By a providential circumstance the family were in the kitchen, otherwise there would have been at least one fatal accident to record. As it was, the heavy spire fell through the roof, demolishing everything in the rooms on the top floor.

Swinging Signs…………One thing was made evident, and that was the fatal facility with which the heavy wire signs hung over the most crowded thorough fares can be transformed into engines of destruction. That they did not descend upon dozens of vehicles, is due to the hour of the day at which they came down, and to the fact that it was a holiday. Why every person in the city should be subjected to the torture of iron weighing a ton or two-and nobody knows how heavy these wire signs are till he feels or sees them come down-suspended over every street, what accident insurance company ought to remain neutral? One of these modern monstrosities came near depriving the traveler of a most estimable host, in the person of Mr. John B. Drake, of the Grand Pacific. Mr. Drake was driving down Wabash Avenue, when the wire abomination of Giles Bros. came down heavily a few feet in front of his horses. Before he could stop the carriage, the woven wire netting was thrown aside to catch somebody else.

Hotel Disasters.

The Grand Pacific itself suffered somewhat. A gentle zephyr carried the windows of the gentleman’s parlor into the room, and the occupant suddenly remembered they had business outside. The windows of the Turkish bath rooms were also blown in.  The skylight of the Palmer House rotunda was smashed and a hail storm of glass came rattling down, to the dismay of several persons in the vicinity of the place.

Miscellaneous Mishaps.

The great man-trap sign of Charles P. Kellogg & Co., over Field & Leiter’s building on Madison Street, came down with force, but fortunately killed nobody.  Chapin & Gorea’s Monroe street establishment lost an enormous plate-glass window, valued at $150.  Mr. Herrick, a West Sider, in a buggy, was thrown out of his vehicle, which was upset by the gale.  The wire man-trap of Solomon Dingee, auctioneer, was blown down, but failed to kill for reasons given above. You cannot always depend upon these death dealers, but they are dead sure in the long run.  The sign of Messrs. Becker & Kopsell, a huge trunk at Nos. 295 and 297 South Clark Street, was blown down, and nearly demolished a little colored boy names Joseph Butler. As it was, the child’s eye was badly cut.  A galvanized iron cornice on the brick building No. 118 Archer Avenue was blown down.  The bridge-tender at Adams Street Bridge had neglected to lock it, and it was blown open.  A fine $150 pane of plate glass in Brunswick’s, No. 44 Dearborn Street was demolished.  The south windows of the Fourth Presbyterian Church were smashed.  The cornice on the row of marble front houses near the corner of West Van Buren and Paulina streets was blown into the middle of the street.

A shed in the rear of a house at the corner of Western Avenue and Harrison Street was demolished by the falling of the roof of the King School.  Several hundred feet of sidewalk were destroyed. About 200 feet at the corner of Jefferson and West Van Buren streets went so to speak, by the board.  The sidewalk on Jefferson Street, near Lake, was similarly disposed of.  About sixty feet of sidewalk on South Clark Street was removed where it would do no good-to the other side of the street.  A heavy twenty-foot sidewalk, 100 feet long, was carried from were it belonged, on the south side of Monroe street, from Dearborn to the American Express Company’s building.  One or two of the brick houses in the course of erection on Fulton Street, just east of Central Park, were blown to the ground.

At Turner Junction, the wind-mill used to elevate water was destroyed by the storm………a lady living on the South Side perceived something crawling up the front door step. It looked like a big lump of mud, but it proved after all to be the head of the family. He had been out making calls, and he said he hadn’t drank a drop all day. The gale did it. The gale blew his hat off, and the rest followed as a matter of course. That man told his wife that such was the violence of the storm, he had rolled for a block and a half in the gutters before he could regain his feet. Oh, it was a rough night.

While the storm was blowing things around generally on Saturday, the wind got under a sidewalk on Ontario Street, corner of Franklin Street, and blew some fifty feet of it clear across the street. Officer John K. Saller, who had just been appointed on the police force, and who was taking his first official walk, was striding gallantly along the sidewalk as well as the wind would let him at the time the sidewalk took wings. When the officer had time to pick himself up he discovered that the first joint of the second toe of one of his feet was broken and that the second toe of the other foot was mashed to a jelly………..the chimney of Bartholomew & Leicht’s malt house, on the corner of Sedgewick and Sophia streets, was blown down by the wind and broke through the roof and the floor of the top story, finding a resting place in a stock of malt stored beneath. The chimney in its downward course carried away some twenty-five feet of the roof. The damage is reported to be about $500.

While the storm was at its highest, the steeple of Gundruma’s church on the North side was laid low. The steeple is considerably damaged, but no one was near it at the time of the accident, and consequently nobody was hurt.  A large number of gas lamps on the North Side, though well used to gas, couldn’t stand the wind, and went down during the storm.  One of the oldest brick houses in the city, located on the corner of West Van Buren and Sangamon streets, was blown down. This building, 140×90 feet, had its iron roof completely torn off. The anchorage in the walls was torn out and portions of the wall thrown down. The roof of the new machine shop was also destroyed. The loss of the roof falls on the Keystone Roofing Company, of Pittsburg. William Einwalter, of Chicago, superintending the work, was badly injured. His leg was broken in two places and his back hurt. The loss to the roofing company is about $5,000, and to the rolling mill company $1,000. The other damage about the city is not severe.

Special Telegram to the Inter-Ocean.
Mendota, Ill., Jan. 2.-The severest storm we have had for several years raged here last evening with terrible fury for about six hours, blowing down chimneys, injuring roofs, smashing trees and leveling fences to a very large extent. Several minor accidents to persons are reported, but nothing serious.

Special Telegram to the Inter-Ocean.
Aurora, Ill., Jan. 2.-We were visited last night by the hardest wind storm known for years. The zinc cornice of the Opera House was blown in. One of the Pullman car sheds in the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy yard was moved bodily from its foundation several feet. About two-thirds of the roof of the Fox River Railroad bridge was blown off, and the telegraph lines were generally parted.

Special Telegram to the Inter-Ocean.
LaSalle, Ill., Jan. 2.-This vicinity yesterday was deluged with rain, and the generally disagreeable weather weeks past was fittingly climaxed last night by a terrific wind storm which carried everything loosely fastened before it. Fences were destroyed, trees blown down, brick chimneys demolished, and signs, shutters, etc., sent flying from their supports. Very little rain accompanied the storm, which lasted for several hours.

Special Telegram to the Inter-Ocean.
Jacksonville, Ill., Jan. 2.-A terrible storm passed over this city last evening, doing considerable damage.

Special Telegram to the Inter-Ocean.
Springfield, Ill., Jan. 2.-The gale which struck this city on Saturday assumed almost the proportions of a tornado. Several blocks in this city have more or less chimneys blown down, tin roofs rolled up, and other damage. The beautiful glass grapery and greenhouse of the late Governor Matteson’s estate was blown down and entirely destroyed. Loss, $2,000. The greatest destruction was at the new steel-rail tolling mill.

The Inter Ocean, Chicago, IL 3 Jan 1876

Milwaukee, Wis., Jan. 2. – The storm of last night caused considerable damage. Lumber piles in Menomonee Valley were blown down, and it is estimated that the damage in that section will be about $2,000. An unfinished building on the corner of loyd and Fourteenth streets was swept off its foundation and wrecked. Gurnee’s wheelbarrow works on Sycamore street were damaged to the extent of $11,000, by the fall of a brick stack. The roof of part of Dutcher, Vose & Adams’ stoveworks on Erie street caved in and injured the watchman. The roofing and slating of elevators “B” and “T” were blown off in large sections. Vessels were unmoored, and other damage was done to an aggregate of from $5,000 to $8,000.

The Inter-Ocean, Chicago, IL, 3 Jan 1876

3 Responses to “The Warmest & Coldest New Years Days of Record”

  1. ~Sher~ says:

    ~Always enjoy your weather “facts & history”..keep ‘em coming :) ~

  2. Teri says:

    I love weather history! Thank you for all the hard work you put into this Chad, is very interesting!

  3. Ron says:

    Very interesting Chad. Seems they had a language all there own when telling these facts. No one talks like that anymore. Too bad.

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