Historic October 19-20, 1989 Snowstorm

October 4th, 2012 at 5:42 pm by under Chad's WLFI Weather Blog

October 19-20, 1989 brought a historic early-season snowfall to our area.  Up to 10.5″ of heavy, wet, gloppy snow fell at Kokomo.  6.7″ fell at Lafayette with 6.0″ at the Purdue Agronomy Farm northwest of West Lafayette.  This was the most significant October snowfall event before the 30th (across central & north-central Indiana) since the historically cold October of 1869 & the great October 1805 snow (when Native Americans were “frightened on account of it” & “never seen the like” at the White River fort).  8″ fell at Fort Wayne with the 1989 event, 12″ was measured in October 1805, according to diary at the White River fort.

October 19-20, 1989 an “Inside Runner” storm brought unseasonably early & heavy snowfall to the region.  Even with very warm temperatures (Purdue Agronomy Farm was 84° on October 15…….just 3° from the record high of 87 set in 1938!), snowfall intensity was such that accumulations of up to 10.5″ occurred.  Snowfall water content topped 1.80″ in places, meaning that if this storm would have occurred in the winter with a colder ground, 18″ could have accumulated.

Gusty winds steady at 15-25 with gusts to 35 mph resulted lots of tree damage across the region due to the weight of the snow on the foliated trees.  Power outages were widespread.

Interestingly, less than a week after the snowstorm, temperatures were in the upper 70s to around 80!  For example, Delphi hit 79° on October 24 after 7.0″ snow & highs only near 33° on October 19!  After 10.5″ of snowfall, Kokomo had a high of 76° on October 24!

Purdue University Airport Observations:




7 Responses to “Historic October 19-20, 1989 Snowstorm”

  1. Tom says:

    There was a big snow in October 1869. On Friday night October 22 it started to rain but soon changed to snow in West Lafayette. At midnight on October 23 there was 1 inch of snow on the ground, but by 2am 5 inches of snow were on the ground. About 6 inches of snow was reported at West Lafayette from that storm. Fruit and shade trees were broken down from the heavy snow and it was said that about 15 thousand dollars damage was done to the trees. 3 inches of snow also fell on November 22, 1869. West Lafayette had 9 inches of snow fall before Thanksgiving that year. Five inches of snow also fell on October 26, 1862 and the morning low on Oct. 26 was 16 degrees, but it was 71 degrees on Halloween.

  2. Teri says:

    I remember the October snow storm.. Was a surprise to wake to all the heavy wet snow. Our trees suffered damage..the snow melted quickly though.

  3. Mary Anne Best says:

    Well I have told you before…I am old :-) In 1956 or 1957 there was a beautiful snowfall in Goodland, IN. It was our Halloween festival and we were on a hayride. Snow was coming down heavily, there was maybe 4-5 inches on the ground and we were singing Christmas carols :-)

    The cold front is through here, temp is down to 61* with a stiff wind from the WNW.

    MA in REM

  4. Mary Anne Best says:

    And Teri, if you and Tom were around in 1869 I would be amazed! :-)

  5. Mary Anne Best says:

    Ooops…I see the 1989 storm being mentioned now…my bad!

  6. Tom says:

    I wish I was around in 1869 because I would have liked to have seen that big October snow. That was probably the last really big October snow until 1989. Some places in Tippecanoe County reported 9 inches of snow. Mary Anne- It was not 1956 because it was too warm. It was cold enough in 1957 but West Lafayette didn’t have any snow in October of that year. Are you sure it wasn’t 1954? West Lafayette recorded 0.7 inches of snow on November 1, 1954.

    West Lafayette October Snowfall (Monthly Totals)
    1989- 6.0
    1972- trace
    1955- trace
    1937- trace
    1926- trace
    1925- 3.3 kids had their sleds out on October 30.
    1920- trace
    1917- 1.0 Coldest October in Indiana since 1895
    1916- trace
    1910- trace
    1909- trace
    1906- trace
    1905- trace

  7. Mary Anne Best says:

    And Tom it very well could have been ’54. I was in the 6th grade then so that is prob right. Date is right, too!

    MA in REM

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