11/11/11 Major Cold Front & Severe Outbreak

November 12th, 2012 at 12:18 pm by under Chad's WLFI Weather Blog

Thank you Tom for sending me this really good question & these comments about those storms:

Thanks for the great info Chad!  That was an amazing storm.  With all of the damage done in Lafayette, I wonder if a tornado didn’t touch down in Lafayette during that storm.  Heavy telephone poles were snapped off like stems down by the levee and the iron stack at the Home Hospital power plant was blown to the ground.  This storm was just the start of a long winter for people in Lafayette.

Looking at some of the damage in the viewing area, it appears there may have been multiple, very brief EF0 EF1 tornadoes embedded in several bows of widespread damaging straight-line winds.  Back then, we just didn’t do the big, detailed tornado surveys like today, so it is likely that there were tornadoes in the viewing area.  In Lafayette, the damage suggests winds up to 90, even 95 mph in at least one corridor with 60-80 mph elsewhere.  This could have been a brief tornado, but only modern ground & aerial surveys would determine this.



n the evening-night of November 11-12, 1911, a major cold front with a significant QLCS squall line of wind & tornadoes raked the Midwest.  Tornadoes of up F3 & to F4 strength roared across Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin & Indiana with widespread damaging straight-line winds.

In the U.S., is estimated 57 people died from the storm system with $250 million in damage (adjusted for inflation).

Very strong surface low & very, very strong fall surface cold front sliced through the area with widespread damaging straight-line winds & evidence of brief, “weak” (most likely rain-wrapped) tornadoes.  This kind of situation is typical of cooler-season QLCS squall line severe events.

A major, major temperature plunge occurred with the surface cold front.  Temperatures went from the 70s to 30s & snow in a very short period of time with very strong non-t’storm winds behind the front.

MISSOURI storm reports from November 11, 1911:   http://cafnrnews.com/1911weathermap/

University of Missouri Atmospheric Scientists took all historical weather maps & data & found that January 29, 2008 was similar in several ways.  However, the January 29, 2008 event was not quite as strong & the severe weather was not as far north (it wasn’t quite as warm, either).

Weather Observations on November 11-12, 1911 NOAA COOP sheets (big thanks to the National Climate Data Center Archives who have all of these on microfilm & were kind enough to give me access):

Crawfordsville:  “One tornado of major damage in the county”

Veedersburg:  Temperature dropped 75 to 13 in 12 hours.  Morning low on November 11 60 degrees.  0.87″ rain with a trace of snow.  “Major wind damage”

Purdue University-West Lafayette:  Temperature dropped 74 to 9 in 18 hours.  0.77″ rain with 1″ of snow.  “November 11 9:30p – Violent storm did great damage…wind velocity 55 mph.”

Attica:  “Wabash River” – “Gage blown down”

Delphi:   Temperature dropped 76 to 15 in 12 hours.  70 prior to storm at 9 p.m. to 15 at sunrise.  1″ of rain with 2″ of snow….”Drifts”……… “High winds & hail”(prior to changeover to snow)

Kokomo:  Temperature dropped 76 to 13 in 12 hours.  “Very windy”  0.64″ rain….”Ground blizzard”

Monticello:  Temperature dropped 76 to 10 in 12 hours.  “High wind with thunder & lightning”……”Snow covered ground”….1.03″ rain

Logansport:  Temperature dropped from 73 to 16 in 12 hours.  1.14″ rain……”Blizzard:  Sleet changes to snow.”

Rochester:  Temperature dropped from 71 to 17 in 12 hours.  1.03″ rain

Fort Wayne Journal & Gazette article of one Indiana & two Illinois tornado(es) of many:


WATERLOO, Ind., Nov. 12. –Traveling at a terrific speed a cyclone struck this place at 11:05 last evening, practically wiping out the greatest portion of the business section of town and causing at least $50,000 damage to public buildings and residences. Miraculously nobody was killed or seriously injured.

The opera house, in which is located the city hall, two public school rooms ad the fire department was completely demolished at a loss of $17,000.

The postoffice was razed and as soon as possible a fire line was established and the postmaster and his assistant secured the scattered mail which will be removed to a place of safety as soon as dawn.

Fire Whistle Blown.
As the cyclone hit the outskirts of the town the alarm was given and the fire whistle called the populace from residences and stores, and to this is attributed the fact that no lives were lost.

Freight cars on the Lake Shore railroad were turned completely over and one building, containing a family of six was lifted clear of the floor and carried into an adjoining field, leaving the occupants sitting in the living room, with no sidewalls nor roof.

Of Short Duration.
The cyclone was of short duration, passing completely over the city in less than three minutes time. As soon as partial quiet was restored it was found that the telegraph and telephone wires had been blow down and communication with outside points was impossible until a late hour this morning.

Until daylight comes it will be impossible to obtain a definite idea of the damage. The streets are filled with excited and hysterical residents many of whom are homeless. Houses that were not damaged by the terrific storm and one or two churches have been thrown open to those who are compelled to take refuge other than in their own wrecked dwellings.

The opera house, located in the very heart of the city, was completely demolished. First the roof of the building was blown into a hundred different parts, and then the entire structure collapsed. The building contained not only the city hall and fire department, but also two public school rooms. While the damage to this building alone is estimated at $17,000, the valuable records and other furnishings in the building will evidently make a greater total.

The wreckage was not accompanied by fire. Small blazes in one or two sections of the town were quickly quenched by volunteer firemen, and did no damage.

One automobile garage, owned by W H [illegible - could be Lee], was completely destroyed and the building which houses the Waterloo Press was severely damaged. Residences in all parts of the little village are more or less damaged, some of them having turned completely on one side others were lifted bodily and carried several feet. Roofs were torn off [illegible] [illegible] returned, while live stock of all sort, ran wild through the streets of the town adding more confusion to the general chaos.

At 2:30 o’clock this morning the last message received from the stricken city announces that not one person who resides in the town is missing and not one person is more then slightly injured. Those who rushed from their homes as the cyclone struck the city and saw the flying masses of wreckage and the tumbling buildings and wild rush of houses and other live stock through he streets of the village declare that a miracle has been wrought in that no lives were lost.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN 12 Nov 1911



WATERLOO, Ind., Nov. 12. – Waterloo, swept by a disastrous cyclone shortly before 12 o’clock Saturday night, awoke this morning from a veritable nightmare to find itself in the grip of a winter’s blizzard. Suffering to-day was intense, more than a score of families finding it necessary to leave wrecked homes for temporary shelter in the midst of a winter’s day, which came down upon the little city as unexpectedly as the cyclone of a few hours before.

Waterloo people went to bed Saturday night with windows open and fires out. Conditions could not have been calmer and the quiet more complete. Clouds hovered above as the night wore on, with a threatening aspect, and out of them came the cyclone from the southwest, without a moment’s warning. As the tempest, with a velocity of seventy miles an hour, came upon the town it dipped and struck the earth near the Lake Shore depot, in the southwest part of town. From there it followed the ground through the northern section of town, toppling barns, wrecking brick buildings, shattering the business section and unroofing homes where people quietly slept. At the northeast edge of town the cyclone plowed through fields and across farms, for a distance of a mile and a half, taking the roof off a farmhouse where a family of six slept, unharmed. Then the funnel-shape tempest rose into the sky, to vent its rage on the vacant air.

First reports failed to tell the full details and enormity of the disaster. There were many narrow escapes. Nothing less than a miracle saved scores from injury. In instances, everything was blown over families sleeping in their rooms, and after the storm passed there was only the sky above them.

It is conservatively estimated that the total loss will be in the neighborhood of $100,000, the estimate of $50,000 made immediately after the cyclone being proven too small when daylight broke upon the wreckage.

The northern part of Waterloo suffered most heavily. The cyclone cut a swath 400 feet wide through the town, following the north line of the lake Shore right-of-way. To-day there was not a dooryard north of the tracks that was not filled with the scattered wreckage of the cyclone.

Twenty-five houses were unroofed.

The roof was blown from the residence of W. H. Ettinger, the town’s undertaker. The family sought refuge during the night in a neighboring store. Mr. Ettinger was the only man in Waterloo who carried cyclone insurance. He had $700 on his home, and to-morrow there promises to be a rush to the insurance agencies.

In four barns which were overturned there were horses. All of these cam forth unharmed and without a scratch.

A scantling, 2×4, was driven through a window and missed one man by a few inches. Another scantling blown from a church which lay in the path of the tornado lodged in a tree 400 feet away. One sign was blown three squares.

Telegraph and telephone lines for a distance of three miles along the Air Line are down, poles and wires lying in a tangled mass. Communication by wire is demoralized.

Three barns be a tangled mass of splinters, in one pile. Everywhere the wreckage to-day presented a startling scene for the thousands of people who came into town in street cars, trains and buggies to view the storm’s destruction. Picture men were on the ground and people braved the cold to look at the wreckage.

After leaving Waterloo, the storm traveled at a terrific rate, unchecked by its destruction in the town. Fences, corn shocks and trees were scattered everywhere. A mile and a half northeast of town the house of George Hallet, a farmer was in the direct path of the cyclone.

The Hallet family consists of six people and all were sleeping in their home when the storm struck. The residence was picked up and moved fifty feet and badly damaged, but not a member of the family was injured.

Thus wreaking it destructive abilities the cyclone rose into the air to consume its own fury.

In the city, the greatest loss was in the destruction of the opera house a 12-foot brick building, which was reduced to a mass of ruins. Containing the fire department, city hall and two public school rooms, there was a number of people in the structure at the time it began to collapse, and all saved themselves by running into the street. There was grave danger of the ruins taking fire and flames started several times, but were extinguished before they had attained any headway. The building was among the largest in the city and was considered among the stanchest. When the wind stuck it the roof crumpled like a cockle shell and fell in with a crash, the four walls following within a few seconds. It was the most valuable building destroyed by the storm and the loss will be complete, as no cyclone insurance was carried.

Another important building destroyed was a big cement block structure located a few hundred feet southeast of the junction of the two railroads. It was formerly occupied by a cigar factory and of late had been used for storage purposes by William Ettinger. It will be a total loss. Ettinger carried about $700 insurance on his stock.

A restaurant building located near Lake Shore depot, where the storm first struck, was unroofed and the building otherwise badly damaged. Scores of small buildings were either reduced to splinters or literally lifted from the ground and carried varying distances from their original locations.

Reports are coming into town of great damage to farm property in the vicinity of this city.

It is estimated that the wind traveled at the rate of seventy miles an hour. The destruction of property took place within a period of a few minutes and as the wind subsided it was followed by rain and sleet.


Springfield, Ill., Nov. 11. — A tornado swooped down upon Virginia, Ill., at 4:30 o’clock this afternoon, dealing destruction right and left and leaving ruin in its wake. A score or persons were seriously injured, while the town was completely wrecked. Many had miraculous escapes, but none were killed.
The most seriously injured were EARL WHITTAKER, the little son of WILLIAM WHITTAKER; A. D. FRENCH and OTIS MIDDLETON. The WHITTAKER boy was the most seriously injured, being caught between the wreckage of the WHITTAKER home, which was demolished.
The storm swept with terrific force through the center of the town, not a business building or residence that lay in its path escaping damage.
A drenching rain followed the violent wind and tonight the town is in total darkness.
All the telephone and telegraph service is cut off with the exception of one wire, which is giving interrupted service.
The principal buildings which were the most seriously damaged werer:
MANN hotel, opera house, city hall, POLLARD building and the Catholic and Methodist churches.
Many persons, when the storm came upon them, took refuge in the Methodist church. This building was crushed by the storm and many in it were injured.

Springfield, Ill., Nov. 12 — Two were killed and seven seriously injured in a storm which struck Easton, Ill., last night tearing away telegraph wires and leaving the city isolated and the tragedy of the storm untold to the world until to-night.

The dead:

INFANT CHILD of James Prater. Body found 100 yards from home, which was completely demolished.

MRS. ALLIE HENNEGER, 75 years old, died of fright when her home collapsed.

The Prater home was the only one in the town proper which was much damaged and it was completely demolished, killing the baby, which was hurled against a tree, and injuring all other members of the family.

One Response to “11/11/11 Major Cold Front & Severe Outbreak”

  1. Tom says:

    Thank you Chad for all of the great info! I think you are right, a tornado probably did touch down in Lafayette. Most of the damage was in the Main street levee area. The Crabbs-Reynolds-Taylor company store house was destroyed in that area. The Brown street levee was left untouched. The Lafayette and Frankfort newspapers said the storm hit at 9:11pm on 11-11-11. That is the one thing about that storm that has stayed with me. Clinton County also had a lot of damage. The Greenwood school house had its roof blown off and carried across the road. The Greenwood school was near Beard Indiana in Clinton County. The 1912 Purdue yearbook said, “We have lived through the worst storms and longest winter that any Senior class has had the pleasure of experiencing for many years.” Chad, Do you think this was one of the worst storms to ever hit the viewing area?

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