On These Dates In Local Weather History

December 11th, 2012 at 10:47 pm by under Chad's WLFI Weather Blog

December 12, 1875

The pressure gradient between a strong surface high pressure over Texas & a very strong surface low over northern Michigan of 980 mb (low-end Category 2 hurricane strength) brought howling northwest winds to the area with highs in the 30s.  Gusts of 50 mph occurred in the viewing area as the “gale” blew through.

December 13, 1901

After a long, hot, dry summer, record daily December rainfall record was broken at Rensselaer with 2.52”.  Marion measured 2.26” of rainfall, Crawfordsville had 2.35”, West Lafayette 2.18” & Whitestown 2.25”.

An Arctic blast rushed in behind the heavy rainfall with 1-2” of snow & massive temperature falls from 58 to -3 in 24 hours at West Lafayette, 57 to -2 at Whitestown, 56 to -1 at Marion, 57 to -5 at Crawfordsville & 54 to  -2 at Kokomo.

December 14, 1907

A significant winter storm of snow, sleet & freezing rain affected the viewing area.

At Crawfordsville 1.01” of precipitation fell with 2” of snow & sleet with ice glazing.  West Lafayette 1.11” of precipitation fell with 5.5” of snow & ice.  At Kokomo, the ice amounted to 1.00” of melted precipitation & 1.5” of snow & sleet.  It was mainly snow in Jasper County with 9” at Rensselaer.  8.9” of snowfall set a daily record at Hoopeston, Illinois (which still stands) on this date in 1907.

December 15, 1987

A very intense storm system moved through the viewing area during the morning, producing a damaging windstorm.  The strong surface low racing from Memphis to Gary deepened to 980 mb near Kankakee, Illinois around 7 a.m. (Category 2 hurricane strength).  Howling winds of 55-70 mph occurred 5-10 a.m. with wind damage across the viewing area.

December 16, 1846

At this point, a thaw began to ensue after some snow & icing in early to mid-December 1846.  Heavy rainfall occurred around Christmas & thereafter.  “All of the streams” were said to be running over December 31 with a peak in flooding around January 4 & then again around the 15th.  “The month of December 1846 was remarkable for the great amount of rainfall for a winter month.  The rain fell almost incessantly for many days, which swelled the volumes of water in the creeks to an unprecedented height, which resulted in the greatest, most destructive overflow………”, stated Charles Blanchard.

The flood of late ’46 & January ’47 “did so much damage, that the state legislature provided for the repraisement of real property that had been injured, and for change of the tax duplicates for the extent of the injury”, according to the Acts of 1847.   For years southwest of Indianapolis, many visited a gigantic sycamore tree in the White River bottoms that marked the height of this winter flood (from History of Clay & Owen Counties, 1884).

December 17, 1951

A 3-8” snow pack, a clear cold night & an Arctic air mass brought record cold to the viewing area.  With 3” of fresh snow on the ground, West Lafayette dropped -17.  3” of snow on the ground caused Rensselaer dropped to -17, as well.  A fresh 3” at Crawfordsville allowed the temperature to drop to -12, while Delphi bottomed out at -13 with 5” of snow.  Kentland had 4” on the ground with -14, Kokomo had 4” with -12, Veedersburg had 4” with -15, Peru 4” with -12, Wheatfield had 5” with -19.

December 17, 1883

A strong, gusty Alberta Clipper tracking & deepening from North Dakota to the Ohio Valley dumped 9” of snow on Lafayette, 7” on Logansport & 8” at Delphi, which was blown into huge drifts.

Reportedly, “the snowstorm delayed passenger trains on all the [rail] roads last night”.

Arctic air preceded the clipper with lows in the single digits, followed by a warm-up into the 20s, then another Arctic blast behind the clipper.  Wind chills dropped to -25.

The winter storm was apart of the long, cold, snowy winter of 1883-84.

December 18, 1977

Winter began very early in 1977 & rarely let up with cold & deep snows through the legendary winter of 1977-78.  Long stretches of deep snow pack occurred.  In fact, from January 13-March 15, 1978 at least 1” of snow was on the ground at observation time at the Purdue Agronomy Farm, a record 61-day stretch.  This was the longest such stretch in the Lafayette/West Lafayette area since 1881.

After snow pack as deep as 21” (Crawfordsville recorded the deepest snow pack on record on December 9, 1977) in early December 1977, today was one of the rare instances of bare ground to be seen in this winter with a rare mild day of 51 at Kokomo, 53 Winamac & Rochester, 54 at West Lafayette, Delphi, Logansport, Rensselaer, Romney, Frankfort & Whitestown, 56 Kentland, 57 at Covington.

December 19, 1929

20.5” of snowfall at West Lafayette is still the heaviest 24-hour snowfall recorded for the Lafayette-West Lafayette area.  Rensselaer picked up 13”, while Kokomo measured 7” & Marion 8”.  10.3” fell at Crawfordsville, 10” at Wheatfield & 8” at Whitestown.  The heaviest band appears to have run from near Oxford to West Lafayette to Peru.

December 20, 1973

Historic snowstorm comes to an end, which shut down the viewing area with nearly 2 feet of snowfall in places.  For many locations, it was the heaviest 24-hour snowstorm on record.  20.6” fell at Kokomo, 18” Frankfort, 17” West Lafayette & Attica, 16” at Crawfordsville & Logansport.  16.5” fell at Romney with 15.5” at Rensselaer.

December 20, 1836

The “Famous Sudden Change”…………

A storm system brought a cold rain atop rapidly-melting snow pack as temperatures soared into the 40s with brisk south winds & fog.

Suddenly in the afternoon the northwestern skies turned very dark with a gust front-type shelf cloud was observed on the open prairies.  The roar of wind with it could be heard for miles.  Men reportedly rushed for shelter when they heard the distant wind with the temperature dropping into the teens & 20s in minutes.

This was a very strong Arctic front that raced across the prairies & roared into the area with winds estimated at 50-70 mph. Temperatures fell from 40-45 to 0 in a matter of a couple of hours, dropping to -10 overnight.

There are tails of men frozen on horseback when getting caught out in the Arctic front, hypothermia & even deaths of settlers from extreme nature of the cold’s arrival. Waves of water on the Wabash freezing instantly on the riverbank & the wind of the Arctic front screamed through the forests along the Wabash.  The high temperatures December 21 were only in the single digits despite ample sunshine.

One pioneer was out in the field with a team and heard the wind’s noise. He whipped up as fast as he could; but before he could lay up a low fence where he had driven through and drive half a mile, he thought he would freeze stiff.

In an account from Lacon Township, north of Peoria, Spencer Ellsworth describes the situation: “The morning was mild, with a settled rain gradually changing the snow on the ground into a miserable slush. Suddenly a black cloud came sweeping over the sky from the northwest, accompanied by a roaring wind as the cold wave struck the land, the rain and slush were changed in a twinkling to ice.” The day was henceforth known here as Butler’s Snap after Mr Butler and his daughter who froze to death while attending their livestock.

John Moses recalled watching a heavy black cloud advance from the northwest on hurricane-force winds about two o’clock in the afternoon. “Almost instantly, the strong wind…accompanied by a deep, bellowing sound, with its icy blast, swept over the land, and everything was frozen hard. The water in the little ponds in the roads froze in waves, sharp-edged and pointed, as the gale had blown it. The chickens, pigs and other small animals were frozen in their tracks.”

Moses reported ice forming in the stream thicken to between six inches and a foot in a few hours, and wagon wheels ceasing to roll, congealed into the previously slushy ground. In Creve Coeur, the temperatures changed so quickly, man and cattle were frozen in their tracks, and the ice had to be cut away or melted before they could walk.

Martin Rinehart of Champagne County remembers: “It began to rain and continued all day, when suddenly it turned intensely cold, making ice over the ground and freezing very hard. The sudden change caught many persons unprepared, and they were frozen to death. Two men named Hildreth and Frame were crossing Four Mile Prairie on that day. They became bewildered and lost their way when the change came. They killed their horses, and Frame crawled inside the body of his horse for protection against the cold, but it proved his tomb, as he was found therein frozen to death. Hildreth wandered around all night and when found in the morning he was so badly frozen, that he lost his toes and fingers.”

Minnesota State Climate Office:

December (mean temperature: 17 F) brought mild and virtually snowless weather through mid-month followed by near-record cold. On the 1st, the mercury dipped to 4 F, the Mississippi freezing over next day. But an extended mild pattern quickly followed, most days through mid-month in the 30′s and 40′s, the 7th 49 F and the 8th 48 F. Following 1-2 inches of snow on the 19th-20th, the first measurable precipitation in 39 days, an arctic surge brought -22 F on the morning of the 21st, the mercury staying below zero all day. A four-inch snowstorm accompanied by moderating temperatures came over the 23rd-24th, but on the evening of the latter, an even more intense cold wave drove the mercury down nearly 40 F in 10 hours to minus -28 F by Christmas morning, 1 F shy of 1822′s low mark for December. The year went out mild again, each of the last four afternoons in the 30′s.

December 21, 1967

Wettest December day on record for several locations accompanies the second rare December severe weather event in a week in Indiana.  Straight-line wind damage occurred in Montgomery County with an F3 tornado in Grant County.  At least 4 tornadoes were confirmed in Indiana with damage amounting to $300,000 (1967 dollars).  3 people were injured in Grant & Wells counties.  The rain & storms also produced heavy rainfall.  December daily rainfall records were set with 3.94” at Kentland, 3.48” Frankfort, 3.15” at Winamac & 3.01” at Peru.  1967 ended up as the wettest December on record at Delphi with 7.02”.

December 22, 1989

1989 barely beat out the frigid December of 1963 & 1983 for the coldest on record for most of the viewing area.  It was the coldest December on record at Boswell, Delphi, Frankfort, Kentland, Kokomo, Logansport, Perrysville, Peru, Tipton & Winamac.

For other cities, 1983 was the coldest.  1983 was the coldest at Crawfordsville, Rochester, Wheatfield & Whitestown.  Yet, 1963 had the coldest December at West Lafayette & Romney.  December 22, 1989 was the coldest December morning on modern record at Romney with -25, -24 at Crawfordsville & Kokomo, at West Lafayette, Winamac, Tipton with -22, at Rensselaer, Perrysville with -23, -21 at Kentland & -20 at Logansport.

December 23, 1915

A tremendous, pre-Christmas snowstorm dumped a whooping 18” of snow on Kokomo, paralyzing the city.  11” of snow fell on Rensselaer with 8” at West Lafayette, 7.7” at Crawfordsville.  Of the 1.28” of precipitation, 4.6” was snow at Whitestown, while the rest was sleet & ice.  This ice towards Indianapolis was said to have “interfered with transportation & wires” according to the Monthly Weather Review from the Weather Bureau in December 1915.

December 24, 1872

It was an extremely cold pre-Christmas in 1872.  The morning of Christmas Eve registered -25.  Crown Point, Indiana is said to have recorded a temperature of -30°.  This ranks with the Great Pre-Christmas Arctic Outbreak of 1989.  Deep snowpack lasted until New Years in the viewing area.

December 25, 1982

Christmas 1982 joined the ranks of Christmas 1979, 1893, 1889, 1867 & 1862 where temperatures equated or exceeded 60 degrees in the Lafayette/West Lafayette area.  The mercury reached 62 on this date in ’82 to establish a new official record for the date.

December 26, 1980

At least 1” of snowfall was on the ground December 24-January 2 at West Lafayette.  This was a long, cold, snowy winter of 1980-81.  January 6-21 also had an unbroken stretch of snow pack.  8 of the first 13 days had low temperatures below zero in January.  1981 had a cold spring, as well.  22 of the 31 days at Lafayette had lows in the 30s & 40s in May.

December 27, 1981

The streak of long, bitter winters continued with deep snows & unrelenting cold in the winter of 1981-82.  +1” snow was on the ground December 17-January 5, followed by deep snow cover January 9-28.

December 28, 1924

Snow pack of 2-5” area-wide with an Arctic blast brought a record-breaking post Christmas cold wave.  Rensselaer dropped to -27 with 4” of snow pack, while Crawfordsville dropped to -22 with 3” of snow on the ground.  West Lafayette dropped to -20 with 3” of snow cover, Whitestown had -23 with 5” of snow on the ground.

December 29, 1962

1962 had a cold December, as many Decembers were in the 1960s.

At West Lafayette, 14 of the 31 days in December 1962 were below 5 degrees, including 4 days below zero.  For some areas, as many as 7 days were below zero for the month.

December 30, 1984

December was mild in 1984 with many days in the 50s & 60s & a string of record warm days on the 29, 30 & 31.  Ironically, some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded arrived in January with readings as low as -29° on January 20.

December 31, 1875

The warmest New Year’s on record welcomed 1876 on the nation’s centennial.  Highs of 69-73° occurred, comparable with record-breaking January warmth in 1890 & 1950.  A severe weather event followed on New Year’s Day 1876 with damaging winds to 60 mph in our area.  F2 tornado occurred in Illinois with steel beams of a steel mill driven into the ground by the tornado at Springfield.  Widespread structural wind damage was reported at Chicago from the storms.  It appears a tornado may have struck Chicago with a path of homes & factories unroofed & church spires toppled through the city.  A four-story building collapsed & at least two brick house were “blown to the ground”.

“There was scarcely a wire standing over a great area of country. From all indication the storm extended over all the continent.”  It was most likely a widespread damaging wind event with embedded tornadoes.

To put it into perspective, Lansing, Michigan hit an amazing 70 on this date & 65 on New Year’s Day.

1875-76 is still regarded as the warmest winter on recorded for the area in what was regarded as “the year without a winter”.


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