On These Dates In Local Weather History April 5 – May 20April 5th, 2013 at 12:57 am by Chad Evans under Chad's WLFI Weather Blog
April 5, 1843
After a very warm January, the very backward spring continued with very cold & snowy weather February, March & April of 1843 with a very late spring (almost as late & as cold as spring of 1857). Lakes were reportedly completely frozen over enough to walk across in our northern counties. Over a foot of snow was on the ground in Fulton County & up to 18” of snow was on the ground in Lake County, Indiana. Large ice floes continued to float down the Wabash at Lafayette in early April 1843 with “no grass for cattle”. By May 8, “vegetation only slightly advanced; cattle barely find sufficient food”. However, this was said to be the last of the cold in the “the hard winter”.
April 5, 1909
Severe weather outbreak occurred in north-central Indiana. Several homes & buildings were damaged by a tornado when it hit Galveston, while another tornado began in Miami County hit Wabash, Indiana directly. One person was killed by that tornado with several homes were destroyed by the estimated low-end EF3 strength.
77 killer tornadoes occurred, nationwide, in 1909, the highest number in the U.S. on record (since 1895) until 1917.
April 6, 1857
April 1857 was the coldest on record, by far, in the state of Indiana. In fact, the overall temperature at Indianapolis was 6.37° colder than February 1857. 8 days had mornings in teens or lower, including single digits on the 6 & 7th with “snow drifts as in mid-winter” on the 6th. The thermometer never exceeded 70 the entire month with accumulating snows on 3 days. Even on April 28, the sunrise temperature at Lafayette was 23° & 25° at Indianapolis. It was a very dry month, similar to the very dry months of 1856 where less than 1” of precipitation occurred. Record at Indianapolis stated, “westerly wind have prevailed [this month]………wind was west or northwest 15 of the 30 days of the month.
April 7, 1860
Very warm start to April ensued in 1860, not seen at such a level until 2010. Temperatures registered 82 at 2 p.m. at Crawfordsville & Rensselaer. Lafayette hit a high of 84. This warm spell referenced by many early pioneers stating that forests leafed & greened up in a matter of a week. One wrote of the “summer heat” & how the sky was “bronzed & hazy as if burned by a brick kiln.” This may be a smoke reference due to the dry, windy, warm month with the prairies ablaze. This was followed by 6 consecutive days of freezes area-wide April 24-29.
April 7, 1948
Tornado tracked from near Rob Roy to Odell, a total of 10 miles. 4 people were injured with numerous buildings damaged or destroyed in the two communities & in-between. A trooper explained that it looked like “a lazy column of smoke rising from the center of the field.”
April 8, 1906
2 miles southeast of Royal Center, Cass County, a tornado destroyed Emanuel Evangelical Church. 6 people were injured by at least 2 tornadoes in Illinois.
April 9, 1873
60’ feet of railroad track was washed out between Montmorenci & Otterbein by waves of heavy rainfall 6 p.m. Sunday (April 6) to 1 a.m. Wednesday (April 9). The Wabash rose rapidly at a foot an hour for a while on April 8, before overflowing over the bottomland. In the city of Lafayette, many basements were flooded & gullies of up to 6’ deep were formed east of Fourth Street to Kossuth to the railroad tracks. At Fifteenth & Congress, a large, deep gully washed out.
Three surface lows caused widespread rainfall & t’storms April 6-7 with highs near 70 & lows only around 60. April 8-9, surface low tracked to our south & widespread heavy rainfall overspread area with temperatures in the 40s.
4-8” of rainfall occurred during this 3-day period.
April 9, 1953
Two supercells carved a path of destruction across the viewing area. The first one popped an F2 tornado in Newton County, damaging areas near Goodland. The other produced a long-lived, violent F4 with a path across Warren, Tippecanoe, Clinton & Tipton counties. 5 people were killed & 22 injured in Warren County, where some farmsteads were nearly obliterated. The tornado damaged parts of Frankfort & Tipton where 1 person was killed & 6 injured. Interestingly, the first hook echo, with a supercell north of Champaign, was observed with the new, early, pioneering weather radar installation at Champaign.
April 10, 1995
A late-season ice storm struck our northern counties on the night of April 9 to the early morning hours of April 10 with power outages & limbs broken in Jasper, Newton, Pulaski & Fulton counties.
April 11, 1940
During the evening, an unusual 2.7” of snow fell at Lafayette atop budding & blooming trees & plants. Numerous accidents were reported between Earl Park & Fowler, causing back-ups. A 21 on the following morning, with heavy frost damaged emerging plants, leaves & blossoms. This followed 80 degrees measured on April 3.
After 79 degrees on April 3, 5.6” of snow fell at Rensselaer with a low temperature the night of the snow at 19. After 82 on April 3, 5.0” of snow fell at Kokomo. A low of 17 damaged trees & plants. Plymouth had 79 measured on April 3, but picked up 4.2” of snowfall with a low of 17 degrees. The 81 at Crawfordsville was proceeded by 4.5” of snow & a low 20 on the morning of April 12. Whitestown, in Boone County, had 80 on April 3, only to pick up 3.7” of snow on the evening of the 11th & drop to 15 degrees by the morning of April 12. Again, like all other areas, any emerging vegetation was greatly damaged.
April 11, 1965
Palm Sunday Outbreak: Two monster HP supercells carved a 47- & 45-mile path of destruction across the viewing area. Supercell#1 carved a 47-mile path with 3 separate violent F4 tornadoes from Tippecanoe to Clinton & Howard counties. 18 were killed & 600 injured in Howard County alone with 90% of Russiaville damaged or destroyed. The second supercell carved the 45-mile path from Fountain through Montgomery, Boone & Hamilton counties. 28 people were killed & 136 injured. 11 were killed in Lebanon alone when 54 homes were destroyed.
April 11, 1872
Montmorenci Methodist Church was destroyed by a “wind storm”. Other tornadoes occurred in central & southern Illinois. Temperatures rose into the upper 70s with a strong surface low passing from Jefferson City, Missouri to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, dragging a strong surface cold front through the area.
April 12, 1907
Major damage was done to blooming fruit orchards & budding/flowering trees. An unprecedented cold snap for mid-April hit the area with accumulating snowfall.
Record warmth in late March & mild weather into early April forced & advanced plants far forward, contributing to the damage (low to mid 80s for several days in March).
2.5” of snow fell at West Lafayette April 13-14. A total of 1.6” of snow fell in the cold snap at Kokomo with 5.3” at Marion. Temperatures dropped 18 at Whitestown, 20 at Kokomo, 25 at West Lafayette, while Marion had 21 on the 15th.
April 13, 1863
Snow flurries were reported at Rensselaer & Lafayette in the morning as a cold wave nipped foliating & blooming trees. Highs struggled to 40 on this date with a gloomy, unseasonably cold day. Interestingly, it was back well into the 70s in the area on the 17th. The Rensselaer weather diary says, “Very warm. Butterflies make their appearance” on that date. The first chimney swifts & bumblebees were recorded at Rensselaer on the 18th. Interestingly, This would be the first year since 1842 that low temperatures in the 30s in the area would be recorded in July.
April 14, 1968
In White County, an F2 tornado heavily damaged several farms southwest of Reynolds amounting to $¼ million in damage, while an F1 tornado touched down northwest of Tipton. North of Romney, at South Raub, winds gusted to 60 mph.
April 15, 1987
Clean-up continued after an F1 tornado began near Sharpsville in Tipton County, crossed Route 26 near Oakford in Howard County & lifted near County Road East 200 South about 2 miles northwest of Hemlock. Farms & homes were damaged with the tornado occurrence on the afternoon of the 14th.
April 16, 1961
An incredibly late significant snowfall event occurs with highly-unseasonable cold since March 29. Even on the 10th, the high was 36………the 13th 41…..even April 2 had a low temperature of 21.
On this date, with a high of just 33, 5.0” of snow fell on West Lafayette.
8.3” at Rensselaer & 8.0” Winamac, while 7.0” accumulated at Kentland, Rochester & Marion, 6.6” at Delphi, 6.0” Logansport & 5.4” Romney. Whitestown measured 4.9” of snow. With a high of just 36, Frankfort measured 4.5” of snow.
Strong winds blew & drifted the snow, leading to poor travel conditions.
Interestingly, a very late snowfall of 2-8” occurred on this same date in 1870.
April 16, 1860
At 8:30 p.m. a “brisk gale from the northwest…………..with heavy thunder & zig-zag lightning to the southwest” observed at Rensselaer. He reported a hard storm northwest of Otterbein. Another reported explained that a tremendous “hurricane” was reported to have caused damage northwest of Otterbein, while strong winds knocked trees down near Battle Ground & Lafayette with some store fronts damaged by wind & hail.
April 16, 1870
Remarkable late-season snowstorm dumps 6” on Stockwell & Lafayette. 3” fell at Rensselaer. Rensselaer weather records show that the morning low was 30 degrees with that 3” of snow, but it was 49 with sunshine by 2 p.m. with much of the snow gone. The remainder of the month was very dry & warm.
Several inches of snow were reported in western Tennessee on the morning of April 16 (Sunday). It was reportedly the latest substantial snowfall so late in the season, seen in decades. By Wednesday, it was reported that it was so warm folks could be outside barefoot.
Rensselaer was at 82 degrees on April 23 at 2 p.m.
April 17, 1926
6.5” of wet snow fell with heavy snow & very large flakes making visibility very difficult at Lafayette. 6.5” was also measured at the Purdue Agronomy Farm northwest of West Lafayette. Snow fell near noon to evening. With temperatures around 32-33, a lot of the snowfall melted as it hit the ground with warm ground temperatures. It was reported that the snow was so heavy that it probably would have accumulated 12” if it were colder & not late April. Regardless, it was the heaviest snowfall on record for so late in the season.
The heavy, wet nature of the snow broke many tree branches & blanketed greening trees & plants in wet clinging to every single twig & branch. By noon the next day, the snow had largely melted, except for shady spots, however.
3” fell at Rensselaer (24 after snowfall), 4” at Kokomo (26 after snowfall), nothing at Crawfordsville (just rain), but temperature dropped to 26 after the system. At Whitestown, 1.5” of snow fell with the temperature dropping to 25 degrees after the system.
April 17, 1963
A large F4 wedge, violent tornado raced through Newton, Jasper & Pulaski counties 5-5:45 p.m. injuring 20 people. Owing to its visibility on the tail of the storm during daylight, no one was killed, however. Damage amounted to $2.75 million (1963 dollars).
April 18, 1922
13 people were killed & more than 150 injured by a violent late afternoon tornado in Warren County from northwest of West Lebanon to Williamsport. “Many buildings were laid in ruins [in Williamsport]”, according to reports. Numerous farmsteads were also destroyed in the county with the town of Hedrick almost entirely destroyed.
April 18, 1875
The coldest temperatures so late in the season equaled the unusual April cold of 1857. Temperatures dropped to unprecedented single digits & around zero in southern Michigan.
After a brief warm-up of 70s with severe weather around April 8 with a deadly tornado southwest of Springfield, Illinois & a long-lived wind event from Illinois to Indiana (derecho), extreme cold wiped out any budding vegetation by mid-April in our viewing area & throughout the Midwest & East.
New York City had 10” of snow on April 13 & Washington D.C. had a high of only 33 on April 17.
At Lafayette & Logansport, lows of 18 were reported on April 16, 17 & 18th. Indianapolis had 21, 19 & 19 on the 16, 17 & 18th. Only 1857 had such cold weather so late. Overall, the spring & summers of 1875 were cool & wet, but the 1875-76 winter was the warmest on record – a record that still stands to this day for the region.
April 18, 1856
An outbreak of severe weather occurred in our viewing area on this date with additional severe weather to our east with damaging tornadoes reported in far northwest Ohio, York, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania & Wilmington, Delaware(spawned by the same system) on April 19. In fact, at Philadelphia, 224 dwelling were written to be damaged or destroyed by the twister with 6 churches & 19 factories damaged. 9 people were injured by it.
April 19, 1881
Called the “severest tornado & hailstorm to strike Cass County” in the History of Cass County, a half mile wide tornado, frequently accompanied by large hail, tore through Cass County.
Many buildings & chimney were heavily damaged in Logansport with “hundreds” of window glass panes blown out. It is said to have “destroyed everything movable in its tempestuous pathway.” “Tearing up trees” and “demolishing outbuildings” it killed numerous livestock. Reports state that the funnel was full of the tops of trees, shingles, roofs & numerous personal objects were said to have been “carried a long distance through the air.”
A severe windstorm hit Wabash County with damage to buildings, while a tornado hit Evergreen, Indiana (DeKalb County), damaging or destroying 17 buildings.
April 20, 1896
Severe weather outbreak occurred in the viewing area with wind damage reported in Tippecanoe, Cass, Montgomery, Fulton & Miami counties. Reportedly, “Roof & chimneys were damaged by the high winds; crops & fences were blown down; cellars flooded & considerable loss was entailed upon electric companies by blowing down of their wires & poles.” Storm damage was reported in Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio & northwestern Pennsylvania April 18-21st. Though only one tornado was officially reported (in northern Ohio west of Cleveland), it is likely there were more, based on the damage reports. Rather weak surface low tracked from southeast Nebraska to eastern Michigan, dragging a surface cold front through the area.
This followed some of the warmest temperatures ever recorded in April with 85-90 on April 18-20th. Up to this time (since 1870), this was the warmest April on record in the region. Amazingly, highs in the lower 90s occurred in the mid-Atlantic & upper 90s in the Carolinas.
April 21, 1895
A late, significant spring cold snap brought lows of 19-25 in mid-April. This decimated the Eastern Phoebe populations in Indiana. The Eastern Bluebirds also took a hit. These bird species, along with other migrating birds starved to death in this freeze.
Two major cold snaps in the brutal winter of 1894-95 (-20 in two cold snaps in late December & mid-February) evolved into a warm, early spring. The late, hard freeze put the icing on a rough, snowy winter, but they were not as rough as the 1884-1889 winters (& the horrendous winter of 1881-82).
April 22, 1912
10 are killed & 27 injured by a late evening tornado at Morocco. Another 50 were “bruised by flying debris”. 20 homes were reportedly destroyed in Morocco with the tornado hitting town “from end to end” Two more people were killed east of Morocco by the twister with an additional 20 farmsteads destroyed.
April 23, 1978
A storm with 1” hail produced a brief F1 tornado (300’ wide) that caused extensive damage to 22 mobile homes in Lafayette north of St. Elizabeth near Greenbush. This amounted to $1/4 in damage (1978 dollars). Another F1 tornado touched down in Howard County.
April 24, 1852
Tornado of “such destructive & terrific character” hit Burnettsville “completely demolishing” the Baptist Church, “a large frame structure sixty feet long & thirty feet wide”. The home of John McCormick was “completely demolished……except for the floor” & many homes were “blown off their foundations”. The track was said to be narrow, though the storm was “severe on either side of the [tornado] track”, but damage was “slight”.
April 25, 1983
Today marked the end of the extremely backward spring of 1983. The winter was extremely mild with very little snow & lots of 50s & 60s. A false spring began in early March with 70s & overnight lows only in the middle to upper 50s.
However, March 23-April 25 was unusually cold with nearly every day in the 40s & 50s. Highs on April 16, 18 & 19 were only in the 30s with lows of 20-25. An amazing 90% of the overnight lows March 9-April 25 were in the 20s & 30s & lower. The latest first occurrence of 80 degrees occurred in 1983 with 80 on June 6! The first temperature above 80, 82, occurred on June 9!
Interestingly, the summer of 1983 was long, brutally hot & very dry with a record number of 90-degree days in parts of the viewing area.
April 26, 1957
A squall line of severe t’storms, with origins in Nebraska, Iowa & Minnesota, blasted through the viewing area around noon. It spawned 3 tornadoes & several swaths of damaging straight-line winds. An F1 tornado occurred 5-6 miles southwest of Wheatfield, in Jasper County, while another F1 touched down 1-2 miles north of Denver, in Miami County. In Fulton County, an F0 touched down 6-7 miles northwest of Rochester.
April 27, 1994
This was the 85th tornado of this outbreak that began on the afternoon-evening of April 25 in Colorado & Nebraska.
This outbreak was known for one of the strongest tornadoes in the country that year occurring near West Lafayette; a strong F4 with winds of up to 210 mph. Today, on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, winds over 200 mph would be an EF5, the highest category for tornadoes.
11 homes were totally destroyed by this twister, when it roared through after midnight of the 27th, with 17 sustaining major damage & 7 having minor damage. 88 mobile homes were damaged or destroyed, in addition, 13 multi-family dwellings that sustained heavy damage. Lafayette Venetian Blind & two gas stations near U.S. 52, motel at I-65 & 43 & the State Police Post sustained moderate to heavy damage. This violent twister continued on a 14-mile track from Klondike to southeast of Springboro in Carroll County with material losses that amounted to at least 5 million dollars. Three people were killed & 70 people were injured.
This same storm produced damaging straight-line winds on its northside of up to 70 mph, at Pine Village (northern Warren County) & Templeton (southeastern Benton County), which felled numerous trees. At its end, it produced a 60 mph straight-line wind gust at Flora after making a slight right turn to the east after a continuous northeastward track.
Another long-track tornado, with winds of up to 157 mph blasted Pulaski & parts of Fulton County along its 20-mile path. The tornado that the storm produced was labeled an EF2 on the original Fujita Scale, but by today’s revised Enhanced Fujita Scale it would be an EF3. Beginning just southeast of Francesville, the twister continued through Pulaski & far northwest Fulton counties before lifting as it entered far southwest Marshall County. At the end of its track, the storm produced a damaging, very intense microburst, that downed numerous trees & destroyed a storage building (resulted in 50,000 dollars in damage). Although this twister traveled largely over open, rural farmland, it did level several farm buildings & grain bins & one farm house was damaged. Also, a mobile home was lifted up by the tornado & thrown onto a car, destroying both. No deaths or injuries were reported, but damage exceeded 1/2 million dollars. The development of this tornado coincided with an intense hail core in the storm that produced golfball-sized stones (1.75″) north of the tornado track.
Another tornado, an F0, with winds up to 72 mph damaged two barns, as well as irrigation equipment north of Medaryville, in Pulaski County. This particular tornadic t’storm produced numerous reports of 0.75-1″ hail in Newton & Jasper counties. Damaging straight-line winds of up to 72 mph destroyed a barn & broke, uprooted several trees near Rensselaer.
The squall line BEHIND the supercells also produced damage (& several tornadoes in Illinois). Lightning caused a major fire at Cooksey Sawmill in Williamsport, that amounted to 1/2 million dollars in damage. Numerous trees were felled by straight-line winds across northern Clinton County.
A 1/2 million dollars in damage was done to a Subway restaurant & adjacent store due intense straight-line winds of up to 100 mph at Crawfordsville. There was also heavy damage to trees & powerlines with many windows blown out of other businesses. As the roof was blown off the Subway, the flung roof damaged several other businesses nearby.
Interestingly, this same system caused 5 million dollars in damage to the Indianapolis Raceway Park by extreme straight-line winds that did much structural damage.
April 28, 1971
Farm work & planting was done in a very timely manner in 1971; it was the driest April on record for many areas. It was the all-time driest April at Monticello with just 0.93”, Logansport with just 1.08”, West Lafayette with 0.70”, Wheatfield 0.69”, Romney 0.48”
2010 was on track to beat 1971 for dryness before substantial rainfall occurred late in the month.
I spoke with a farmer who remembered the dry April very well. He was preparing a field at the time with a cultivator hooked to a cabless tractor. He explained that that dust stirred up by the cultivation of the dry soil was so bad, he could hardly see or breath & that the silty dust of the soil totally encompassed & covered him in dry, powder. He explained how unusual he thought it was to get into the wet spots in April & have the ground work like it would during the hot, dry summer days.
April 28, 1893
A severe hailstorm hit the Purdue campus with large stones.
April 29, 1963
A tornado touched down in Carroll County at 7:49 p.m. & quickly strengthened to F2 with peak at F3 status. The twister was on the ground for 18.6 miles.
April 30, 1962
Significant severe weather outbreak occurred with winds officially gusting 60-110 mph in central Illinois with unofficial gusts to 135 mph, while winds gusted as high as 85 mph in the viewing area. The line of storms brought widespread wind damage & 4 confirmed tornadoes.
5 people were injured by an F2 tornado in Newton County, while an F2 tornado in Jasper County did ¼ million dollars in damage. An F0 tornado in White County also did ¼ million dollars in damage. An F1 tornado roared through Miami County, while winds gusted to 85 mph in Cass County & 70-80 mph winds struck Benton, Warren & Fountain counties.
May 1, 1838
A large tornado is said to have taken a similar path as the Palm Sunday tornado of 1965 near Russiaville north of “the prairies [called Indian Prairie at the time, a wet, marshy prairie]” of Prairie Township in Tipton County through southern Howard County.
May 2, 1870
Today began a long period of warmth & dry weather with 16 of 31 days in the mid 80s to around 90. Of these, three days were in the 90s at Lafayette & Rensselaer. Rensselaer was 92 at 2 p.m. on May 22. Lafayette hit 94 degrees. The lowest temperature of the month was 47 on May 12 at Rensselaer. Mean temperature for the month was 66-70 degrees area-wide.
At Rensselaer, it was at least 85 degrees each day May 2-5, May 14-18, May 20-22 & May 29-31. 1870 is still easily the hottest May on record for parts of the area, even beating the hot Mays of 1839, 1911 & 1976.
May 3, 1835
A 1/4 mile wide tornado passed just south of Lafayette (just village at that point) in the evening with heavy damage to “valuable timber”. It unroofed a barn near present-day Route 26/U.S. 52 intersection. A two-story brick home was demolished nearby with at least 3 farms being damaged/destroyed. Remarkably only 1 person was injured.
May 3, 1852
When land for the new town of Windfall (Tipton County) was surveyed in 1852, a large windfall path of destruction through the forest caused the town to be named “Windfall”. It is unclear when this tornado passed through that area at the time, though a road was surveyed to be built from Tipton to near this location in 1849 with no mention of a large windfall from a tornado in the forest. Windfall was eventually founded in 1853.
May 4, 1902
The third consecutive day of record warmth occurred across the viewing area with 87 at Rensselaer, Kokomo, Crawfordsville & Whitestown, 86 at West Lafayette & 85 at Crawfordsville.
May 5, 1836
The newly-completed, first White County courthouse in Monticello was destroyed by a tornado in May 1836, 138 years later, the courthouse was destroyed again in the Super Outbreak of 1974.
A part of this same severe event, a long-lived, large tornado was reported to have struck Grand Rapids & Kent County, Michigan as well. Pioneer farmsteads were reportedly leveled with home debri strewn over a mile away. This was reportedly still a topic of conversation with the earliest settlers of that area in 1881.
May 5, 1870
A severe t’storm with very high, damaging wind reportedly struck Rensselaer around 9:30 p.m. from the northwest. The rainfall continued until 11:30 p.m.
Another intense, damaging storm would strike late month.
Overall, however, May-July 1870 was very hot & dry.
May 6, 1909
Severe storms blast area with West Lafayette very hard hit by tremendous hailstorm & flooding.
Storm made the city totally cut off from water pumping station for 12 hours.
Hailstones the size of walnuts accompanied torrential rainfall, which caused severe flooding in the storm with rainfall 3:45-5 p.m. with the height of the storm at around 4:15 p.m. The flooding in the Happy Hollow area was reportedly the worst ever seen “by the oldest in habitant”.
600 panes of glass of a greenhouse were shattered on north Salisbury Street by the hail. 58 panes of glass were broken at Purdue greenhouses on campus. Tree foliage was reportedly heavy shredded with streets nearly covered in leaves & branches from the hail. The leaves & branches clogged many drains, only increasing the flooding issues.
May 6, 1960
Severe t’storm winds of 80-85 mph blasted through parts of Benton County. At 4:42 p.m. a wind gust of 81 mph was measured 2 miles north of Otterbein.
May 6, 1876
An outbreak of severe weather occurred in the viewing area & the region.
At least 4 tornadoes were reported in Indiana & Illinois. From southern Hamilton to Madison County, Indiana, at 5 p.m. a tornado shaped like “an hour glass” & “colored dark black”, cut a destructive 20-mile track. This tornado destroyed homes & barns & killed numerous sheep, pigs & cattle. A tornado hit the southern Illinois city of Carbondale, as well as Neoga, Illinois with heavy damage wrought. The central Illinois town of Anna was hit. Chicago was also hit by a twister, at ¼ mile wide, which heavily damaged & even demolished parts of the city.
Interestingly, at 3:15 a.m. early on the morning of the 6th, a twister struck part of Leavenworth, Kansas damaging buildings.
May 7, 1839
Early-mid May 1839 was very warm in the Midwest (with a warm, warm spring & summer to fall, overall with drought). Early May 90s were recorded on numerous days at St. Louis, while Fort Snelling Minnesota (present-day Minneapolis) had upper 70s to 80. Early Logansport record had unseasonably warm 88, which would be a record high for the date by today’s NOAA COOP data set. Hot weather was also measured at early U.S. government weather stations at Newport Barracks (Louisville, Kentucky) & College Hill, Ohio (Northwest of Cincinnati).
Spring was very early & very warm in the Midwest & Plains with “the first week of April like mid-May or later” with “unseasonable warmth” in May.
1839 was a hot, hot, dry summer with low water levels reported at most weather stations & rivers in the Midwest with unseasonable warmth through much of the autumn.
May 8, 1840
This is deemed the coldest May day on record in our area. With overcast skies, strong winds & highs only near 40, “overcoats & gloves were needed” amidst “spits of snow”. The system that brought the unusually cold air brought a likely 1 mile-wide EF5 tornado to Natchez, Mississippi on May 7 at 1 p.m. This twister is the second deadliest in U.S. history, just behind the Tri-State tornado of 1925 where 695 people were killed. 317 people were killed, with other severe weather & flooding occurring in the South. Other unusually cold, gray, wintry days in May with highs of only 40-45 occurred in 1940 & 1961.
May 9, 2000
1 person was killed in a moving vehicle at Hillsboro when a tree fell on it. 3 people were injured in Waynetown when another tree was toppled onto another vehicle. Widespread damaging straight-line winds raked the viewing area with numerous trees & power lines being downed by winds up to 80 mph. The strong winds damaged 4 homes at Clark’s Hill & golfball-sized hail pelted Attica, Williamsport, Lafayette & Lebanon. A barn was destroyed near Logansport & trees fell on cars & homes in the city. A construction trailer was flipped over & numerous large trees limbs were downed at Peru.
Damage from this squall line in central & northern Indiana resulted in millions in damage, including $1 million in damage in Whitley County alone with another $1 million in damage to structures in Fort Wayne & $3 million in damage to business & homes at Huntertown, Indiana.
May 10, 1934
Spring 1934 was overall the driest on record for the viewing area. West Lafayette picked up just 3.47” of rainfall in the March-May period. It was also the record-driest at Rensselaer with 3.69”, Monticello with 3.73”, Rochester 4.92” & Kokomo 4.59”. Whitestown’s driest spring occurred in 1932 & Crawfordsville’s driest was in 1901. Wheatfield had 3.85” in the spring of 1934, but was barely beaten in 1958 by 3.79” during the spring for record driest. From Fowler & Kentland to Pence & Perrysville, 1958 had the driest spring on record with 4.30-4.60”.
May 11, 1868
May was hot in 1868 with temperatures in the 90s everyday across most of the viewing area 11-20.
May 12, 1886
Tornado outbreak in the viewing area……
Attica Tornado: F3 tornado began near West Lebanon & crossed the Wabash River at Attica, destroying 200 homes in the city, killing 5 & injuring 12 people. Eyewitnesses reported it sounded like “the roar of a great waterfall.”
Two damaging tornadoes blasted through Tipton County, just missing Tipton by ¾ of a mile & Kempton by ¼ mile. It destroyed the fairgrounds & damaged & destroyed numerous homes & farmsteads, including a well-built two-story brick home. A brick school house was said to have been completely destroyed. “The cries of the injured were heartening and the terror was pictured on every countenance”. One of the tornadoes passed northeast of Tipton, killing at least one person & injuring at least 10. It was also written that widespread damaging winds swept the entire county with the tornadoes with the most widespread wind damage in Prairie Township where “timber & fences suffered terribly”.
Another tornado roared through White County, causing heavy damage from Monon to Bell Center.
At least 7 were killed & 24 injured in central Indiana tornadoes alone that day.
May 13, 1854
Severe t’storm blew down many trees in Lafayette during Saturday night, May 13, 1854. Although summer 1854 featured a horrendous drought with the most extreme heat in a summer since 1846, these storms flooded the city.
Roads & at least one railroad bridge (over Potato Creek) were washed out. Several breaks occurred in the canal. It was reportedly the heaviest rainfall event “in years”.
May 13, 1933
A tornado passed north of Dayton. It destroyed farm buildings & killed one person. About a week later, a Plains & Midwest severe outbreak spawned an F5 tornado near Tyron, Nebraska that caused entire farms to absolutely vanish, leaving just pieces of foundation left.
May 14, 1995
Two high-end F2 tornadoes were confirmed in the area with one destroying 9 homes & damaging 28 others in Lebanon. At Advance, 2 businesses had major damage, while 5 miles south of Crawfordsville, 2 businesses were destroyed, an elementary had major damage with 8 homes destroyed & 9 damaged. A total of 3 people were killed & 5 injured by the twisters.
May 15, 1968
An F2 tornado moved through Tippecanoe & Clinton counties, damaging farm buildings, while baseball-sized hail pelted parts of Montgomery County. Straight-line winds of up to 75 mph blasted Carroll & Clinton counties.
To the intensity of this severe outbreak, a long-track tornado began in Wabash County & did not lift until it was east of Fort Wayne.
May 16, 1857
Spring 1857 was unusually cold. The yellow daffodils did not begin to blossom until May 5 & the “sugar trees” (sugar maples) did not even begin to bud until May 6. Early writings also documented that the sugar maples & apples finally reached blossom on this date (16th), but the beeches did not reach blossom until May 20th. Locust trees were still bare on May 24. Walnut & sycamores did not reach full leaf in the forests until June 19 & as of June 1, notes from the Indiana State Board of Agriculture state that the “forests were not yet in leaf” in Central Indiana.
May 17, 2012
Several reference to Midwestern & Plains tornadoes were made by our Native American peoples, as tornadoes have been ravaging the Midwest & Plains for thousands of years.
The Kiowas explained in a legend that……………
“the first twister came about when ancient tribes people attempted to mold a horse from clay. ‘The beast took shape’, recounted one storyteller, ‘but it was a terrible thing: It began to writhe, slowly at first, then faster & faster until there was great commotion everywhere. The wind grew up & carried everything away. The Kiowas were afraid of that awful thing & it went running about, talking to it. And at last it was calm.’ Ever after, when the black clouds began to swirl, Kiowas knew the monster was approaching: Lightning cames from its mouth, & the tail, whipping & thrashing on the air makes the high, hot wind. Kiowas speak to it, saying, ‘Pass over me.’ And in time, it does.”
May 18, 1883
A major tornado outbreak hit Missouri to Illinois & Indiana with Illinois hit the hardest. There, it was the 5th largest outbreak on record with at least 14 EF3 to EF5 & 5 EF1 & EF2 tornadoes in central & northern Illinois. 98 people were killed with 221 injured.
These storms gelled into a squall line that raked the area with damaging straight-line winds that passed after midnight on May 19 well ahead of a cold front.
All of Tippecanoe County is said to have suffered “serious damage”. Factories were unroofed in Lafayette with numerous large trees uprooted & snapped. Homes were unroofed or damaged & many large trees were downed across the county. A heavy wagon was thrown 300 yards. It is said the “west side” of the city suffered the worst damage (probably present day Chauncey Hill, West Lafayette).
A testament to the intense updrafts of the storms, pebbles were found in the large hailstones southwest of Springfield, Illinois. A teaching certificate was carried 50 miles from a tornado in Missouri.
May 18, 1926
Tornado struck areas west of West Lafayette at 5:30 p.m. Twister appears to have been on the ground for about 4 miles from 3 miles south of Newman Road/Route 26 to near present-day Purdue tennis center. The worst of it is said to have existed at Route 26 & Newman Road.
At the Minor Morehouse farm, a chicken house was picked up & thrown 900’, while the entire house was shoved 6” off the foundation with the chimneys blown off. A garage was destroyed & large trees were uprooted. If not uprooted, trees had their tops twisted off. Along the entire “cyclone” path, trees were either uprooted or badly damaged, electric poles were snapped & barns were destroyed.
“Scores of trees” were blown down across West Lafayette & Lafayette with electric poles. “There was hardly a street in the city where trees were not damaged by the wind…………………”numerous signs were destroyed in the city & country”.
May 19, 1977
May 1977 was the hottest May on record for the area after a brutally cold winter, but a warm, early start to spring in March & early April. May 1977 temperatures were more like June, not May. In fact, the temperature for this May exceeded the average temperature for June in many areas.
It was the warmest on record at Winamac, Wheatfield, West Lafayette, Attica, Romney, Rochester, Rensselaer, Kentland & Delphi with May 1911 a close second to the this warmest May on record.
May 20, 1870
Severe t’storm hit Rensselaer very hard. Dr. John Loughmilder stated in his weather diary, “Hail at 5:30p Hail in great quantities & masses……..Some 3” in diameter…..Broke many windows.”
It was also reported that an aurora appeared at 11 p.m. as skies cleared.