VIOLENT SEVERE WEATHER OUTBREAK WITH HEAVY RAIN TO UNSEASONABLE SNOWFALL TO WORST RIVER FLOODING ON RECORD……………ALL IN A WEEK IN MARCH 1913………
March 21-26, 1913 was an amazing period of weather in our area. From near-record cold to warm April-like weather, a significant severe weather outbreak (violent likely EF4tornado nearby at Terre Haute killed over 20 people on the south side of town) to massive flash floods, then river floods with 2-8″ of snow in-between.
For example, Rensselaer went from 6 degrees on the morning of March 17th to three days in the 60s, including 68 on the 19th & 67 on the 20th. This was followed by our severe weather outbreak, then temperature dropped to 10 degrees. After 50s March 25 with heavy rainfall, 2″ of snow was measured on the morning of March 25. On March 27 the high/low was 31/20 with 55 on March 29. A total of 4.74″ of rain/melted precipitation occurred March 21-26.
Up to 8″ of rainfall occurred in our southern counties during this period. Up to 11″ fell in eastern Indiana, leading to the infamous great Flood of 1913.
It was a week of weather to remember!
I am working on a complete write-up, complete with graphics, on that event & what caused the historical events of that time.
March 19, 1913
Strengthening surface low began to accelerate northeastward out of Colorado on the morning of March 19, 1913 with strong southerly breezes out a ahead of it. Meanwhile, Arctic air began roaring southward into the Dakotas. Little rainfall was evident in the Plains, however (snow in the Rockies) as of 8 a.m.
It appears at that point, potent upper jet streak was moving into Colorado, which would eventually strengthen surface low rapidly.
Temperatures were mild in the mid 40s here with strengthening south to south-southeast winds amidst mainly clear skies at 8 a.m. Low temperatures the morning before were in the teens.
March 20, 1913
Strong surface low was pivoting through upper Michigan on the morning of March 20, 1913 with a round of rain & some t’storms. There were no reports of severe weather in our area, however. Despite seemingly potent mid & upper jet & intense chunk of cold air to our northwest, temperatures near 52 degrees kept instability low. Strong south to southwest winds were found with the rain. After the front went through, temperatures dropped in the afternoon.
Another surface low was developing in Colorado with, apparently, a very strong upper jet was nosing into the Rockies. I say that, because this surface low really blew up & deepened tremendously late in the day on March 20.
A severe weather outbreak of wind, large hail & tornadoes occurred with this system in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma & Missouri. A violent tornado of likely EF4 strength slammed into Omaha, Nebraska, resulting in significant damage & fatalities. Several other violent, EF4-EF5 tornadoes struck Iowa & northern Missouri.
March 21, 1913
Deep surface low pivoted through with surface low tracking from Danville, Illinois to South Bend with the upper low likely in southern Wisconsin to central Michigan in the early morning hours of March 21.
With temperatures surging into the mid & upper 60s & strong south winds, line of severe storms (likely enhanced by strong low-level jet) rushed through the area. Evidence points towards likely embedded bows, LEWP & perhaps supercellular features. Widespread damage to trees, fences, signs, homes & buildings within the cities of Lafayette & West Lafayette. There is no evidence of a tornado, but strong evidence of widespread, significant straight-line winds. Evidence points towards a very wide swath of 60-80 mph winds with a few embedded 100 mph microburst cores.
A violent likely EF4 tornado struck the southside of Terre Haute. Entire 2nd & 3rd stories of homes were missing in tornado damage pics of that area & there was a stretch where homes & businesses were totally gone with only foundations left. Large trees are completely devoid of branches with bark peeled off & large 2 X 4s were driven into trees & buildings. Splinters of wood were embedded in trees & homes. All points to EF4 strength. This tornado was said to be on the ground for over 50 miles with a Prairieton through Clay County (damage near Brazil) to Putnam & southwest Hendricks County. The EF4 strength peaked at Terre Haute & was likely EF3 in Clay County, before going down to EF2 strength in Putnam/Hendricks counties. Over 250 homes were damaged or destroyed with the Root Glass factory & Gartland foundary heavy damaged/destroyed. 17 people were killed with at least 150 people injured on the southside of Terre Haute.
Two damaging tornadoes occurred in southern Illinois, another just north of downtown Chicago & yet another slammed into the city of Paducah, Kentucky with heavy damage.
Temperature tanked from the 60s at 6-6:30 a.m. to 40-45 degrees by 7:30-8 a.m. with howling northwest winds.
March 22, 1913
March 22 saw an Arctic high arrive & sit on top of us with lots of sun, though it appears cirrus clouds began to overspread region through the day as strong warm front developed to our southwest & south. The morning started in the teens with highs only around 40.
March 23, 1913
March 23 was a rather odd, transition day. I say odd because in the morning, intense elevated t’storms with some small hail (& lots of freezing rain towards Chicago) were passing through with temperatures 35-38 degrees & strong southeast winds. It was another round of pretty heavy rainfall after only about a two-day break in rain. After teens yesterday morning in Missouri, it was as much as 40 DEGREES WARMER on the morning of March 23 with strong warm front working northward.
Showers & t’storms were with us through the day with strong southeast, then south winds & skyrocketing temperatures as strong surface low developed in eastern Colorado.
Deep moisture from the subtropics & tropics courtesy of likely active MJO pattern was bringing heavy tropical rainfall to south Texas & into the Gulf of Mexico.
March 24, 1913
A classic heavy rainfall set-up over the Ohio Valley & Midwest on this date. strong low pressure pivoted through far northern Michigan, while deep, robust tropical moisture surged north. Meanwhile upper- & mid-level winds paralleled stalling front in the Ohio Valley. Impressive surface convergence & likely very strong rising motion from diffluent upper flow made for widespread training rain & t’storms from Missouri to Pennsylvania. Our temperatures climbed into the 50s & lower 60s with strong southeast to south winds after temperatures around 55 at 8 a.m.
Another wave or surface low rode the front in the afternoon & night across the region, enhancing the rainfall, especially in eastern Indiana to Ohio.
March 25, 1913
After all of the flooding rainfall on March 24, new surface low formed in central Arkansas, while Arctic high pushed into Montana, then the Dakotas, bleeding in colder air.
At 8 a.m. on March 25, it was raining & mid 30s at Lafayette with a howling northeast wind, while Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania sat at 70 degrees. This shows the strength of the front & how the heavy rain just trained along & just north of it like cars on a train track. At the same time, Chicago had snow & 30, while South Bend had freezing rain & 30. Nashville, Tennessee had 72 & thunder in the northern sky, while St. Louis had rain & 39 at 8 a.m.
March 26, 1913
The surface low moved from central Arkansas to Pennsylvania with up to 8″ of snow in our viewing area. The heaviest totals occurred in a band from northern Warren County to Lafayette to Logansport, Peru & Wabash to Marion.
A wintry mix with up to 4″ of snow occurred in our southern counties.
Behind this system, cold air settled in for a couple of days. The high temperatures on March 27 only reached around 30 for most of the viewing area. However, by March 29, the area was in the mid to upper 50s with 54 at West Lafayette, 55 at Whitestown, 58 at Crawfordsville & 55 degrees at Rensselaer.
Historic river flooding peaked at this time after the historic, heavy rainfall that climaxed to the training, torrential rains of March 24.
The highest flood crests on record (& these crests are still the highest to this day) at these locations:
Lafayette: 32.9′ (Flood Stage 11′) March 26, 1913
Logansport: 25.3′ (Flood Stage 15′) March 26, 1913
Covington: 35.1′ (Flood Stage 16′) March 27, 1913
Wabash: 28.7′ (Flood Stage 14′) March 26, 1913
Lafayette: 25.4′ (Flood Stage 10′) March 28, 1913
Crawfordsville: 17.3′ (Flood Stage 8′) March 27, 1913