Local Weather History: The February 16-17, 1870 Snowstorm

This snowstorm covered a massive area of heavy snow with strong gusty winds (flooding over the entire Northeast with ice, then rain) with a pretty classic Inside Runner track.

Posted: Feb 8, 2019 9:12 PM
Updated: Feb 8, 2019 10:34 PM

A massive snowstorm hit areas from Louisiana to Michigan in mid-February 1870.  An apparent Inside Runner storm, it originated in southern Texas to the northwest Gulf of Mexico, then moved northward.  Howling winds & bitter cold air followed the storm, resulting in great blowing & drifting of snow February 18.

This storm bore resemblance to the historic, December 2004 snowfall & March 19-20, 1996 historic snowstorm.  Also, January 1867 (that led to some roof collapses) produced very heavy totals as seen in the 1870 storm. Up to 24″ of snow was reported in this “Inside Runner” track (Texas/NE Gulf of Mexico to Ohio & Ontario track) along the Ohio River.

It was the biggest snowfall at Nashville, Tennessee (11″) since March 1843 when 13″ fell. As the big storm wrapped up over Ohio, snow showers wrapped around the system, bringing trace amounts of snowfall as far south as South Carolina. Even a trace occurred at Vicksburg, Mississippi.

On the other side of the storm, the warm side, heavy rainfall & melting snow let to significant flooding over New England. At Lewiston, Maine, for example, heavy rainfall & strong winds occurred atop a melting 24″ snow pack.

Richmond, Virginia reported heavy rain & t'storms, followed by some snow on the tail end of the system. 

Heavy rainfall & thunder & lightning were reported at Poughkeepsie, New York.

It had reportedly been quite mild to start February prior in Lafayette & Indianapolis to Evansville. 

Near Nashville, Tennessee "old timers" were worried as fruit buds begin to swell & break in the warm weather extra early in the season.  When the snow & cold hit, there were "apprehensions" & flash back of the March 1843 cold & snowstorm.  That snow fell after an exceptionally warm period.  The warmth caused fruit trees to bloom early, then historic snow & cold hit in early March 1843, wiping out the fruit crop.

Lafayette measured 7" of snow, which blew around considerably as the snow was winding down & thereafter.

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