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Local Weather History: A Look Back at an Unpleasant Spring & Summer....& Fall

1869 was one wet, cool summer.....the worst until 1875.

Posted: Jun 17, 2019 8:48 PM
Updated: Jun 17, 2019 11:04 PM

1869 was overall a wet, cool summer with a lack of nice, bright, hot summer days.  Spring was cold (after a mild February) with a late start & winter came early, resulting in a bit of a depressing year.

1869 records were taken in downtown Lafayette on the courthouse square.  Records 1854-1878 were largely taken from this location but there are large breaks in the record data set.  Many sheets of the original records were lost.  I am still trying to find the name of the observer(s) for the government at the time.

Other records for this pre-1879 period exist from a farmer's diary southeast of town, who was diligent in his recordkeeping & his accuracy.

A few records are found back to 1832 with reports of floods & severe weather back to the 1820s for the area.

February was mild over the area overall with many days in the 40s to 50s & two days in the 60s at Lafayette. Snowfall was a bit above normal, however, as pattern changed late month.

March turned cold & snowy with the 16.5" for the month in the top 5 snowiest Marches.  The 0 on March 17 tied for the second (with 1900) latest occurrence of 0 or below in the 1879-present West Lafayette data set.  The latest at or below 0 on record is March 20, 1885 with -3 at Purdue University nearby.

4.50" of precipitation was measured for a wet March 1869.

April was not pleasant, including one of the coldest daytimes on record for April with a 28 on April 2.  The first 70s did not occur until April 18, a month later than modern-day normal.  Much of the moth saw highs in the 40s & 50s with a 2.60" rain on overnight to day of April 19-20th.

Lots of severe weather was reported in southern Indiana on April 20 & 28, but none here.

April 1869 was wet wtih 5.10" of rainfall.

May was not great either.  First 80 was May 4, more than 1 month behind schedule & only 4 days got above 70 in the first 22 days of the month! 

It warmed up late month, but it turned wet!  There were an usually high amount of mostly cloudy to cloudy days for the month & every morning.  6 consecutive days of rainfall occurred at the end of the month.

I have not uncovered many severe weather reports for Indiana in May 1869, nor June 1869. 

It was another wet month with 7.70" rainfall observed for May 1869.

June was cool & wet.  When it did warm, it was very muggy & such warmth was brief.  Maximum for the month was 86.  5 days saw temperatures only in the 60s.

6.60" precipitation fell in June 1869.

July was a continuation of an overall cool, wet summer with lots of clouds.  Maximum temperature was 88.

A whooping 8.00" of rain fell in July 1869.

In August newspapers, 3 to 6 weeks of hot, dry weather were reported from Indianapolis eastward  & southward through Evansville, Cincinnati, Chillicothe, Toledo, Fayette County, Ohio, etc., but it was wet here.

"Sultry" was mentioned frequently in Lafayette press with "frequent" "heavy rains".

August was warmer, but still wet.

September was very wet & cool & October wet & cool, then unusually cold with snowfall (see below).

Corn said to be "three weeks behind growth" was injured greatly by the unusual "severe frost" of September 28 & 29. 

A "light frost" was reported even a Raleigh, North Carolina, extremely unusual for September 29. No damage to crops was reported, however.

This was the end of the growing season for many in the cool, wet summer in our area.  The 1870 spring & summer was warm & dry, in fact, May & June were exceptionally hot & quite dry.  1874 was a very hot summer with 100s at times.  1875 was back to a very wet, cool summer, but there was more severe weather & greater flooding in the 1875 summer, than the one in 1869.  Flooding occurred state-wide, as well.

The corn crop in LaPorte County for the 1869 summer was reportedly "a total failure".  It was so-so reportedly in our area with the best crop reportedly in southern Montgomery County.  The wheat crop at Darlington was reportedly excellent in a late August harvest.

Another wet month, 5.9" of rain fell in August 1869.

Up to 9″ of snow was reported in the viewing area October 19-20, 1869, as unseasonably cold weather arrived. After a bit of a temperature rebound (still below normal), October 24-27 saw the coldest weather ever record so early in the season. Overnight low of 9 was recorded by observer southeast of Lafayette. This followed 60s on the 17th. It was reported that warm ground temperatures caused much of the heavy snowfall to melt a lot & compact into thick, heavy, slushy snow.

Earliest snowfall of such magnitude since October 20, 1833.

More than 5″ of snowfall was reported in the St. Louis area October 26, 1843 & a gentleman by the name of Henry Baker made reference to an early snowfall on fully-foliated trees in Greene County, Indiana (Worthington [southwest of Bloomington]) at the same time in 1843. However there is no reference to snowfall at Lafayette or anywhere in the viewing area, however.

Back to 1869, at St. Louis, rainfall in the night transitioned to “a heavy snowstorm in the forenoon”. The noon temperature was 34.

“Great damage” was done to trees & shrubbery, reportedly, at Detroit from the heavy wet snow & wind.

The snow was reported as “remarkable” at Jasper, Indiana & that it was the “heaviest October snow we can remember of” (in the Jasper Weekly Courier).

In Floyd County, Indiana, a resident reported that it was the heaviest October snowfall there since 1830.

The “very remarkable for the season” snowfall at Plymouth, Indiana was still partially on the ground October 28. Press stated the nights had been “notably winterish”.

Snowfall totals:

12″ Detroit

10″ Fort Wayne, Indiana

10″ Plymouth, Indiana

9″ Southeast of Lafayette, Indiana (low temperature of 9 degrees after the snowfall)

4″ Vincennes, Indiana

4″ Jasper, Indiana

4″ Terre Haute, Indiana

3″ Louisville, Kentucky

3″ St. Louis

2″ New Harmony

2″ Evansville

2″ Chicago

Trace Cincinnati

4″ fell at Toronto, Ontario, Canada, but northwest of Toronto, at Walkerton, 24″ was reported. Several inches were reported over Illinois, Missouri & Kansas where press called it “A Violent Snowstorm”. 18″ was reported in the Alleghanies of central Pennsylvania.

Interestingly, the temperatures returned back to the 60s at Lafayette by early November.

Ice was reportedly strong enough for skating in Iowa October 27, though no snow had fallen.

The 1869-70 winter was the snowiest on record until 1917-18 for many parts of southern Indiana, but I do not have any records for Lafayette for that particular winter.  I still need to dig into the records taken southeast of town & the data set that exists from Logansport for that winter.

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