Local Weather History: December 17-24, 1929 One Incredible Week of Weather

From heavy rain to ice storm to historic snowfall to near record cold (with historic snowfall in southern U.S.) then more snow, December 17-24, 1929 was one for the record books not only here, but in many parts of the U.S.

Posted: Dec 12, 2019 3:07 PM
Updated: Dec 19, 2019 10:36 PM

From heavy rain to ice storm to historic snowfall to near record cold (with historic snowfall in southern U.S.) then more snow, December 17-24, 1929 was one for the record books not only here, but in many parts of the U.S.

Temperatures around 37 to the 45 with rain overspread the area December 16-17 with multiple disturbances riding along & north of a warm front.

Cold air then bled in from the northeast, dropping temperatures to 26-32 with rain, which means it was freezing rain.

This made for up to a 0.25" glaze.  This then changed to sleet with strong northeast to east-northeast winds.

It then changed to snow as core of storm moved northeastward.

Glaze with sleet accumulation was reported area-wide in our area with some disruption to communication & power lines.  However, the glaze was much worse from Ohio & to western New York. 

The U.S. Weather Bureau at the time stated that December 17-19 saw "utilities badly crippled by ice, sleet & snow storm northern Illinois, Indiana to Ohio, Pennsylvania & New York".

Buffalo, Rochester, Cleveland & Toledo were hard hit.

Damage was extensive.

Then came the historic snowfall with strong isentropic lift on right side of low pressure with cooling temperatures aloft, then the deformation zone snow (northwest of the center of the low).

Note the tight isobars indicating strong winds.

There are multiple mentions of a blizzard.  It was the worst snowstorm since the historic 1918 blizzard & may have been a true blizzard.  Many reports of the hours of very poor visibility & strong winds with snow drifts to 5 feet indicate that.

Purdue University........old Electrical Engineering Buildilng (courtesy & thanks to the Purdue Archives):

The 20.5” of snowfall from the storm at West Lafayette is still the heaviest 24-hour snowfall recorded for the Lafayette-West Lafayette area. Veedersburg measured 24”, Fowler 18”, Covington 13.8”, Delphi 12”, Monticello 12”, Logansport 11”, Rensselaer picked up 13” Frankfort measured 7.5”, while Kokomo measured 7” & Marion 8”. 10.3” fell at Crawfordsville, 10” at Wheatfield & 8” at Whitestown. Thayer, in Newton County, measured 12.8”. Winamac measured 15”.

An impressive 3.32" of liquid occurred with the storm at West Lafayette in the form of rain, freezing rain, sleet, then heavy snowfall.

Entomology Hall (Agriculture in 1929).....courtesy & thanks to Purdue Archives:

The historic weather continued with the great Texas to Georgia & Florida snowstorm of 1929 December 21-23.

An unprecedented snowfall took place in Texas as Arctic air spilled southward.

A large band picked up +15".

The 26" at Hillsboro is still a state record for one storm.

The storm's upper low pushed northward, bringing us another round of snow (3" at West Lafayette).

A Nor'Easter then quickly developed & buried the East Coast in snow.

Many daily record low temperatures were established in the eastern U.S. during the December 20-24, 1929 period.

Single digits & teens occurred in a belt from southeast Texas to South Carolina, while the 30-degree line went deep into south-central Florida.

Strong southwest winds ahead of a clipper brought blowing & drifting on December 24 to the area.  The clipper brought another 0.5" of snow. 

At least 10" of snowfall was on the ground for 11 days at West Lafayette.

At least 5" was on the ground for 13 & we did not completely melt the blanket of snow until January 4 (17 days).

U.S. Weather Bureau Preliminary December 1929 Snowfall Totals.....Not all of the totals had been figured in for this map, as final totals actually ended up higher in our area & in Texas that what the map shows.

Note the Band of +12" From Texas to Tennessee.  Up to 3" fell in the Panhandle of Florida.  That fell in one snow storm - the historic one just after our snowfall of up to 2 FEET! 

Interestingly, January 8-9, 1930 saw a significant ice storm in the area...........par for the course in the 1929-30 winter of lots of heavy precipitation with cold temperatures.  This led to lots of snow & ice, especially December-January.

Sleet at the onset culminated to hours of freezing rain January 8-9, 1930. Damage to trees & power lines was extensive, especially in the southern & southeastern half of the viewing area. Entire counties were without power & roads impassable.

This was part of a historic ice storm from northern Texas to northwestern Ohio. Tens of millions of dollars in damage resulted. For the nation as a whole, this was the worst U.S. ice storm until the major ice storm south of our area from Texas to the mid-Atlantic in 1951.

Flooding occurred on area rivers & streams with extensive flooding across the southern half of Indiana with heavy rainfall.

In the 1930 storm, impressive maximum ice accretions of 2" occurred on surfaces in Tippecanoe, Montgomery, Clinton & Howard counties.

Frankfort picked up 2.58" of liquid, with all of it, except a trace of sleet & snow, falling as freezing rain. At West Lafayette, 2.72" fell with 0.5" of sleet & up to 1.25" of ice accretion. The 2.49" at Crawfordsville was all freezing rain with damaging accumulations. The 0.88" at Rensselaer was largely sleet with 1" measured & some freezing rain. The lowest ice accumulations were in northern Newton County with 3" of snow & sleet & little ice near Morocco. This melted down to 1.42" of liquid.

Overall, this was overall the worst, most-damaging ice storm until 1947, followed by 1991.

Looking north on S. Clay Street from E. Armstrong Street in Frankfort (photo courtesy of Indiana Memory collection):

(Courtesy: Ball State Repository):

West Lafayette
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 88°
Kokomo
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 86°
Rensselaer
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 84°
Fowler
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 84°
Williamsport
Scattered Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 86°
Crawfordsville
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 79°
Frankfort
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 82°
Delphi
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 86°
Monticello
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 86°
Logansport
Scattered Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 84°
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