Local Weather History: Frequency of 12" & Greater Snowfalls (In One Event) In Tippecanoe County

These are stats from Tippecanoe County with data 1850-2020....

Posted: Jan 27, 2020 9:28 PM
Updated: Jan 29, 2020 10:06 PM

I took NWS COOP stations, newspaper & diary observations & pre-ASOS data (snowfall was not only measured at the Purdue Ag Farm, but also measured at the Purdue Airport for a while) from around Tippecanoe County to find snowfall data back to 1860.

This includes Purdue University daily, then Purdue Ag Farm daily observations, observations from the Throckmorton Purdue Farm site, West Lafayette Sewage Plant (NWS COOP site), airport obs, U.S. Weather Bureau data, Indiana Farmer publication, newspaper accounts (some make references to snow not just in Lafayette, but elsewhere in the county) from Tippecanoe County newspapers & diaries of observations.  One comes from near Romney & the other southeast of Lafayette.

To be counted as a 12" or great one storm event, the snow needs to come from one singular surface & upper level storm system with at less one location reporting 12" or more of snow from any of these sites.

So, here is the frequency per decade with total(s) from the county (italicized & underlined storms & totals are those that have all report(s) at or exceeding 12":

1850s  3

February 22-23, 1850 (10-12")

January 26-27, 1855 (12-16") "Blizzard of 1855"

January 7, 1859  (14")

1860s  3

January 1, 1860 (8-12")

December 31, 1863-January 1, 1864 (8-14") "Midwest Blizzard of 1864"

January 19-21, 1867 (14-15")

1870s  3

January 23-24, 1873 (15-18") "Blizzard of 1873"

March 3-4, 1875 (12")

March 19-20, 1875 (12-14")

1880s  2

January 15-17, 1885 (11.8-12")

February 14-15, 1885 (6.5-12")

1890s  2

January 18-19, 1892 (8.2-12")

February 12-13, 1894 (5-12")

Lowest total 5" at Romney, 6.5" Purdue, but part of it was ice with 1.10" of liquid content from storm.  Highest totals of 12" at Buck Creek & south of Brookston.

1900s  3

January 26-27, 1904 (8.5-12")

March 19-20, 1906 (8.5-12")

February 25-28, 1909 (12-13")

1910s  5

February 17-18, 1910 (7.5-12")

February 21-22, 1912 (12")

Note:  The snowfall on this date is missing from the Purdue data, so there is no total other than from a mention in Lafayette press of 12".  +12" fell in other parts of the area nearby Tippecanoe County.

March 26, 1913 (6-12")

December 25, 1915 (8-12")  Snowiest Christmas on record!

January 11-12, 1918 (5-13") "Blizzard of 1918"

Note:  5" measurement from Purdue is perplexing....Chicago measured 14.8" atop 4.5" already on the ground (so depth was around 20") & southern Indiana reported a "blinding snowstorm" & 11.2" fell at Louisville by the 14th.  Winds gusted to 60 mph at Chicago & 45 mph at Louisville, so this may have been measured where snow had blown so much it cut the depth at that location.  Toledo, Ohio gusted to 63 mph with +12" snow.  Here, area was reportedly "paralyzed" & press reported 10-13" with drifts to 36".

1920s  2

January 13-14, 1927  (9.5-12")

December 19-20, 1929 (18-20.5") "Blizzard of 1929"

1930s  0

1940s  1

March 1-3, 1947 (7.9-12")

Note:  Part of the storm total is missing in the data set at Purdue with one day in the storm marked "M".  Two other totals in the county (Romney & Lafayette) reported 12". 

1950s  0

1960s  4

February 25-26, 1960 (7.7-12")

February 24-25, 1963 (7.2-12")

January 13, 1964 (9-12")

February 25-26, 1965 (6-12")

1970s  3

December 19-20, 1973 (16.5-18")

December 5-6, 1977  (7-12")

January 25-27, 1978 (9.1-15") "Blizzard of '78" with this snow atop what was already on the ground.

1980s  2

January 31-February 2, 1982 (9-14.2")

February 28-29, 1984 (5-13")

The 5" in the northwest part of the county & the 12" south of Lafayette is correct, as there was a significant tapering of totals with northward extent.

Frankfort measured 13", Romney 13" & 6 miles south-southeast of Crawfordsville, 12.5" was reported.

1990s  1

January 2-3, 1999 (12-16") "Blizzard of 1999"

2000s  2

March 25-27, 2002 (5-12")

5" seems correct for the Throckmorten NWS COOP site south of Lafayette, as totals tapered greatly with southward extent in the county.  6 miles south-southeast of Crawfordsville, just a trace was measured.  11.5" was measured at the West Lafayette Sewage Plant with 12" at WLFI & multiple 12" reports in West Lafayette.  The Purdue Ag Farm measure 9".  Just northeast of Attica, 10" was measured & Frankfort saw 8".

February 13-14, 2007 (11.6-17") "Valentine's Day Blizzard of 2007"

Note:  all totals for the 2007 blizzard are 12" or more EXCEPT for the Purdue Ag Farm, which is only 0.4" from 12".  I do not include totals of less than 12" in these events, but 2007 seemed to be close enough to add to the list of the "big ones".

2010s  2

March 19-20, 2013 (8-12") Biggest snow storm so late in the season since 1875

January 6-7, 2014 (8.6-12")

___________________________________________________________________________________________

The 1910s appear to have had the most storms reach 12" of snow with 5.

The 1870s had the most storms with snowfall of 12" or more with 3.

Average:  2.23 storms per decade produce snowfall of up to 12" in Tippecanoe County.

For the entire county to see 12" or more, it is 0.65 per decade or 1 every 16 years.

1930-39 & 1950-59 had the least with 0.

I am sure you can guess the storms in some of these decades!

Not all of these pictures are from Tippecanoe County, but are taken near, during or after some of these events.

The 1864 Blizzard depicted at the time as a train became completely paralyzed 7 miles west of the 1864 Chicago city limits (it was regarded as the worst storm at Chicago since the great 1855 snow storm [likely blizzard].....the white-out, blizzard conditions reportedly lasted 30 hours in the December 31, 1863-January 1, 1864 storm):

Sleds out in Atlanta, Indiana in February 1910:

Downtown Lafayette in the big snow of February 17-18, 1910:

Downtown Covington in the big snow of February 21-22, 1912.

The December 1929 blizzard as seen from Chicago where 15" fell.  This was Greater Lafayette's & Tippecanoe County's heaviest snowstorm on record (at least seen back to 1850):

The Valentine's Blizzard of 2007 at Lafayette:

More soon!

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