Local Weather History: Every Known Viewing Area Derecho 1850-1899

Research is on-going on this list of derechos.

Posted: Oct 1, 2020 11:00 PM
Updated: Oct 2, 2020 12:09 AM

1890s:

1880s:

1870s:

1860s: 3*

1850s:

*Active evaluation of this decade continues.

1890s

Type

Date

Max Gust In the WLFI Viewing Area:

Track length: Approximately

Maximum width: Approximately

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1880s

Type

Date

Max Gust In the WLFI Viewing Area:

Track length: Approximately

Maximum width: Approximately

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1870s

Single Bow Hybrid Derecho

August 31, 1877

Max Gust In the WLFI Viewing Area: 73 mph Rensselaer

Track length: Approximately

Maximum width: Approximately

Dr. Gustavus Detlef Hindrichs, a professor at the University of Iowa & founder of the state's first weather service, discovered an unusually intense, widespread windstorm in 1877 that struck Iowa. He published results of the storm later in the Weather Research Journal in 1888. He coined the term "derecho", which means "straight" in Spanish, referring to the uni-directional wind pattern damage across entire central part of the state that was exceptional due to the scope & intensity in the damage. This brought about this special designation.

In the study, he points out that the derecho struck on July 31, 1877. However, I have done exhaustive research & turned over every rock & have found no evidence of a derecho in Iowa on July 31.

The severe only storms reported for near that time was July 26 when an estimated 100 mph wind gust was reported in a very violent storm at Fort Sully, Dakota Territory (modern-day Pierre, South Dakota). The instrument shelter was leveled, fence was destroyed & stockade was leveled. The last gust was measured at 84 mph before it was ripped from the roof & the chimney collapsed.

Large hail at Bismarck, Dakota Territory (now North Dakota) on July 30 caused heavy crop damage & "severely cut" the buckwheat crop. A gust of 84 mph was measured at North Platte, Nebraska on July 30. A couple of damaging tornadoes were reported on the Delmarva Peninsula on August 1 with damage at Kingston & Princess Anne, Maryland.

Significant wind & large hail damage was reported at Hagerstown, Maryland on July 28 & a gust of 60 mph was measured on the same day at Washington D.C. (with extensive flash flooding reported). However, no rainfall was measured at Chicago or Indianapolis on July 31. The high at Indy on July 31 was 88 & August 1, 88. Heavy storms in the area of Carpentersville, Indiana on August 9 caused the Mississinewa to rise 5'4" in one hour, but no other reports have been found. Meanwhile, significant flash flooding from torrential storms was reported in Maryland, Delware & then Vermont & New Hampshire.

However, I began researching further & found a significant severe weather outbreak August 31, 1877 with a seiche or "tidal wave" (which is often caused by a derecho) on Lake Michigan & Lake Erie.

Widespread damage from Omaha & Council Bluffs through Iowa to Illinois, far northern Indiana & then it seemed to gain intensity again with widespread wind damage, some hail & a few tornadoes to Ontario & Pennsylvania.

It began with "hail of extraordinary size" northeast of Omaha, then a tornado destroying the iron bridge over the Missouri River between Council Bluffs & Omaha. The 3-story 102' x 52' newly-constructed asylum at Council Bluffs was levels with material carried a distance of a mile. Damage was $245,000 (inflation-adjusted), but no damage was reported in the heart of Council Bluffs. The tornado reportedly took 250' iron spans weighing "thousands of tons" & threw them into the river at a cost of $2.5 million (inflation-adjusted). This was the last reported tornado until central Illinois (Gilman) & southeastern Michigan to Ontario. As the storms moved eastward they seemed to be wind-dominated & increasingly widespread.

Cornfields were reportedly "ruined" in Iowa.

At Brandon, Iowa it was reportedly the worst storm since 1858 with 30-50% loss to the surrounding corn crop from wind & hail. 26 window lights were broken in the town & many trees were toppled. Flooding occurred with Lime & Bear Creeks overflowing & washing away fences. Damage was reported at Pella, Oskaloosa, Des Moines, Davenport & Dubuque, Iowa. 3 children were injured near Oskaloosa.

A "fearful storm" was reported at Camp Douglas, Wisconsin & a church was dmaaged at Wisconsin Rapids.

Severe damage was reported at Jefferson City, Missouri with corn laid completely flat & trees down while St. Louis was hit hard by damaging winds across the city. Jefferson Barracks area reported much damage to trees, structures & fences.

"Great damage" was reported west of our area at Gilman, Illinois with "houses blown down" & "flouring mill completely destroyed". One laborer was killed by falling timbers. The losses alone from the mill destruction was $2.4 million (inflation-adjusted).

Trees & limbs were downed in & around Greencastle, Indiana & roofing was blown & "carried off" the Harris Brothers new mill. Rensselaer reported tree damage & hail was reported from Milford (south of Elkhart).

Detroit reported severe straight-line wind damage with an apparent brief tornado at the suburb of Collingwood seeing a chapel totally destroyed. Windsor, Ontario reported very high winds with accompanying hail only enhancing its destructive power. A damaging tornado slammed into Sandwich, Ontario, while extensive wind damage was reported from Benton Harber, Adrian, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Michigant to Toledo, Sandusky, Cleveland, Painsville & Venice, Ohio. With the wind causing structural damage & widespread tree & telegraph pole & line damage at Cleveland, reports of 0.5-1.25" diameter hail occurred. At Sandusky, the "hurricane" was accompanied by hail the size of "musketballs" (most likely 0.75" in diameter).

In Wood County Ohio, the wind & hail caused the bumper crop of wheat to be greatly reduced. 20/bu. yield was reported prior, but fields were only averaging 4.3 bu./acre due to the crop fields being completely flattened & shredded. Damage was also reported from Pittsburgh & Mifflintown, Pennsylvania.

A seiche occurred on Lake Erie into parts of the Cleveland area & through northwest Ohio to Erie, Pennsylvania & water reportedly flowed upstream on the Cuyahoga River for a time as the derecho's wind propagated the seiche inland.

Even as far south as near Cincinnati, Ohio, early on the morning of September 1, a "violent windstorm" swept through Maysville, Kentucky, unroofing several buildings & doing much damage to trees, fences & telegraph poles & lines. The Steamer Wildwood, on the Ohio River wharf, was damaged.

A high of 89 was recorded at Indianapolis on the day of the storm of August 31 (only 0.09" rainfall measured, however), but it was just 71 on September 1 & 69 on September 2.

1860s

Single Bow Hybrid Derecho

May 21, 1860

Max Gust In the WLFI Viewing Area: 70 mph Crawfordsville, Romney

Track length: Approximately 932 miles

Maximum width: Approximately 272 miles

This appears to have been a Super Derecho & the worst one across southern Ohio since the historic "Ohio Valley Wind Rush" derecho of 1809. Damage points to +125 mph gusts in southern Ohio with wind here from Lafayette & southward through Crawfordsville, Greencastle & Indianapolis. A hybrid, it appears to have been part of a frontal system in spring, but on the periphery of a historic drought in the Plains & parts of the South that began gradually in 1858, increased in 1859 & peaked in 1860 before a secondary surge in the South in 1862. It was a very fast-moving bow at +70 mph.

After this began a very hot, dry early-mid summer after a very warm & dry start to spring. Very little rain reported in the first 27 days of June at Rensselaer. A 0.25” of rain fell July 2, but after that, no rainfall was observed until July 16 when 0.30” fell. This followed an overall very warm spring with the warmest start to April until 1882.

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March 16-17, 1868

Multi-Bow Serial Derecho

Max Gust In the WLFI Viewing Area: 85 mph Multiple Locations

Track length: Approximately 734 miles

Maximum width: Approximately 532 miles

This was a historic weather event & could be regarded as a Super Derecho given the extent of the damage & magnitude of that widespread damage. Numerous solid buildings, homes & farm buildings were destroyed over a large area with some embedded tornadoes noted in press & in damage pattern. Many train engines & cars were blown off track, steamers submerged or destroyed & railroad & road covered bridges destroyed. Forest damage was significant & extensive. At least 58 were killed in this cool-season derecho. With damage in the millions reported (1868 dollars). Significant cities at the time like Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Louisville & Detroit saw heavy damage at the time. This derecho also occurred at the time of substantial flooding in progress on rivers over the Midwest & Ohio Valley with a surge of highs in the 70s.

All telegraph lines surrounding Indianapolis & Lafayette were blown down & an isolated report of hail up to 1.6" in diameter came out of Plymouth, Indiana. Flash flooding was reported over the viewing area, especially north of Lafayette with likely high PWAT values with the very warm conditions. However, I am inclined to believe that flooding of the creeks, streams & Wabash was caused by previous storms prior to this derecho & not the actual derecho itself. It was moving too quickly.

Severe storms were reported "north of Lafayette" with damage & also, damage to businesses & roofs occurred at Covington & Williamsport to Attica, Crawfordsville, Logansport & Lebanon & then also in Rensselaer. Several trees fell over railroad tracks in all directions outside of Lafayette & Covington, grounding all trains.

Blizzard occurred in Minnesota with visibility no more than "ten rods".

1850s

Type

Date

Max Gust In the WLFI Viewing Area:

Track length: Approximately

Maximum width: Approximately

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West Lafayette
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Hi: 47° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 42°
Kokomo
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Hi: 45° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 40°
Rensselaer
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Hi: 41° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 41°
Fowler
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Hi: 41° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 41°
Williamsport
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Hi: 45° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 37°
Crawfordsville
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Hi: 46° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 43°
Frankfort
Overcast
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Hi: 46° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 43°
Delphi
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 42°
Monticello
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 36°
Logansport
Overcast
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Hi: 44° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 36°
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