Local Weather History: March 19-20, 1875....Second Historic Snowstorm of the Month

March 1875 was the a tie for the coldest, & certainly the snowiest March of any records in Greater Lafayette

Posted: Mar 8, 2019 8:51 PM
Updated: Mar 10, 2019 2:14 PM

The Purdue records go back to 1879, but there are some pre 1879, fragmented records back to as far as 1854 in Lafayette.  I am working on collecting these & filling in the gaps of any data that is available.

Fortunately, good records exist for this historically cold, snowy March of 1875 where 28" of snow fell for the month with temperatures dropping below zero early in the month & into the single digits late in the month.  Only March 1906 & 1960 is comparable with snow & cold for the month.

As said in previous post, we had a major snowstorm/blizzard in early March of 1875.  Another historic storm struck March 19-20.  This same system brought a historic tornado outbreak to the southeastern U.S.  It was the worst outbreak in the South until the great Enigma Outbreak of March 1884.

At least 20 tornadoes struck from Louisiana to North Carolina, including 7 violent, large, long-track F4s & F3 tornadoes.  One tornado tracked 80 miles & another, 75 miles.  At least 110 were killed & 381 injured.  Eyewitness accounts show evidence of large, wedge, multi-vortex tornadoes bringing significant devastation.  7 people were killed in one family in Lee County, Alabama.  In fact, this was the last violent F4 in Lee County until the March 2019 long-track tornado that had a 69-mile path.

In our area, it dumped heavy snowfall with strong winds.  In fact, it was the heaviest post-March 18 snowfall at Lafayette since the March 20, 1836 storm.  It would not be until March 24-25, 2013 Palm Sunday storm that post March-18 totals approached those of the 1875 storm with up to 12" in the area (Up to 18.5" fell in central Illinois in that historic storm).

14" was measured in the March 19-20, 1875 Lafayette storm with significant blowing & drifting snow (drifts to 4 feet) as strong northeast winds were funneled in with unseasonably cold temperatures in the 20s.  The surface pressure gradient between the strong storm system & Arctic high to the north funneled in the strong winds.  Record cold occurred after the storm with temperature down to 4 above, breaking the modern-day record of 6 set in 1974 on March 21.

Interestingly, it warmed up very nicely to 70s & even low 80s by the end of March to early April.  Spring was reportedly "progressing nicely" at the start of April, according to a farmers in Montgomery, Tippecanoe & Newton counties.

This was a season of late snows.  New York's Central Park measured 8.7" April 13 & an additional 1.3" after midnight, leading to a final total of 10".

However, it is the heavy snowfall & rainfall during the 1874-75 winter to 1875 spring that reached a crescendow in the summer.  The "Great Overflow of '75" in our area as very wet pattern that peaked in July-early August.  1875 is reminiscent of the excessively wet years of 1858, 1865, 1882, 1898 & 1900 in our area (in the 1850-1900 period).  A most recent example is 2003, 2010 & 2016.

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