Local Weather History: The December 1987 "Bomb"

We had "bombgenesis" nearby with this major storm in December 1987

Posted: Dec 18, 2018 4:25 PM
Updated: Dec 18, 2018 10:23 PM

Animation of storm via IR satellite:



This was a “bomb”. There was a tremendous surface pressure drop as the surface low moved north & northeastward. Winds of 70-80 mph were widespread over Illinois with a blizzard. Known as the "heart attack snow" 26 died alone from heart attack in the city of Chicago from 8-12" of snow that fell at 2" per hour at times (accompanied by thunder & lightning). The liquid ratio was 6 to 1 rather than the typical 10 to 1, so it was very heavy & wet.

Heavy snowfall with thunder & lightning, hurricane force winds shut much of the state of Illinois down with the blizzard conditions. Even pea to penny-sized hail accompanied the thundersnow in parts of the state! It was by far the worst snowstorm since the great 1979 storm.  In fact, heavy snowfall fell with this system from northern Mexico to Michigan, but it was the worst in Illinois & southeastern Wisconsin. Chicago was shut down with O’Hare being completely closed for only the fourth time in 20 years. El Paso, Texas received a record-breaking 22.4″ snowfall from the storm. A testament to the extreme wind fields that would lead to bombing, a wind gust of 124 mph was measured in the high elevations of New Mexico.

A killer F3 tornado tracked near Memphis while lots of wind & hail with some tornadoes Arkansas to southeastern Missouri to Alabama to Mississippi & Louisiana.


In our area we had a wave of flash flood-producing t'storms pass around midnight to 3 a.m. (up to 3" of rainfall) with temperatures in the 40s., then the winds blew up! Wind damage was widespread with several hours of gusts 60-70 mph with sustained winds of 40-55 mph through the morning hours.  Many roads were closed by fallen trees & powerlines.  The wet soils from the heavy rainfall of the t'storms did not help, as it made it a bit easier to topple some trees.

By midday-afternoon, it was still windy, but not the gusts to 70 mph like earlier in the day.  Then, a TROWEL of snow pivoted through the  southern half of our viewing area as temperatures fell.  Oddly, little to no snow fell in the northern parts of the area, but a band in the south saw up to 6" as the band completely curled around the powerhouse storm.

Conditions were nasty.  Visibility was low & lots of blowing & drifting snow occurred in areas that received the higher accumulations.


2.70" Logansport

2.14" Purdue University Airport

2.02" Romney

1.90" West Lafayette (Purdue Ag Farm)

1.86" Rochester

1.85" Delphi

1.74" Rensselaer

1.66" Kentland

1.64" Covington

1.63" Monticello

1.57" Winamac

1.56" Kokomo

1.35" 7 Miles Northwest of Kewanna

1.05" Frankfort


5.4" Kokomo

5.0" Covington

4.0" West Lafayette (Purdue Ag Farm)

4.0" Romney

3.7" Purdue Airport

3.5" Frankfort

1.7" Delphi

1.5" Logansport

0.7" 7 Miles Northwest of Kewanna

0.5" Rensselaer

Trace Winamac

0.0" Kentland

0.0" Rochester

0.0" Monticello


This storm really got my interest in meteorology going. I had an interest in the natural world, especially plants, at a very, very young age with my earliest recollections of plant interest at 3. However, after this “bomb” I became quite interested in weather, then the 1988 drought sealed the deal; this would be a life-long passion & interest.

I remember this storm vividly as a first grader. I awoke just around dawn to a completely black house with no power & I could hear the roar of the wind outside. Out of fear of the dark, I yelled for my parents, whose room was the next over to my right. I remember the overcast sky & it being featureless & drab & sort of an odd greenish color & my mother mentioning how weird this was that it was in the 60s outside & that there was thunder & lightning overnight with the rising temperatures. That thunder & lightning was actually the northern edge of lots of t’storms & severe weather from southeastern Missouri to near New Orleans.

My parents opened the back door & whole trees were in frightful motion…….& it was roaring. I will not forget the large tuliptree just west of our house violently wobbling back & forth; the entirety of the tree bending & its large limbs flinging back & forth as if it were made of rubber, though it was easily 80′ tall & had a diameter of +3′.

We had no power all morning, just the radio going & a school delay. It was thought that the winds would subside & we would get to school before lunch; as back then, school cancellations & delays were quite rare. We went to school with still no power & only the emergency lights in the hallways were on in the school. I remember our teacher saying that the thinking was that power would be restored before lunch. It was still windy, but not like at dawn or pre-dawn. One other thing I remember is my mother giving me a winter hat to wear & I said that I would not need it (it was still oddly warm outside). She remarked that it was supposed to get colder as the day wore on…………& it did!

It was so dark in my first grade room that one of my classmates slammed their hand in the door of the room & had to have ice on it. With power still out into late morning we were actually sent home around lunch as the ovens in the cafeteria couldn’t be turned on. I remember wearing my hat, it being colder, still overcast & still windy, but not nearly as bad when we were dismissed late morning.

I have no other recollections regarding weather for that year until an ice storm hit in March with blooming Silver Maples covered in ice & snow on the last day of March (which we took pictures of) as it stuck to every single branch on the trees!

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