Local Weather History: Top 10 Weather Events of the 2010s

As the decade of the 2010s comes to a close, here are the top 10 weather events of the period.

Posted: Dec 19, 2019 12:00 AM
Updated: Jan 2, 2020 1:47 PM

1.  November 17, 2013 Tornado Outbreak

A historic outbreak of 16 tornadoes struck the viewing area, including one EF3 that tracked 39 miles from the southeast side of Lafayette (Voestalpine & Subaru damage) to near Walton on November 17, 2013.

It was one of the most prolific tornado outbreaks in our viewing area on record.

A total of 73 tornadoes tracked across the Midwest, evolving from a tornado outbreak to a widespread damaging wind event as it tracked eastward into Ontario, Pennsylvania to New York, Maryland & West Virginia.

The highest measured straight-line wind gust here was 82 mph near Dayton, just north of that tornado track.

One thing that struck me that day was how quickly the storms were moving.  Some were moving at 65 mph, so you had very little time to take cover, which is why the NWS warning polygons were so long & our alarm was up for tornadoes in the area, even as the storms were still in eastern Illinois.

It was a wall-to-wall coverage day with Amber Hardwick & I tracking multiple tornadoes on the ground at once.

Confirmed Tornado List & Length of Track:

1.  EF2  Rileysburg to Covington  6 Miles

2.  EF1  Goodland to Northwest of Remington  5.6 Miles

3.  EF2  North of Veedersburg to North-Northeast of Wingate  12.8 Miles

4.  EF2  Northwest of Otterbein to Near Brookston  12.4 Miles

5.  EF2  Northwest of Romney to South of Lafayette 3.2 Miles (Southwestern Elementary & Middle School Tornado)

6.  EF1  Northeast of Rensselaer to East of Gifford  10.4 Miles

7.  EF0  South Raub (Tippecanoe Co.) 0.3 Miles

8.  EF2  Northwest of Chalmers  4.15 Miles

9.  EF3  South-Southeast of Lafayette to Southeast of Walton  39 Miles (Voestalpine Tornado)

10.  EF1  Northwest of Stockwell  2.9 Miles

11.  EF1  Medaryville to Northeast of Denham  13.3 Miles

12.  EF1  Northeast of Monticello  0.8 Miles

13.  EF2  Michigantown to North of Greentown 25.8 Miles  (300 homes damaged or destroyed in Kokomo between this & second tornado [EF2])

14.  EF0  South-Southwest of Logansport  1.1 Miles

15.  EF2  Southside of Kokomo  0.5 Miles

16.  EF1  Northeast of Grissom Air Reserve Base  2.9 Miles


2.  2012 Record Warm & Early Start to Spring, Then Drought & Record Heat

After a very mild winter of below normal precipitation, unseasonable warmth began to arrive in latter February 2012 with the first spring peeper & western chorus frogs heard at the end of that month!

I remember fondly how each doctors appointment my wife & I went to (we were expecting our first little one) was bright, mild to warm & beautiful that winter & early spring.  I also remember nickel-sized hail falling on us in a thunderstorm as we navigated to the doctors office in the very late morning of March 2, 2012 (big tornado outbreak south of our area).

Indeed, 2010 saw an early spring with lower 80s in early April (beating similar warm period at the same time in 1882), but March 2012 blew all other early-season warm spells out of the water.  Only 1910 is comparable with temperatures as high as 87.  1907 would be second with lower 80s in mid-March.  The all-time record for the month of March was tied officially at West Lafayette Purdue Ag Farm with 87.  We hit 87 here at the television station. 

Several unusually early phenological events occurred with Flowering Dogwoods reaching peak blossom March 31 & forests leafing out like early May by early April.

Everything was moved up ahead one month by the warmth.

Trees budded very early in March 2007, but not as much as 2012 & the end result in 2007 was much different.  A major freeze with the coldest April weather since 1982 wiped out the early foliated vegetation.  It was the worry in 2012, but much vegetation was relatively unscathed by the brief frost & freezing in mid-April.

I took this picture of the highly-advanced vegetation in McCormick Woods at Purdue University April 1, 2012:

Temperatures reached the mid to upper 80s in April with only one freeze doing much damage at all in the area with 20s to around 30, followed by temperatures approaching or reaching all-time record hot levels in May.  Only May 1911 was comparable with temperatures as high as the upper 90s.

Severe corn stress already began to develop in late May, though it was highly advanced & waist high in places.

I remember driving in northern Fountain & Tippecanoe counties in late May on a 95-98 day with corn on elevated ground curled up like pineapple plants & fescue along roadsides already curling & turning pale green to brown under strees.

June to early July saw a peak in the heat with temperatures surging to as high as 105 late month.

At WLFI, our rainfall for June 2012 was just 0.90".  Only 0.88" fell in July.  March 1-July 31 saw only 7.05" rainfall.  This was 11.42" below the normal of 18.47" for this period.

June-July 2012 deficits along in our area were 3 to 7".

It was unusually warm (mean temperature-wise) June-July.

March-July was exceptionally above normal (temperature-wise).

Deficits were 10-13" below normal for a good chunk of the area for March-July.

Drought was significant to major over much of the Lower 48 March-July.  This was the most widespread, significant drought since the great drought of 1988.


3.  Late January 2011-February 2011 Historic Winter Storm

Called "The Great North American Blizzard" or the "Groundhog's Day Blizzard" now in weather history, this storm was one for the record books in spatial extent, longevity & intensity. 

To attest to the impacts, Purdue University was closed for two days & all county government offices were shuttered.

In our area, this multi-faceted snow, sleet & ice storm brough treacherous roads & white-out conditions of heavy snow & winds gusting to 53 mph. 10-15” of snow fell in the north half of the viewing area, including 13.8’” at Chalmers.  I measured 8.7" of snow, sleet & glaze ice at WLFI.  A lot of it was sleet (which drifted to 1-2 FEET deep), making for a solid block of brick ice to chop through to dig out.  This, atop already a snow pack on the ground.

Thunder snow & ice was reported in parts of the area with up to 0.25" ice in the southern zones. 

A Blizzard Warning was in effect for our northwestern counties, which extended through central & northern Illinois. Blizzard warnings were lined up from Michigan to Oklahoma, a rare instances of numerous states under such a warning.

The 2010-11 winter was cold & very snowy with the lowest negative NAO readings since 1977. It was the snowiest winter since the winter of 1981-82 (until the brutal 2013-14 winter with snowiest on record [records back to 1879 at West Lafayette]).

Multiple states reported roof collapses to homes & businesses.

Drifts were up to 5 feet in our northwestern & northern counties with travel bans as multiple counties reported white-outs.

Storm facts:

Damage from the storm was around $2 billion with 36 deaths reported.

A band from Oklahoma to Illinois & Indiana to Ontario saw very heavy snowfall & blizzard conditions.

Up to 28" of snow fell in western & northern Illinois with up to 24" in southern Wisconsin.

Chicago saw 21.2" of snow with wind gusts to 60 mph.

Gusts of 70 mph occurred in Wisconsin & Michigan with National Guard deployed.

Up to 0.75" of glaze occurred in eastern Ohio with up to 6" of snow & sleet.  Widespread power outages were reported with 40,000 without power in Canton alone.

Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri declared state-wide State of Emergency with Tulsa, Oklahoma setting an all-time snowfall record of 14" & 21" fell at Owasso.

Wind gusts of +60 mph were reported in Oklahoma with the snow.

Oklahoma City saw around 12" of snow.

200,000 lost power at El Paso, Texas with ice storm as far south as Houston.

More than 1/4 million lost power in southeastern Pennsylvania alone from ice storm with many areas seeing not only up to 0.40" of glaze, but several inches of sleet.

Up to 1" of glaze & 12" of snow & sleet occurred in northern New Jersey.

Up to 23" of snow fell in Missouri.

53 counties in Kansas were declared disasters areas, buried in snow with white-out for 2-3 days.

NOAA National Weather Service map of total snowfall:



4.  2013-14 Brutal Winter

The 2013-14 was the coldest, snowiest winter in recent memory, the likes only seen in the winter of 1976-77, 1977-78 & 1981-82 in the last 50 years.

In some areas with a long record dataset, like West Lafayette, it was the or among the snowiest of the winters since the historic 1884-85 winter.

This will be one to remember for a long time.

One memory I have is attemping to drive just a few miles home from the television station in a snow storm with temperature around 0 & winds gusting to 45 mph in January 2014.

Two cars were stuck in the middle of Klondike & Lindbergh Road.  I tried to dig them out & couldn't.  We couldn't pull them out either.  The road to the west was drifted over in drifts up to the hood of cars.

They called for someone to get a large four-wheel drive.  I had to park at a business & walk nearly a mile home.....backward because the wind chill was so bad.  It was also hard to walk in the howling wind (which kept nearly blowing me down) with stinging snow.

Once I reached our street, I had to walk through drifts up between my knees & waist.  It was rough! 

We did cut-ins all day for this particular storm, as we did in the historic end of January-early February storm of 2011.

In my 15-year career, I have only done day-long cut-ins for winter storms on-air twice due to their severity.  Those were the storms......January 2014 & 2011 storm.

Wind chills dropped to -50 to -35 in the worst of the cold of that winter.

The 67.1" in the 2013-14 season would beat the all-time snowiest of 66.4" in 1884-85 at West Lafayette.

However, the official West Lafayette COOP observation site was moved from Purdue University to 6 miles northwest of West Lafayette in 1953.  Totals were less over far northwest Tippecanoe County to White County & also northwest Warren at around 52-56".  So, the official total is 54.8", though from West Lafayette & through Lafayette, the totals were 65-72" in a heavier band.

Parts of our southeastern areas saw more than 80" of snow!  Even in the far north, up to 80" occurred, making for a memorable, historic winter of 2013-14!  It is one we will all remember for a long time!  I know I will!


5.  January 2019 Historic Wind Chill Duration & Wind Chill Intensity

Arctic outbreak arrived on the evening of January 29 & persisted to January 31, 2019. Wind chills dipped to -54 to -35 over the viewing area with actual air temperatures dropping to -23 to -12. Purdue University cancelled classes for only the 12th time in 42 years & for the first time since the January 2014 major winter storm & extreme cold (-40 wind chill at the Purdue Airport & wind chill to -46 in our northwestern counties).

Frost quakes occurred & loud, interesting, billowy accoustics were heard from planes & jets passing overhead from the cold. The troposphere shrunk to its thinnest thickness since January 1985 with the 480 dm thickness reaching our area. Also, ice crystals fell from a clear sky at times (bitter, dry could not hold the moisture) on January 30 with sun dogs & halo occasionally observed around the sun. The crystals refracted the sunlight, causing the optical phenomena. These crystals also made the sky hazy at times.

Flash freeze occurred as the first of two Arctic cold fronts brought the extreme cold in. Snow of up to 1" also accompanied the the surges of cold with three rounds of strong winds with some gusts of up to 48 mph.

Much of the area was shut down due to the life-threatening nature of the cold & a Wind Chill Warning was issued viewing area-wide for the first time since January 2014.

This was all preceded by the weakening of the Polar Vortex into three sections, which allowed extreme cold to invade the central & eastern U.S. & Europe. Intense cold with wind chills <-25 & multiple rounds of snow (but also a brief thawing with around to to some 40s) preceded this Arctic outbreak. This Polar Vortex weakening & segmenting followed a significant stratospheric warming event in late December. These warmings usually occur weeks before the actual outbreak hits.

The lowest wind chills since January 1994 or January 1985 (depending on where you were) occurred on the morning of January 30 & the morning low of -17 at West Lafayette broke the daily record low of -12 set in 1966. This occurred on the same day that Anchorage, Alaska saw record warmth with a record warm low temperature of 33! The January 31 reading of -19 at West Lafayette broke the -13 daily record set in 1899. A record low daily high was set as well.

Interestingly, January 30 has the warmest record low temperatures for any day of the month in the 1879-2019 West Lafayette data set. There is a climatological bump upward in the temperature at the very end of the month with signals of the typical late January thaw that often just precedes Groundhog's Day in early February.


1. -51 January 20, 1985

2. -45 December 24, 1983...January 23, 1963...January 24, 1963

3. -44 January 18, 1994

4. -41 January 15, 1977 (New #4 Now -42 January 30, 2019)

5. -40 January 15, 1972...January 15, 1994...December 22, 1989...January 6, 2014*

*Note - several hours of data were missing prior to -40 reading in 2014, so it may have gotten lower.


1. 16 Hours: January 20, 1985

2. 15 Hours: December 24, 1983

3. 7 Hours: January 18, 1994

4. 5 Hours: January 16, 1977

5. 3 Hours January 23, 1963...January 24, 1963.......January 6, 2014?? (Again, missing official data from the observation equipment).


6.  June 22-23, 2016 Nocturnal Derecho

Winds gusted to 110 mph in West Virginia, 80 mph in Ohio & 100 mph northwest & north of Lafayette.  Gusts were measured near 90 mph southeast of Lafayette from this derecho.  A gust of 80 mph was also recorded in eastern North Carolina.  A few tornadoes also occurred, especially in Illinois at the onset of the event with discrete supercells as the dominant convective time.

The measured gust of 100 mph on the Tippecanoe/White County line was the highest measured gust by an anemometer since the gust of 103 mph measured north of Montmorenci from an HP supercell back in September 1999.

Brookston lost nearly half of the mature trees in the town & damage to farm structures & power line infrastructure was widespread in the path of it.

Damage was first reported west of Wolcott, where numerous trees were uprooted, a semi was blown over on I-65, and a empty grain bin was flattened. Moving southeast, the damage path began to expand in coverage and intensity, passing west of Chalmers. The progressive wind signature expanded and accelerated even further as it moved near and west of Brookston. Numerous tree limbs, as well as several uprooted or snapped trees were found in town. West and southwest of town a larger pole barn was knocked down with additional swaths of tree damage found heading towards the Tippecanoe county line. Damage did continue into Tippecanoe county, towards Battle Ground where winds were measured at 100 mph. Winds in White county are estimated to have peaked between 90 and 110 mph. The worst of the wind swath just exceeded 5 miles in width.  Many farm building sustained damage.

Damage continued into Clinton County with gust of 80 mph measured near Rossville.  Gust of 68 mph was measured northeast of Michigantown.  Gust of 66 mph was measured west of Delphi & 70 mph just northwest of West Lafayette.


7.  Extremely Wet Summer of 2015

Summer 2015 was especially wet with ponded fields right up into July.  Reminiscent of the wet, wet summers of 2003 & 2004, 2015 saw its biggest flood in June, while the 2003 & 2004 summers saw the biggest floods in July.

Some areas saw rainfall 14-15" above normal for June-August!  What is more impressive is that for much of the area 90-95% of this fell before July 21!  At the Purdue Ag Farm, 1.81" fell after July 21, but the previous 50 days saw 16.65"!

18.64" fell June 1-July 20 at the NWS COOP station 6 miles southeast of Crawfordsville.  July 21-August 31 did see 7.46", but 3.26" of that fell in on day:  August 18.

At the Rensselaer 6.2 SE CoCoRaHs site, only 1.68" fell after July 21 with 23.69" in the previous 50 days!

Normal is around 11.50" & some places saw up to 26"!


8.  August 24, 2016 Tornadoes

The August 2016 "Enigma Outbreak" was very intense for the time of year & unusual in its spawning by an MCV & not a larger synoptic mid-latitude storm system or landfall tropical system.

The evening to night before, a significant bow echo merged with an intense supercell over southwest Iowa & northeastern Kansas.  A wind gust of 96 mph was measured near Council Bluffs, Iowa with a brief rope tornado nearby.  The supercell produced a tornado in northeastern Kansas.

The storms you see in this graphic in Kansas & Missouri formed AFTER our tornado outbreak.

Bow & supercell merge to form a rather compact MCS. 

Sporadic wind damage continued into Illinois overnight as very pronounced MCV, due to the significant surface pressure falls of the storms, developed.

Storms weakened with in the morning during diurnal minimum & with weakening & diverting of nocturnal low-level jet.

However, strong MCV remained with enhanced wind fields, shear & low pressure associated with it.

Key to tornado outbreak was that normal southwest flow aloft & south flow at the surface deviated a bit.  Surface flow was more from the southeast & strong.  This led to more directional shear.

It was also a tropical airmass with dew points in the low to mid 70s with low, low tropical-type cloud bases.  Temperatures were only in the 70s to 80, but there was still enough CAPE for storms in the sultry airmass.

The strong directional shear was key to supercellular development & that strong, strong southeast wind.  They also stayed discrete early in the evolution without merges, which helped to get tornadoes going quickly.

Usually MCV do not produce tornado outbreaks like this, as they tend to produce linear activity.  This was an exception & further research has revealed that MCVs occasionally do produce tornado episodes. 

7 tornadoes were confirmed in the viewing area, the strongest being the EF3 in Kokomo that injured 5 people.

Of interesting note is one of the tornadoes that occurred outside of our viewing area near Fort Wayne.  This tornado was a large, intense multi-vortex that has strong evidence for violent, EF4 status.  The extreme scouring of the ground & soil & complete destruction of well-built farm structures & homes with steel beams bent & heavy, new farm machinery competely mangled like a ball of aluminum foil sure suggests the need for re-examination.  High-end EF3 would be on the lower end of this intense tornado.  It sure looks like EF4 & this may be overturned with time.

Tornado List & Track Length:

1.  EF2  Southeast of Crawfordsville to New Ross  5.37 Miles

2.  EF3  Southside of Kokomo  8.63 Miles (1000 Homes Damaged or Destroyed....Many Re-Built Structures Following November 2013 Tornado)

3.  EF1  East-Southeast of Flora to North-Northeast of Kokomo  17.06 Miles

4.  EF0  Peru  0.06 Miles

5.  EF0  Indian Heights (Howard Co.) 0.67 Miles

6.  EF1  South of Russiaville  1.5 Miles

7.  EF0  South of Kokomo  2.95 Miles


9.  June 2010 Prolific Severe Weather & Flooding

11 severe weather events to outbreaks occurred over the viewing area June 1-June 27. 

Things quelled June 28-early July, then turned more active again mid to late July.  August 4 was the last severe event until the October 26, 2010 morning QLCS with severe weather outbreak.

It is a June I will always remember.  I worked 21 consecutive days in that month covering the prolific amount of severe weather.

It all began with early morning microbursts embedded in strong winds on June 1.  Large, high-tension poles were knocked down, closing Greenbush Street in Lafayette.  There was also damage to multiple structures, including buildings at Chauncey Village Apartments.  Another microburst leveled hog buildings in Carroll County. 

Peak gust from microburst was 100 mph from near Boswell on June 10.  A gust of 114 mph was measured at Grissom Air Reserve Base as tornado tracked near this location on June 5. 

Largest hailstone occurred near Boswell (Benton) & near Talma (Fulton) at softball to grapefruit size in two spearate outbreaks. 

6.25" rain fell in one night west of Flora on June 22 & evacuations occurred at Edna Mills as floodwaters swamped the community in June.  5.50" fell at Fowler with 7.50" total June 21-22.  River & creek flooding were common during the month.

Tornadoes of up to EF3 strength also occurred.  There were 67 tornado reports in the June 5 outbreak.  19 confirmed tornado occurred in Illinois with two EF3s.  One death occurred.

4 tornadoes occurred in our area, one being that EF3 that tracked through eastern Cass to Miami counties, injuring one person.

Two derechos occurred, one June 18 & the other June 23.  Gusts of 80 mph were reported near Battle Ground from the first one.

Severe weather occurred in a La Nina, which often supports greater severe weather risk in our area by shifting the dry line east & promoting hot, dry upper ridging in the Plains & Southeast with "Ring of Fire" pattern dominating.

Such was the case here with brutally hot weather & historic drought developing in parts of the Southeast & mid-Atlantic.  The heat expanded westward to Texas in 2011.  2010-11 ended up as the worst heat & drought in Texas since 2000 & 1980-both active years for severe weather here in the summer.

The hot ridge expanded northeastward in the 2011 & peaked in the 2012 summer.


10.  April 2, 2018 Historic Easter Snowfall

Parts of the area saw 18" of snowfall March to early April.

It was the snowiest Easter on record for parts of the viewing area. 

All-time April temperature records were broken in parts of Illinois with some areas in the central part of the state dropping below 0 after the snow ended & a clear sky ensued (after nearly 8" of snow in places).  Just west of Benton County, Paxton dropped to -2.  Luckily, clouds hung on in our area, keeping us "milder" in the teens to 20s. 

Easter 1964 is comparable for our eastern half with up to 4.2" snow. 

April 4, 1920 saw heavy snowfall for that Eastern in central & northern Illinois, but not here.

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