Local Weather History: Top Two Worst Heat Waves from Each Decade for the Viewing Area Since 1820

Based on lots of research here are the worst heat waves from each decade.

Posted: Jul 27, 2020 8:13 PM
Updated: Aug 25, 2020 10:42 PM


July 17-23, 2011

The worst of the 2011 drought & heat was in the southern part of the viewing area, part of the longest stretch of 90s on record for the city of Indianapolis.  Record dryness also occurred at Indianapolis in the summer.  Exceptional Drought conditions occurred in our southern counties with a tapering to Moderate Drought with northward extent in late summer.

At Greater Lafayette, the temperature peaked at 101 on the 21st.  A total of 7 nights failed to drop below 70 degrees, including 6 of those nights that did not drop below 75.  The low on the 19th was just 79.  This occurred during a time when several county fairs were underway, including the Tippecanoe County Fair, with numerous precautions taken for humans & animals alike.

This occurred amidst a dry spell.  After 2.01" on July 2, a total of only 0.20" of rain fell July 3-22.  

2011 was the precursor to the extreme 2012 spring & summer with record heat & drought as the semi-permanent upper ridge dominated the southern Plains & southern U.S., extending into the Lower Midwest & Ohio Valley.  

June 28-July 7, 2012

More soon



June 23-28, 2005

Significant drought developed in Illinois & spread into Indiana during the spring with widespread crop stress.

August 5-13, 2007

By August, this long, hot summer featured rainfall deficits of up to 12" for the year.  Certainly, this heat & drought was the worst just south of our area with widespread tuliptree death & defoliation seen from around Bloomington to Louisville to Evansville & beyond deep into the South.  It was an Exceptional Drought for the southern U.S. with massive rainfall deficits & widespread intense heat.



July 11-17, 1995

14 people were killed in Indiana directly from this major heat wave known for its extreme heat indices (dew points) & very warm overnights. Dew points were as high as 83 degrees.

This, combined with temperatures near 100, resulted in some of the highest heat indices ever experienced (+120 degrees). 6 consecutive days were in the 90s with 2-3 days near 100 in the viewing area.
Kentland peaked at 103, West Lafayette, Delphi & Morocco hit 101, Rensselaer & Logansport 100, Perrysville, Boswell & Maron 99 with Winamac & the Purdue Agronomy Farm peaking at 98. The morning low on July 14 at West Lafayette was just 81 degrees, one of the warmest overnights on record & the warmest overnight low since 1983.

To cap off this heat wave, an extreme microburst hit Miami County with an unconfirmed 136 mph wind gust recorded at Grissom Air Reserve Base, the highest wind gust ever measured in our viewing area (Montmorenci had a measured gust of 103 mph in September 1999 [microburst hit Andrews Air Force Base August 1, 1983 in similar extreme heat & boiling instability with measured 150 mph gust just minutes prior to President Reagan & Air Force One landing]).

Lightning struck 2 homes in Kokomo, leading to $90,000 in damages. Damaging winds downed trees& powerlines around Buck Creek, in the city of Kokomo & at Monticello.

July 20-August 1, 1999

Peak of major, deadly heatwave. Some areas had lows above 70 for 15 days & up to 12 days were above 90 during July 22-August 1. High humidity accompanied the heat wave with the heat index to 124. At the Purdue Airport in all three observations on July 30 at 1:54, 2:54 & 3:54 p.m., the temperature was 99 with a dew point of 79. The heat index was 118 in all three obs. With a high of 100, the heat index reached at least 119.
The extreme dew points made it deadly, with actual air temperatures peaking at 99 at Delphi, Francesville & Wheatfield. Rochester, Marion, Whitestown, the Purdue Airport all hit 100. Tipton, Rensselaer& Winamac reached 98.
This was the worst heat wave since 1995 & bore resemblance to that historic heat in terms of the dew points, duration & high temperatures in general.



July 10-20, 1980 & 1988 (Tie)

Multiple factors may the 1980 heat wave so distressing.  First, soils were quite moist to wet from a constant parade of MCSs & derechos that struck the area & all over the Midwest in the "Ring of Fire".  So, dew points rose to 80.  This, combined with upper 90s to 100 made it an extreme, long-duration heat wave event like that of 1995 with heat indices +115.  Multiple deaths were reported from the heat & heat illness was frequent, like the 1995 & 1999 events.  It also reminds me of a similar pattern in 2010 when we saw 90s & dew points to 82 with heat indices to 118 a times.  Luckily 2010 didn't see the duration, nor quite the 97-101 heat like 1980.

An extremely hot upper ridge with once of the worst drought since the 1930s & 1950s in the Plains expanded northward, pushing the "Ring of Fire" northward.  The intense heat overspread the wetter soils & lush vegetation & that moisture was released, making it a steam bath.  Combine that with some of the lingering long-duration power outages from the severe weather outbreaks & the result was 12 days of misery with little relief at night.

July 9-31, 1983

Historic heat wave gripped the area with widespread flash drought after an early March oddity & then an unusually cold, wet spring.  

Record cold occurred in late March with lows near 0 on March 23, then the temperature did not exceed 60 until April 13 for one raw, awful spring after temperatures as high as 77 March 2-9.  March 5-7 did not see any low temperatures drop below the 50s to around 60.

The temperature finally reached 72 on April 25 after a low of 31 in the morning.  April 26-June 4 only saw the temperature reach 80 ONCE!

Sudden shut off of rainfall & uptick in the temperature as pattern did a 180 in mid-June.  From June 16-July 30 only around 1" of rain fell & measurable rainfall only occurred on 6 days.  After 98-100 August 19, 20 & 21, at least more than 2" of rain fell on August 28, but we still hit 97 at West Lafayette on September 10.

In the long-lasting July 9-31 heat wave,  10 days saw lows in the 70s & 6 days saw 100s with 4 consecutive days in the 100s July 20-23.  July 22 saw the temperature reach 105 with a low of 74.

The long-lasting nature of this heat had a significant psychological effect & crops planted late after a cool, wet spring were not adapted to the sudden flash drought & extreme heat.



July 4-8, 1977

Known for a historic Serial Derecho that raked the Great Lakes on the Fourth of July, such a storm complex occurred on the periphery of this intense heat & some of the hottest weather of the 1970s.  It was also the longest duration of intense heat in the 70s.  July 4th high reached 97 with a low of 73, but the max temperature of this heat wave was 100 on July 6 with a heat index to 109.  All observations sites peaked in the upper 90s to 100.

July 12-20, 1977

In this heat wave, 10 consecutive days saw lows in the 70s with a peak temperature of 96.  April 3-August 3 saw only one day with rainfall that exceeded 0.50" at West Lafayette.

Sim June & July 1977 were quite dry & hot in the viewing area, however, early August suddenly turned very wet & active.  1977 is still the wettest August on record at Delphi (11.35"), West Lafayette (9.44"), Frankfort (9.08"), Kentland (11.02"), Romney (9.78"), Monticello (9.69"), Kokomo (9.54") & Wabash (9.02").

What's interesting is that most of this fell August 5-12 as a stationary front brought rounds of showers & t'storms to the area including a severe squall line on the morning of August 6. From August 5-7 alone, 4.04" of rain fell at West Lafayette & 3.64" at Delphi. Additionally, another 3.78" fell on August 10 at Delphi.  Flash flooding occurred in the area for several days.

Overall, there was a lack of heat waves in the 1970s, however, just like the 1960s.  The 1955-79 period was known for a lack of sustained, intense heat waves.



September 6-10, 1964

Other than 1.33" August 21-22 from tropical remnants, it was very dry from July 19-November 28 with severe, worsening drought.  Temperature peaked at 97 on September 10, but the dry air & longer nights led to large diurnal temperature changes with lows in the 50s & 60s, despite temperatures pushing 100.

Biggest issue with this heat wave was increasing fire danger & the continued drop of water in wells as long-duration drought continued, which really began in 1962, subsided, then ramped up in 1963 & continued into 1964 with worsening conditions.

1960s maximum growing season temperatures showed a tendency to occur late in the year (late August to September) when dry weather & drought tended to peak.

This followed the derecho back on June 19-20.

July 9-13, 1966

We were in drought with crop stress, but the worst of the 1966 drought (historic drought) was in the Mid-Atlantic & Northeast with widespread water restrictions.

June 22-July 5 saw each day reach the 90s except one.  The following July 9-13 heat wave saw two days reach or exceed 100 at West Lafayette (100, 101).  June 16-July 11 saw only 0.28" of rain with the heat with only 5 days since March 1 seeing a day with more than 0.50" of rainfall or precipitation.

However from June 1-August 31, only 7 nights saw lows that failed to drop below 70, showing the dry soil & drought promoting cooling at night.  The warmest two nights of the summer were July 12 & 13 at 73 & 74 respectively.

There was a drought in 1962, 1963, 1964 & 1966, but there was an overall lack of heat waves in the 1960s.



June 24-July 3, 1952

What made this heat wave so bad was the intense heat along with the high humidity from wet soils of heavy rainfall.  It was much like the oppressive heat with +75 dew points in 2005, 1999, 1995, 1980 with +110 heat indices widespread & many reports of "heat prostration".

From June 12-23, 6.15" rainfall occurred at the Purdue site with 3.03" alone on June 14 in the "Ring of Fire" with multiple "Ridge Riders".

As intense, hot ridge moved over the area, over these wet soils with lush vegetation & transpiring corn, the result was extreme heat indices & unusually oppressive nights where the temperature only dropped below 80 briefly.

Every day saw the heat index exceed 105 in this heat wave.  The high of 100 on June 30 was accompanied by a heat index of 118.  6 nights had low temperatures in the upper 70s to around 80.

Relief arrived on July 4 with highs in the 80s & lows in the lower 60s, however 4 more 90s days followed, but it was not as humid.

This still ranks as one of the most dangerous heat waves on record for the area due to the extreme heat indices.

June 20-26, 1953

This heat wave was highly impactful due to persistent dry weather & the heat occurring at a critical time for crops & significant yield loss resulted as the summer was hot & dry overall.

This was of long-duration with temperatures exceeded 95 & even 100 at times for 10 consecutive days in parts of the area. West Lafayette & Rensselaer ended up peaking at 102 with the heat wave lasting for 7 days.  Crawfordsville reached 102. Delphi, Logansport & Wheatfield peaked at 103, while Rochester & Kokomo peaked at 101.
Rochester had 5 of 10 days at or above 100, while two days of 100 or greater occurred at Delphi with 3 days at 98 or 99. Wheatfield had 3 days at or above 100, as well with 98 or 99 on two other days.

Drought extended into 1954 & for some areas, 1954 was as bad as 1953.  At West Lafayette, July 12-15, 1954 saw a peak temperature of 106, but it was only 4 days, so it does not count as a heat wave.  It has to be 5 days or more to be a heat wave, though other locations did have a heat wave with frequent, but relatively short heat waves in the summer of 1954.



July 18-August 5, 1940

To add insult to injury, extreme heat & drought seemed to be the norm after the brutal decade of the 1930s. 

Heat & drought encompassed the area with brutal heat as the rough summer of 1940 lingered on. Whitestown, in Boone County, had an outstanding 7 consecutive days with high temperatures at or above 100 degrees with a peak of 104 on July 30. At Wheatfield, 6 of the 7 days hit or exceed 100 with 103 on July 25 & 29th, while Kokomo exceeded 100 on 6 of 7 days with 103 on the 28th & 29th. West Lafayette had 100 on the 24th & 101 on the 30th with the other days hovering at 97-99. Rensselaer reached 105 on July 24 with 5 of 7 days at or above 100.

July 25-August 4, 1941

1941 saw a long, hot summer with a 12-day heat wave in Jun3 (peak temperature 98).

July 25-August 11 saw 90s & 100s separated by only one 88-degree day to split them into two distinct heat waves (July 25-August 4 & August 6-11).  Every day July 23-31, but one, saw lows in the 70s.

Late August ended with highs of 95 & even in late September, highs reached 94.  The heat wave of a much drier nature in later August & September, however, with lows in the 50s to 60s.

Drought was widespread in the area, but bouts of storms did mitigate drought stress some, but it also brought higher humidity that drove the heat index +105 for days.

At Purdue, 1.72" rain fell June 11 with 3.43" June 10-12 total.  Another big rain of 1.46" on June 29, while 1.15" fell around July 4 with some other t'storm rains of less than 0.75" in-between.

July 20-August 17 was the main, big dry spell that worsened areas of drought in the area.  Extremely dry weather occurred in September, but good-soaking, widespread rainfall from tropical remnants arrived in early October. 

This, after remnants of a hurricane came into contact with a strong upper jet streak & upper trough.  This brought a widespread non-t'storm damaging wind event with tropical storm to hurricane force gusts from southern Illinois & western Kentucky, through Indiana, southeastern Michigan, Ohio to parts of the Alleghenies, New England & southern Quebec.

We only received 0.06" from this & the strong winds brought brush fire danger as grass & leaf litter dried out.



July 3-18, 1936

This unprecedented, historic heat wave reached a climax on July 14 with an all-time state heat record of 116 near Rensselaer (Collegeville). Wheatfield & Whitestown hit 112, West Lafayette 111, Kokomo & Delphi 110, Crawfordsville 109, Rochester & Marion 108.
Rensselaer remarkably reached 110 or greater on 7 days July 6-17 of 100 or greater. In a stretch of 13 consecutive days at or above 100, July 12, 13 & 14 hit or exceeded 110. At Wheatfield, of 11 days at or above 100 degrees, an amazing 6 days were at or above 110. Exceptional drought gripped the region & many deaths were reported from the heat.

The last substantial rainfall was May 1 with 1.72" at Purdue.  Very little rain fell until August 6 with 0.81".  Finally, 1.31" fell August 26.

July 14-29, 1934

This marked the beginning of a historic heat wave that was the worst on record until 1936. For 6 consecutive days, temperatures hit or exceeded 110 in the viewing area. Rensselaer hit extreme highs of 112, 113, 112, 111, 112 & 111 July 20-25. Delphi hit 112 on July 21 & 24. Kokomo hit 108 on the 21& 24, while Crawfordsville had 107, 107 & 108 July 23-25. West Lafayette was 1 degree away from the all-time record high of 111 with 110 on July 23 & 25. Even Wheatfield topped 112 on July 22 & 23.
Extreme to Exceptional drought also burned the viewing area, but 1.17" of rainfall followed this heat wave at Purdue on August 10 at least. 



June 29-July 15, 1921

This intense heat wave was accompanied by an intense early-morning serial derecho that brought 60-110 mph winds over our northeastern counties.  A lake cottage was heavy damaged along Lake Cicott & windows were blown out of homes at Walton. Crop, tree, power pole & farm building damage was reported in Cass, Fulton, Miami, Carroll & Tippecanoe counties with narrow strips of intense damage embedded in widespread less substantial damage. This occurred after highs of 98-104° over the viewing area on July 4.

Of the 17 days of 90s to 100, only 4 days managed to barely drop below 70 at night at West Lafayette.  In fact, in the overall torrid period of June 17-July 28, only 16 of the 33 days saw overnight lows drop below 70 (& not by much except a 58 on the morning of July 21, but the high was still 88).

August 29-September 11, 1925

The peak temperature in this heat wave was 99 & the low on that particular day (September 6) was 76.  After drought, lots of t'storms impacted the area to ease the drought September 9-15 with 3.83" at Purdue.  This was more rain than fell in the July 11 to September 8 period after a 2.85" deluge on July 10 & 0.82" July 12-13. 

This was an unusually late heat wave after 100 on July 2 & many 90s days. 



June 30-July 11, 1911

This long, hot summer began with a 5-day streak of highs 88-91 in mid-May with only 0.44" rainfall May 1-18.  Then, the hottest Memorial Day until 2018 occurred with 3 days in the 96-97 range at Purdue, including 90s overall May 25-28.

After 0.88" rain on May 23, there was a real lack of rainfall from May 24-July 16 as drought set in & rapidly worsened.  

Temperatures soared into the 90s frequently with 98 on June 4, 101 on June 10 & then a 96 on June 22.  Overnight lows tended to be in the 60s to 70, owing to lower dew points from the widespread drought.  

They June 30-July 11 period was the worst with only 3 nights dropping below 70 & 4 consecutive days in the 100s, including a 104 on July 4, which is still the hottest Fourth of July on record for Greater Lafayette.

A brief pattern change occurred after 1.44" rain from storms on July 17.  Cooler weather came in with near-record cool weather with a 46 on July 26.

However, the extreme heat returned with nearly all of the August 6-18 period in the 90s to as high as 99 (August 10).  Rainfall continued to be light & very infrequent resulting in continued worsening of the drought.  This lead to decent temperature drops at night into the 60s.

It was the remnants of a hurricane (which made landfall on the Gulf Coast) that tended to change the pattern.  It brought 1.36" rainfall August 24 & highs only in the 60s.

The last 90-degree day of the year (92) occurred September 2 at West Lafayette.

Real soaking, beneficial rains would arrive at the end of September with 3.56" over several days.

Crop devastation from early start to the heat & drought & the duration of the heat led to much psychological distress.  In this summer, some of the hottest days ever recorded in the Northeast occurred (worse than the 1930s).

June 27-July 5, 1913

July 4-July 13, 1914 or July 20-27, 1914

July 22-31, 1916

August 3-7, 1918 (103)

14, 10, 8, 10, 4

More soon....working on this one especially.  Need to look at humidity levels, overnight lows, crop stress & yields, drought status, heat exhaustion cases, etc.



August 4-11, 1900

This heat wave was best-known for its torrid heat indices.  The temperature peaked at 96 with overnight lows in the 70s followed a wet, wet, stormy summer.  1.60" fell just prior to the heat wave to add to the dew points & 3.92" fell August 12-18 with 1.69" on August 15.  A high of 94 with 80-degree dew points followed August 18.

A hot upper ridge with drought pattern began to develop in the southern Plains & southeast as early as 1899, slowly creeping into 1900.  This hot ridge peaked with major 1934- or 1936-style drought & heat in 1901.  The drought finally ended by 1902-03.

This heat would try to move north of our wet soils & lush vegetation at times, leading to small bouts of extreme heat indices with many victims of "heat prostration".  This tropical heat also occurred in 1905.

July 1901

Great Heat Wave and drought of 1901 was in full swing in late July with readings as high as 111° in Indiana, comparable with 1936. “There were many prostrations and numerous deaths from the heat during both of these hot waves”, according to the Weather Bureau (pre-cursor to NOAA) Monthly Weather Review.
West Lafayette had 104° on July 21, 22 & 23 with Logansport at 105° on July 21 & 22, while Rensselaer reached 105° on July 21 & 22, as well. Marion, Indiana peaked at 105° on July 24 & Kokomo hit 102 on the 21 & 22.

There was a very intense round of heat with +110 heat indices in August 1905 with "many deaths from heat prostration", but it did not qualify as a heat wave, as it was only 3-4 days.

Overall, there is a lack of heat waves in the 1900s, however.  Other than 1905, these were the two main heat waves of the decade.



May 28-June 4, 1895

This very early-season heat wave had a very high impact on crops in a record-dry spring.  There was a lack of precipitation since February.  Massive wildfires swept the Kankakee River Valley in northern Newton, Jasper counties with the largest heron rookery in the state (massive nexting colony) being destroyed.  Other large wild fires swept Wisconsion, Michigan & Ontario, like those in 1871, 1881, 1887. 

The extremely long duration of lack of rainfall (back to 1894) is what made this drought & heat even more remarkable.  A rough year for plants, an untimely late hard freeze burned off newly-emerging leaves back in spring & most of the fruit crops were lost.

This particular heat wave was similar to that of 1933 when 100s occurred early in the growing season. 

A high of 100 was reached at Purdue on June 3 with 6 of the 4 days 95 or better.  More heat would return with a 98 on June 9, 100 on June 10 & 99 on June 11.  The dry, dry led to reasonably comfortable nights, as the May 28-June 4 heat wave saw lows in the 60s nightly (though 74 on June 4).  Even on June 10, the high of 100 occurred after a morning low of 62 & on June 8, the low of 50 in the morning was followed by a high of 92 (reminiscent of some of the diurnal temperature pattern seen in 1988, the 1930s, 1910s.  No more than 0.29" rain daily had fallen since April 21.

1930s-style dust storms occurred in 1894 & 1895 (though not as bad as the 30s as a lot of unplowed prairie still remained in place in the Plains).

September 5-16, 1897

This was another remarkable dry spell with a lack of rainfall since July in the area.  After a wet 1896, 1897 returned back to similar extremely dry, hot conditions seen in 1894-95. 

A testement to the dry, dry soils, crumbling, parched vegetation & longer nights, very large diurnal temperature changes occurred in this & an early October round of heat.  For example, the high/morning low for October was 92/46 October 1.  This followed a series of years with heat waves lasting late into Autumn.  A record heat wave occurred in autumn 1891 (September 16-27 hit the 90s with peak of 96 at Purdue) & even at the end of the decade, September 5, 1899 saw a high of 101.

This long event peaked with September 12 & 13 both reaching 98 for highs.  September 7-15 all saw high temperatures reach or exceed 95.  From August 30-October 10 (in already very dry soil prior), just 0.05" was measured at Purdue.  This, once again, resulted in a steppe- or desert-like diurnam temperature regime.  Nights cooled nicely in this heat wave, but days were torrid.

Lows during this heat wave were never above 66 & 5 nights were in the 50s to 60. 

Even September 26, the high reached 95 (after a record low of 31 on September 21 [which followed high of 64 after a strong, but dry, cold front passed]), October 5 saw 91, October 15, 88.  However, the last 70s day of 1897 was October 27 with a high of 76.



August 24-31, 1881

Massive wildfires sweep the forests of Michigan & Wisconsin, engulfing the Midwest & East, then northeast U.S. in a yellow sky & blue sun from the smoke in the hottest temperatures in eastern Illinois since 1841 & 1859 here.

These were the worst fires since 1871 & the worst until 1887, then 1895. For days, our skies were yellow with bluish sun from smoke as smoke drifted southward, before drifting eastward.

1881 was one of the hottest, driest summers to fall for any year. Late August to early September 1881 exhibited some of the hottest weather recorded so late in the season. Temperatures reached the upper 90s & 100s across the viewing area. This was followed by the hottest September day ever recorded in the Northeast as the heat wave moved eastward.

However, amidst this heat wave, a severe storm with a likely microburst hit Lafayette’s Springvale cemetery area. Trees were torn up, snapped & uprooted, while fences were damaged.

July 25-August 5, 1887

Worst drought & hottest weather since the severe drought& heat waves of 1881 occurred in Summer 1887.

In the Weather Bureau Monthly Weather Review for our section of Indiana: Eel River at “lowest level in 25 years”………“mills supplied by it are obliged to suspend operations”……..“extremely hot & dry weather continues in this section. Many farmers report that even though the rain should fall at this time the corn crop would be short. Grass is dying & in some localities stock are suffering from want of water.” “………..the corn is actually burning up from the excessively hot weather”.

Prof. H.A. Huston of Purdue University stated in the Weather Bureau’s Monthly Weather Review of 1887 that, “the temperature for the month has been extraordinarily high, the mean for the state 5-6 above normal…………several stations a maximum of 105 was recorded……..only one July that the rainfall has been less than this & that was in 1881.”

The 106 at Logansport this month was the hottest since the hot summer of 1874 & the 105 at Lafayette was the hottest since 1881. The thermometer exceeded 100 on 13 days at West Lafayette from July 13 to August 10. From July 5 to August 20, only 0.44” of rainfall was recorded at West Lafayette.

On August 9, extremely dry soils from the Extreme to Exceptional Drought across the area caused the largest temperature increase from the morning low to the afternoon high (without any front) at West Lafayette on record.  At the Purdue University station, after a morning low of 54, the temperature reached 101 during the afternoon, a rise of 47 degrees.
Such dryness often produces large temperature differences with stagnant surface high pressure, similar to deserts.



June 24-30, 1870 

Mean temperature for the last 7 days of June 84.5  June 29, 85 at 7 a.m. & 98 at 2 p.m.

July 4-9, 1874

June 19-28, 1874 & June 26-July 15, 1874 lows did not drop below 70 in a long, hot summer

June 28 & July 7 saw the hottest days of the summer & warmest nights of the summer with Logansport reaching 106 & low only at 79.

Chicago hit 99 on July 6 & hit 98 on July 25. June 21-July 9 saw 12 of 19 days with lows in the 70s.  Several nights only dropped into the upper 70s.

At Moline, Illinois June 20-July 14 every night but 4 had lows in the 70s.  All but 6 days saw 90s & 3 days reached as high as 98.  Even August 8, the high was 95 with a low of 80 with strong southerly winds all night & high dew points in the mid to upper 70s.

June 2-16 heavy rainfall around.

At Louisville, Kentucky, 51% of the days June 1-August 22 were in the 90s.  4 days reached 100-102.  On June 28, the low was 80 (followed by high of 100.................though low was a much-better 63 on July 1, but the high was 90).   

More soon



July 16-23, 1860

1860 bore resemblance to 1911, 1980 & 2010 in that a strong, hot upper ridge dominated the southern Plains to parts of the Southeast with extreme heat & drought & it expanded & contracted frequently.  This was a highly notable "Ring of Fire" pattern with storm complexes & derechos on its edge & the torrid heat & drought underneath it.

In the contraction, it brought lots of severe weather to our region in May to early June.  As it expanded, a flash drought developed, followed by a random severe weather event thrown in on the edge of the intense heat here & there mid to late summer.

July 12-19, 1868 

This hot, dry summer saw one particular heat wave peak July 15 with 105 Rensselaer & at 103 Lafayette.

More soon



July 29-August 3, 1854


July 12-18, 1859 

A drought occurred with this intense heat after modern-day record cold in early June with lows in the 35-40 range, which was a precursor to the widespread drought of 1860.  The 1860 had origins in a flash drought in our area with 100 after floods in May & June 1858.  Rensselaer reached 106 on July 15 while 100s were reported (90s July 14) at Lafayette July 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18

This matches up with the 100s reported at Crown Point, Indiana July 12-13 & 15-18 with  104, 104 & 105, 102, 100, 104.

An early sign of the heat & dryness ahead, observer near the Indiana/Ohio line northwest of Cincinnati reported that how unusually clear & pleasant May was & that the first 7 days of May were unusually dry & sunny for spring.  By May 17, there is mention for need of rain & "smokey mornings" are mentioned as a feature of the month.

On August 3, a “violent tornado” is reported to have passed through Sheffield Township, moving across Wildcat Prairie, barely missing Dayton. Two people were injured & several homes were demolished. The tornado is said to have moved right down Haggarty Lane & was sighted & described by several farmers.  Damage was also reported from a tornado in Miami County near Peru.

This appears to have been the outbreak that may have broken the intense July heat.  Then, in the August 1859 mail balloon launch from the courthouse square in Lafayette, the balloon went down in a north wind over Montgomery County.



August 15-21, 1841

With a streak of hot, hot, drought years, 1838-41, tempers began to continually flair & desparation hit its peak in the summer of 1841 for the Midwest & Ohio Valley.  Crop failures & lack of employment caused riots in some cities.  The worst was in Cincinnati, Ohio where unemployment in the river port from crop failure (& increasing lack of food) combined with on-going racial tension to make for days of violent riots in the streets in September. 

No real drought-busting rainfall arrived until early November, but October was reportedly better than September.

July 23-29, 1846

The summer drought of 1846 sparked the “Attica & Covington War”.

The summer of 1846 was hot& dry with +100 readings in June & July on several days. Heat is said to have peaked in Tippecanoe & Cass County in late July with 5 days above 100 with well-below normal rainfall that withered away vegetation. At Crown Point, Indiana it was called “a very hot, very dry summer”. With deaths from the heat & wells low & typhoid rampant, it was a rough June-August. 

The extreme drought caused the “Attica and Covington War”, which was further enhanced by short tempers from the extreme heat & deaths. Unfortunately, the canal was to be opened in this hot, dry summer. At the time of its opening, the water was so low in the Wabash, there was only enough water to fill the canal to Attica & not Covington & the first boats were grounded at Covington. Unknowingly, Covington residents thought Attica used the lock to purposely block canal use to Covington. Covington Senator Hannegan (home from work in Washington D.C.) got folks together to go up to Attica & physically unlock the gate in the night, but could not do so. Next morning Senator Hannegan and 300 townsmen and farmers armed with clubs again ran up the river to Attica. Before the battle & dispute ensued, Attica was overtaken & the Covington citizens opened the flood gate.
No one won from this………there was so little water, by the time it got to Covington, it was a few inches of mud & no commerce could take place. Appreciable rains arrive by early fall & the canal was filled beyond capacity. 

Flooding in December 1846 to early January 1847 would lead to damage to the canal.

Addingly, 1846 was reportedly the warmest year of the 19th century until 1878 at Minneapolis. 1846 ranks as one of the warmest in St. Louis & Chicago in the 1800s. 1846 also ranked as one of the hottest summers in the 1840-1900 period, comparable to 1838, 1839, 1841, 1881 & 1887.



July 27-31, 1838

Drought of 1838 in full swing with extremely dry, hot summer weather continuing.  It was reportedly the hottest, driest summer since 1820.  1829 was second behind 1820 for heat & drought, followed by 1823 in the decade of the 1820s.

The horrific human toll makes this summer-fall & peak of a heat wave makes this one of the worst on record with 1936. 

It was during this time that our native Potowattamie people were driven from their land after a long fight unto the Trail of Tears.  In this brutal season, heat stroke, dehydration deaths, starvation & cholera set in among the Native Americans.  In this massive humanitarian crisis & tragedy, numerous deaths of the Native Americans continued daily & accelerated with the intensifying heat & drought.

Intense heat with 90s to 100s occurred at Jefferson Barracks (St. Louis) from July 14 to August 19.  Press & observers in Lafayette, Crawfordsville & Logansport seem to indicate that the heat peaked in two surges.  One was July 27-31 with temperatures exceeding 100.  The other August 9-12 with 100 in the shade.

On the Trail of Tears, one government official stated:
“Reached camp near Williamsport at 4 p.m. As we advance farther into the country of the prairies, water becomes more scarce - the streams are literally dried up and we have reason to fear that unless soon refreshed with rain, our future marches will be attended with much pain, and suffering. 2 deaths took place this evening.”
An emigrating party on the Trail of Tears, which were leading the Native Potowattamies west stated on the 14th, “A few minutes travel brought us to the Grand Prairie, a portion of which we passed over, arriving at our present Encampment at Danville, Ill., at about 3 o’clk. P. M. The heat along with the dust is daily rendering our march more distressing. The houses are jaded the Indians sickly and many of the persons engaged in the emigration more of less sick.”
On September 24 in central Illinois near Springfield: “Our march today was through a very dry region of Country. We are now encamped on a stream affording little water.”
In west-central Illinois on October 2: “The day was excessively warm and the dust very afflicting, added to which water was scarcely to be found on the route.” “Water on the route was only to be found in stagnant ponds.”

It was the hottest summer at Fort Snelling (modern-day Minneapolis) since 1829 with 100 on July 7 (highest temperature there since 1823), but a torrential 5.10" rain the next day, according to observer at the time.  It still hit 98 on the 15th, however!  Even the 19th of August soared to 96, so this hot summer extended well to the north, but there seemed to be more t'storms action at Fort Snelling than farther southeast in our area.  Rainfall occurred on 11 days in July & the humidity was consistently & miserably high.

July 20-29, 1839




June 7-12, 1820

A “truly alarming summer drought occurred in 1820.…..travelers many days were obliged to pass whole days, in the warmest weather, without being able to procure a cupful of water for themselves or their horses, & that which they occasionally did find as almost putrid”, according to The History of Fountain County.

Weather records from Illinois, Ohio & Michigan show that the worst of the heat in the 1820 hot, dry summer seemed to center around June 7-12 & August 8-14 in this particular region.  By August & September the region was especially parched with pioneers  unable to find much water, reportedly in our area & a "smoky atmosphere prevailed"

However, the drought was centered south of southern Minnesota.  Although the Fort Snelling (modern-day Minneapolis-St. Paul) records reported hot, dry weather in late May to early June with only one single light rain, the summer was wetter, stormier & 2 degrees cooler than modern-day average.  After the early June dryness, 5 consecutive days of rainfall & storms occurred.  The highest temperatures of Summer 1820 were 93 on June 17 & July 1 (heavy rainfall followed the next day).  11 of the first 23 days of July reported rainfall.

However, more than half of the July days saw 90s at Fort Armstrong (present-day Rock Island, Illinois) with the only rainfall being a "violent hurricane" on July 21. 

Interestingly in the apparent "Ring of Fire", Fort Detroit saw 15 of the 31 days of July with rainfall & 12 those saw t'storms, including that July 21.  9 of the 31 days were at or in the 90s.

August 8-14, 1820

At Fort Armstrong, nearly half of the days saw 90s in August. It was reported at the fort that the gardens produced a lack of food & that it was so hot & dry that the corn did not even mature to produce any seed. 

At Fort Dearborn (Chicago)

In Summer 1821, "violent hurricanes" & mentioned with impressive frequency at Fort Dearborn & 1821 was also reportedly a hot, dry summer at Vincennes, Indiana.  However, it is mentioned that 1820 was the hottest, driest summer there until 1838.

At Fort Detroit (Detroit)

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