Local Weather History: The Coldest October Night On Record & An Unusually Heavy Snowfall for the Season

October 19-27 saw highly-unusual weather with a historic snowfall & cold snap.

Posted: Oct 19, 2018 4:06 PM
Updated: Oct 19, 2018 4:30 PM

October 19-21, 1869 & October 19-20, 1989 snowfall has some similarities.  1989 just didn't feature the record cold wave behind the snowfall that 1869 had.  Also there was more snowfall in the highland of the Appalachians with the 1869 snowfall, compared to the 1989 one.

Up to 9″ of snow was reported in the viewing area October 19-20, 1869, as unseasonably cold weather arrived. After a bit of a temperature rebound (still below normal), October 24-27 saw the coldest weather ever record so early in the season. Overnight low of 9 was recorded by observer southeast of Lafayette. This followed 60s on the 17th.  It was reported that warm ground temperatures caused much of the heavy snowfall to melt a lot & compact into thick, heavy, slushy snow.

Earliest snowfall of such magnitude since October 20, 1833.

More than 5″ of snowfall was reported in the St. Louis area October 26, 1843 & a gentleman by the name of Henry Baker made reference to an early snowfall on fully-foliated trees in Greene County, Indiana (Worthington [southwest of Bloomington]) at the same time in 1843. However there is no reference to snowfall at Lafayette or anywhere in the viewing area, however.

Back to 1869, at St. Louis, rainfall in the night transitioned to “a heavy snowstorm in the forenoon”. The noon temperature was 34.

“Great damage” was done to trees & shrubbery, reportedly, at Detroit from the heavy wet snow & wind.

The snow was reported as “remarkable” at Jasper, Indiana & that it was the “heaviest October snow we can remember of” (in the Jasper Weekly Courier).

In Floyd County, Indiana, a resident reported that it was the heaviest October snowfall there since 1830.

The “very remarkable for the season” snowfall at Plymouth, Indiana was still partially on the ground October 28. Press stated the nights had been “notably winterish”.

Snowfall totals:

12″ Detroit

10″ Fort Wayne, Indiana

10″ Plymouth, Indiana

9″ Southeast of Lafayette, Indiana (low temperature of 9 degrees after the snowfall)

4″ Vincennes, Indiana

4″ Jasper, Indiana

4″ Terre Haute, Indiana

3″ Louisville, Kentucky

3″ St. Louis

2″ New Harmony

2″ Evansville

2″ Chicago

Trace Cincinnati

4″ fell at Toronto, Ontario, Canada, but northwest of Toronto, at Walkerton, 24″ was reported. Several inches were reported over Illinois, Missouri & Kansas where press called it “A Violent Snowstorm”. 18″ was reported in the Alleghanies of central Pennsylvania.

Interestingly, the temperatures returned back to the 60s at Lafayette by early November.

Ice was reportedly strong enough for skating in Iowa October 27, though no snow had fallen. 

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