Local Weather History: The Great Gale of 1880 & the Effects Here

Historic, monster bombing storm in the Pacific Northwest caused a massive blow-down of old growth timber. Similar to the 1962 storm, it has comparison to the bomb in late November 2019. However, there were different outcomes for us & the East Coast.

Posted: Nov 27, 2019 4:08 PM
Updated: Dec 4, 2019 9:43 PM

The opening image is dated 1880 in the Purdue archives http://e-archives.lib.purdue.edu/cdm/ref/collection/pbuildings/id/807.  Given the American Elm on the right budding, we can assume this is likely a late January image, as elms were reportedly budding in late January 1880.  The cumulus-filled sky gives the look of spring, which is a testament to the remarkable warmth experienced.  No other January has equaled it since.

The Norway Spruces in the image, based on likely planting size & other pics, were likely 10-11 years old, dating back to 1869 or 70. 

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A historic storm made landfall on the Oregon coast in late November.  A bomb, this storm brought wind gust of 106 mph to Cape Breton, Oregon!

This storm also brought massive snowfall, flooding rainfall (3 flooding fatalities in southeastern Missouri & floods to California & Arizona with some severe weather) & wind as it rode southeastward.  It also brought historic blizzard Nebraska to Minnesota & then re-organized into Nor'Easter.  At Albany, New York the heaviest snowfall since the Great Blizzard of 1993 occurred.  22.5" fell there from this storm with up to 32" in southern New Hampshiere.

This brings to mind the Great Gale of 1880.

Striking on January 9, 1880 in Oregon, analysis shows peak gusts of 138 mph.  Surface pressure dropped to 955 mb, causing a mass leveling of vast amounts of old growth timber in that area.

This 955 mb bomb was the strongest storm in that Pacific Northwest area until the Columbus Day Storm of 1962 (960 mb), though it was farther north compared to this particular storm.

This current storm has seen the surface pressure drop below 970 mb.  Another big storm occurred in the same area November 9, 1975 with surface pressure down to 975 mb.  1921 also featured a major Pacific Northwest storm.

Using the 1962 & 1975 storms as some guidance, here is the surface isobaric reconstruction:

So what did the January 1880 storm bring us, given the fact that this November 2019 storm brought us more rain, wind, few storms & mild weather?

Moving into the Intermountain West, storm re-organized in the Plains & raced northeastward, much like our storm did.

Storm brought blizzard conditions from the Rockies to the Dakotas, Minnesota & Wisconsin & a large high wind event across the Plains through our region.

It also brought record warmth to our area.  Note the 3 p.m. temperature at Indianapolis at 65, while Louisville, Kentucky was at 66 & Cleveland, Ohio 63.  Louisville ended up hitting 70, while Laconia, Indiana surged to 74.  Even Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania soared to 67.

However, notice the 10 at Minneapolis (with a howling north wind), the -7 at Grand Forks, North Dakota & -14 at Pembina as Arctic air began to be tapped & roar in with the storm.

The West Lafayette record high of 61 on January 9, 1880 still stands today (after a very wet, warm start to January after single digit lows near Christmas), as warmth was already in the East as the bomb made landfall in Oregon.  It cooled (low of 24 on the morning of January 10), then system brought another surge of warmth in.  The high temperature reached 68 at West Lafayette on January 11.  This record was tied again with high 68 on the date in 1890.

So, the great bomb only enhanced an already unusually warm month. 

January 1880 is still the warmest January on record for West Lafayette.It is an extremely rare January in that no measurable snowfall was recorded.

Storm brought 0.65" of rainfall to the area.

This system was part of multiple storm systems that brought wind & rain for the month with Wabash River flooding. 

I only found a few reports of wind damage from Louisiana to Arkansas.  No other reports of severe weather have been uncovered with the system (let along in our viewing area), but t'storms were reported in multiple parts of Indiana.

It was actually January 21 that had the bigger severe weather outbreak over the Southeast U.S. with extensive t'storm damage reported from the wind at Nashville, Tennessee.

For what it is worth, cold snap brought us two 0 mornings in February, then warmth returned.  The last 4 of 5 days in February were in the 60s (very cold start to March, though).

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