Local Weather History: The Severe Storms of August 24, 1947 with 78 mph WInd Gust Measured at the Purdue Airport

Severe weather hit Tippecanoe, Boone & Montgomery counties in the afternoon of August 24, 1978. The Purdue Airport saw damage with a measured wind gust of 78 mph.

Posted: Aug. 21, 2018 5:56 PM
Updated: Oct. 9, 2018 2:28 PM

A severe t’storm produced a measured wind gust of 78 mph at the Purdue Airport on August 24, 1947.  Striking around 3 p.m., it dropped the temperature from 101 to 74 quickly. This heat was the continuation of a brutal, hot & dry late summer (though the dry soil brought the coldest nights ever recorded in the month of July centered around the 23rd), so the rain of this severe t’storm was very welcome. 6 barracks buildings had their roofs blown off at the airport by the storm.

Many buildings trees, limbs & powerlines were reportedly damaged or downed across Montgomery & Boone counties through late afternoon.  Calling it a "cloudburst", an intense storm also completely flattened corn fields in northern Putnam County, blew down trees & power poles at 1:30 p.m.  Trees, limbs & powerlines were reportedly downed in Greencastle with 4" of rainfall three hours, reportedly.  Several basements were flooded & some streets were impassable from the flash flooding.

At 2 p.m. buildings were also destroyed in far southeastern Starke County near Bass Lake from an intense gust.  The wind was accompanied by "very large hail", though no size is given in the U.S. Weather Bureau records.  It was a very destructive storm to trees & crops. 

Other wind damage & large hail was also reported in northeastern Pulaski County around Monterey.

Other severe weather occurred in West Virginia & over South Carolina.  There were a lot of storms reported Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, but no severe weather was officially reported.  However, there were deaths from lightning strikes & quite a lot of significant flash flooding.

Rainfall was highly-variable over the area from the few government weather stations available at the time.  1.65" rainfall was measured at the Purdue University Airport from the violent storm.  Interestingly, despite all the damage reports & even reports of flash flooding in Montgomery & Boone counties, the official Crawfordsville U.S. Weather Bureau COOP station gauge did not measure a drop.  This signals that these were supercells or clusters of supercells with downbursts, some large hail & very heavy rainfall, rather than just a solid squall line of damaging winds.

Data is from U.S. Weather Bureau COOP stations at the time.

Temperatures peaked as high as 101 in this intense heat preceding the storms. 

Data is from U.S. Weather Bureau COOP stations at the time.

These are the peak August 22-24 temperatures:

Storms appear to have fired on an outflow boundary from overnight August 23 storms over Minnesota & Iowa to Wisconsin (along weak surface cold front).  These blew up amidst an intense heat wave here after record cool weather in late July.  In fact, the storm of August 23 at Oconomowoc, Wisconsin caused the city to not see power restored until August 26.

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