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Local Weather History: Top 10 Biggest October Snows

This is a look back to the earliest weather records on the biggest October snows in the area.

Posted: Oct 23, 2018 9:00 PM
Updated: Oct 5, 2019 9:04 PM

1.  October 19-20, 1869

9" In Greater Lafayette

9" of snow was measured near Lafayette from this early snowstorm, which was followed by an Arctic Blast a few days later.  The low temperature of 9 degrees is still the coldest temperature ever recorded in the month of October in Greater Lafayette.  Tree damage occurred from the weight of the heavy, wet snowfall.

Snowfall of up to 12″ fell at Detroit, followed by 10" at Plymouth & Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Even Vincennes, in southwestern Indiana, measured 4" .  Chicago reported 2", St. Louis, 3".  Several inches was widespread over Kansas, Missouri & Illinois.

Temperatures shot back to the 60s & 70s following the Arctic Blast.

For snow depth & following cold this is the top October snowfall event for our viewing area.

2.  October 20, 1989

6.7" Lafayette.........Up to 10.5" In the Viewing Area......

Up to 10.5" of snow fell in the viewing area in this snowfall that was damaging to some trees & powerlines.  Not much cold followed it, in fact temperatures skyrocketed to the upper 70s following it.

6.7" fell in Lafayette, 7" Delphi & 9" Frankfort atop still quite warm ground with temperatures hovering around 32-33.  9" fell in Fulton County, at Rochester, while 10.5" was reported from Kokomo.  Logansport saw 2.3" & Boswell saw 4", while Kentland received 3" & Rensselaer 2.5".     

3.  October 25, 1862

8" at Lafayette

In a band of heavy snow from Oklahoma & Arkansas to Maine, Up to 10" of snow fell in the viewing area with "much damage" reported to trees as the heavy wet snow fell on still full foliage.  3" was reported in Indianapolis & Vincennes, Indiana, while 5" was reported near Evansville.  3" fell in Shelbyville, Indiana.  Up to 3" fell at Fort Smith, Arkansas & +12" in the Northeast U.S.  Snow was also reported as far south as central Tennessee.

Crawfordsville & Lafayette both reported 8".

From the Crawfordsville Daily Journal:

A daguerrotype of the snowfall from the Library of Congress.  Note the fully-foliated trees with the snowfall accumulation.  The location is unknown, but it is this particular snowfall event.

4.  October 20, 1833

5" Snow Logansport

5" of snow fell at St. Louis & 2" in the Evansville, Indiana in this early-season snowfall that seemed to be confined to only the Midwest.  I have not come across any reports of snowfall in the Northeast U.S.

This is a snippet of the weather records from October 1833 from Fort Armstrong, at Rock Island, Illinois.  This is courtesy of the University of Illinois.

Note "Snow" on October 20, the day of the 5" at Logansport.

5.  October 23, 1929

Heavy snow of up to 5" fell in our western & northwestern counties from this event. 

It was a sharp cut-off to the snow, however.  Only 0.5" was measured at Monticello, 0.3" at Rochester & trace amounts elsewhere in the eastern & southeastern part of the viewing area.

West Lafayette saw just a trace, as did Crawfordsville & Veedersburg, but 4.7" fell at Winamac, 4" Fowler, 2" Covington.

6.  October 30, 1925

3.3" West Lafayette.......

2.4" fell at Frankfort, 2" was measured at Kokomo, Veedersburg, Delphi & Logansport.  1" was reported from Rensselaer, 0.8" at Monticello, but only 0.1" at Wheatfield.  Winamac saw just 0.4". 

7.  October 30, 1917

Up to 2" Reported In Viewing Area...........Third Snow Since October 12.......

1917 saw one of the coldest autumns on record & still the coldest October on record.  Three snows occurred.  One brought a trace to much of the area October 12-13, the others occurred October 23 & 30.

2" Frankfort, 1.7" Rensselaer, 0.8" Wheatfield, 0.5" Kokomo, Trace Logansport, Trace Veedersburg, Trace West Lafayette

8.  October 9, 1906

Earliest Flakes On Record In Greater Lafayette.....Up to 7" Snow In Northeastern Areas.....

The earliest snow on record fell at Lafayette. The high temperature was a record-breaking minimum high of 39. Other flakes flew at Rensselaer, Delphi, Winamac, Rochester& Logansport. The high reached just 41 at Kokomo, Crawfordsville& Marion. An unprecedented 2-7” of lake effect snow fell in Marshall& Fulton counties. Plymouth received 6” of snowfall & it was reported in the local newspaper that the snow fell before there was any frost & most of the leaves were still green. Rochester reported 7” of snowfall. Most other areas reported a trace. Northern Miami County had 1-2”.

This was reportedly the biggest snowfall so early in the season in northern Indiana since October 15, 1842 with 12" at LaPorte & nearly 24" at South Bend. In our viewing area, it was the coldest so early since 1875 & snowiest so early since a 9" snow in the Lafayette area in October of 1869.

Like 1869, highly-unusual intense cold snap occurred a few days later. On October 11, the temperature dropped to 20 degrees at West Lafayette. The all-time record low temperature for October was set in 1895 with 16, however this occurred late in the month on the 30th.  Only 1869 was colder with 9 on October 25, before the official West Lafayette data set of 1879-present.

The early hard, hard freeze put the kibosh on much fall color as many of the leaves were still green. Many withered, turned brown & fell in the frosty cold. Plymouth dropped to an eye-opening 16.

Kokomo dropped to 22, while Crawfordsville & Marion bottomed out at 23, Whitestown had 19.

Very oddly, the temperatures would not get that cold again until early December & readings were up to 80 again by the 16th.

Interestingly, the snow was actually caused by a clipper-type system & strong cold front.

9.  October 16, 1875

Snowfall & Record Cold.......Up to 2" Snow.......

2" snow was reported from Rensselaer & 1" at Logansport.

Lows dropped to 18-20 in this early hard freeze that wiped out any fall color.  This, after a late spring with a heavy, record snowstorm in late March, then a record wet, flooding, stormy, cool, but muggy summer let to an early fall. 

However, 1875-76 ended up as one of the warmest winters on record.  Even after the snow & cold, it warmed up very nicely again to the 70s & even an outbreak of severe storms struck at the end of October.  Multiple damaging tornadoes were reported in northern Indiana, including at Goshen & Fort Wayne.  The same storm system produced a snowstorm at Omaha, Nebraska & reports of accumulating snow & ice at Des Moines, Iowa.

10. October 23, 1917

Up to 0.5" Fell In the Viewing Area.......

This is a noteworthy snow in its earliness, but it was already the second of the month. 0.5" West Lafayette, 0.5" Veedersburg, 0.5" Frankfort, 0.3" Crawfordsville, Trace Kokomo

A trace of snow occurred area-wide October 12-13.

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