News release: Historic Winter Storms

Tim Baker, MU Extension Horticulture Specialist
102 N. Main, Suite 1, Gallatin, MO 64640

Release Date: January 23, 2014

Title: Historic Winter Storms

As I write this in early January, we are well into winter’s grasp.  So far, it hasn’t been too severe here in Daviess County, other than that polar vortex that hit everyone in the Midwest.

But when looking at historic winter storms, it becomes apparent that severe winter weather can come upon us very quickly, with sometimes life-threatening conditions.

One of the classic winter storms was The Great Blue "Norther" on Armistice Day, November 11, 1911. The day started out warm with some Missouri locations reporting temperatures in the 80’s. But when the storm arrived, temperatures dropped quickly. Jefferson City, for example, recorded a high of 80, and a low of 9! Hunters literally froze to death, not being prepared for such a change. Sleet and snow accompanied the storm. Tornadoes were observed in some states from this frontal system.

Another Armistice Day storm in 1940 saw the temperature drop from 60 to 10 in 3 hours, with a reading of - 5 the next morning. Orchards were lost all over Missouri.

In March 1951, the National Weather Service reports that a slow-moving storm brought heavy snow to Missouri and Iowa. Snow fell for as long as 92-100 hours before the storm quit. That’s a snow storm that lasted four days!

In January 1982, the St. Louis "Blizzard" hit the Ozarks, St. Louis, and eastern Illinois with up to two feet of snow. Some motorists were stranded for days.

Lest you think that these major events were all in the distant past, it was only February 2011 that gave us a major storm which closed I-70 from St. Louis to Kansas City.  That was the first time that had ever happened.

And even 2013 saw a very unusual event… a Missouri snowstorm in May. The last time Missouri had seen a significant May snow event was 1929. However, that isn’t the record. That honor goes to Fairport, Missouri, which received 8 inches on May 3, 1907.

There are many other historic winter storms, some of which brought a lot of suffering and tragic stories. After reading about these historic winter storms, it becomes apparent that these events can become very dangerous. Weather forecasting has become much better through the years, and often we may have a warning a week or more before the storm gets here. Sometimes, forecasters from the National Weather Service have a pretty good idea of the intensity and possible severity of the coming storm. So keep an eye on the forecast, and get a good NOAA Weather Radio to keep you up to date. It could save your life.

Before closing, I thought I would share a poem I wrote last winter for my Extension colleagues, before one of our winter storms. Be careful, and everybody have a safe rest of the winter.

Winter Storm Warning
By Tim Baker

The ground is white, it’s such a fright:
the thought to travel far.
Stay close to home, and do not roam,
it’s time to park the car!

In Jamesport town, it’s snowing ‘round,
not hot, nor warm, nor muggy.
In Amish sky, the snow doth fly,
it’s time to park the buggy!

The Eskimo doth love the snow,
with neither fear nor dread.
When winter’s done, out comes the sun,
it’s time to park the sled!