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The past 14 days, starting October 29th have really been something out of the ordinary here in the central Midwest. Early season cold and snow have broken numerous records. Here's a sampling of records from around the central U.S November 12th. Here in Cedar Rapids we broke two records at midnight when the temperature was 4 degrees. The 4 tied the record low for the 11th and at the same time broke the record low for the 12th which was 5. The NWS Quad Cities also had a record low of -6 as did Dubuque at -5.

By the way, the low Tuesday morning which ended up at 6 below in Cedar Rapids, shattered the previous mark of 5 set in 1986 by 9 degrees! The 6 below was also the coldest temperature ever for so early in the season! The temperature had not reached 6 below or colder previously until November 17th, 1959 when the low fell to -8

Since October 29th the two week temperature departures look like this. Much of my area is averaging 11-14 degrees below normal per day.

The 30 day departures are not much better.

During this onslaught of cold, the country has seen 2,854 record lows over the past 30 days. There have been 2,335 record cold highs. 812 new snowfall records have also been established.

As a side note, it can and does get warm this time of year. In 2005 the right ingredients of warmth and moisture produced 12 tornadoes in Iowa on you guessed it, November 12th. Stratford, Iowa was hit with a strong EF3 tornado that produced significant damage.

The twister was on the ground for 17.6 miles and produced 1 rare November tornado fatality.

November 11th and 12th are also known for another major storm that produced staggering weather changes as it roared northeast. Yes, I'm talking about the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940.


The morning of November 11, 1940 brought with it unseasonably high temperatures in the Upper Midwest. By early afternoon, temperatures approached 65 °F over most of the affected region. However, as the day wore on conditions quickly deteriorated. Severe weather was reported across much of the Midwest with heavy rain and snow, a tornado, and gale-force winds were all reported. Temperatures dropped sharply, winds picked up and rain, followed by sleet and then snow, began to fall. An intense low pressure system tracked from the southern plains northeastward into western Wisconsin, pulling Gulf of Mexico moisture up from the South and pulling down a cold arctic air mass from the North.

The result was a raging blizzard that would last into the next day. Snowfalls of up to 27 inches, winds of 50 to 80 miles per hour, 20-foot snow drifts, and 50 °F temperature drops were common over parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In Minnesota, 27 inches of snow fell at Collegeville, and the Twin Cities recorded 16 inches.Record low pressures were recorded in La Crosse, Wisconsin and Duluth, Minnesota. Transportation and communications were crippled, which made finding the dead and injured more difficult. The Armistice Day Blizzard ranks #2 in Minnesota's list of the top five weather events of the 20th century.

Survivors describe the cold as so severe that it was difficult to breathe, with the air so moisture laden it was thick like syrup and that the cold seared the survivors lungs like a red-hot blade. Many individuals claim that animals were aware of the upcoming weather shifts which led them to move rapidly from the area. Duck hunters who were out at the time were amazed at the amount of ducks that were in the area and on the move through the skies, one survivor recounting there were thousands.


A total of 145 deaths were blamed on the storm, with the following instances being noteworthy:

  • Along the Mississippi River several hundred duck hunters had taken time off from work and school to take advantage of the ideal hunting conditions. Weather forecasters had not predicted the severity of the oncoming storm, and as a result many of the hunters were not dressed for cold weather. When the storm began many hunters took shelter on small islands in the Mississippi River, and the 50 mph winds and 5-foot waves overcame their encampments. Some became stranded on the islands and then froze to death in the single-digit (°F) temperatures that moved in over night. Others tried to make it to shore and drowned. Duck hunters constituted about half of the 49 deaths in Minnesota. Those who survived told of how ducks came south with the storm by the thousands, and everybody could have shot their daily limit had they not been focused on survival.

  • Casualties were lessened by the efforts of Max Conrad, a pioneering light plane pilot and flight school owner and John R. "Bob" Bean (one of the flight school instructors) both based in Winona, Minnesota, 25 miles upriver from La Crosse. They flew up and down the river in the wake of the storm, locating survivors and dropping supplies to them. Both men were nominated for the Carnegie Medal for their heroism.

  • One survivor, Gerald Tarras, survived the storm in Minneapolis due to the two family Labrador dogs who lay beside him and provided body heat to protect him.

  • In Watkins, Minnesota, 2 people died when a passenger train and a freight train collided in the blinding snow. Watkins residents formed a human chain to lead the passengers to safety.

  • In Lake Michigan, 66 sailors died in the sinking of three freighters, the SS Anna C. Minch, the SS Novadoc, and the SS William B. Davock, and two smaller boats.

  • 13 people died in Illinois, 13 in Wisconsin, and 4 in Michigan


Prior to this event, all of the weather forecasts for the region originated in Chicago. After the failure to provide an accurate forecast for this blizzard, forecasting responsibilities were expanded to include 24-hour coverage and more forecasting offices were created, yielding more accurate local forecasts.

The U.S. Weather Bureau was criticized that it failed to predict the huge blizzard, and officials released a statement that they were aware that the storm was coming but wrong about its strength and scope. The Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) branch of Meteorology was upgraded to issue forecasts and not rely on the Chicago site. The storm re-shaped the Weather Service as we know it today.


The weak snow system that is slated to move into parts of the area Wednesday evening will bring some light snow to parts of the north. Models are still a bit erratic on how this plays out That said, I'm still leaning more towards the EURO solution. The 1" amounts should stay north of a line that runs from north of Waterloo to near or north of Madison. Some 2" totals could make it into far NE Iowa, SE Minnesota and SW Wisconsin. Heavier amounts will fall across central Wisconsin.

South of HWY 20 there could be a dusting of snow down to about HWY 30 before it all dries up. Again, we still have a short amount of time before the flakes fly so anticipate a few adjustments early Wednesday. The bottom line is this, if the EURO is right this won't amount to much unless you are well north of HWY 20. Even there totals should only be in the range of to 1 to 2". Here's the 0z models and their snowfall forecasts.


The 3k NAM

The 12k NAM


That's a wrap for now. More to come in a mid-day update. Roll weather and have a fine hump-day..TS

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