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When I'm wondering about weather folklore and historical events this is the man I go to. With more than 50 years of statistical and observational research, he's the dude! When it comes to lunar cycles, woolly bear caterpillars, insects, bugs, and animals, he tracks them, records them, and establishes ties to weather patterns. He's a knowledgeable and interesting man. His name is Steve Gottschalk by way of Lowden, Iowa. I'm grateful to him for lending his unique perspective to the site. Steve's "wild" world of weather can be found every week right

here on Take it away Steve!


A severe blizzard swept across Iowa and the surrounding states on Dec. 1-3, 1856. There were numerous deaths from freezing and substantial injuries due to frostbite across the state with the majority of them reported in the northern sections.

The morning of the 1st started out sunny and pleasant with some of the settlers leaving their stock outside while others decided to go into town. By afternoon the dark clouds rolled in from the northwest and heavy snow began to fall. As the day progressed the winds increased and the temperatures began to fall. The storm continued to rage throughout the night and all day on the 2nd. The storm finally subsided on the evening of the 3rd.

At Border Plains in Webster county, 12.0" of snow fell along with a gale that blew on the 1st and the 2nd. The temperature fell to -1 on the morning of the 3rd.

The Des Moines area saw snowdrifts of 3 to 5 feet and there were no mails for ten days


At Muscatine, 11.0" of snow fell and the temperature dropped to 3 degrees on the morning of the 3rd.

Jackson county received 16.0" of snow as did Franklin in Bremer county with the temperature falling to below 0 on the morning of the 3rd.

At Dubuque, the local newspaper stated that the "snow was swept by a angry wind with blinding velocity and the amount of snow was from 16.0" to 18.0".

Up in Wisconsin, Platteville received 14.0" of snow, Wausheka and Janesville had 12.0" apiece and Madison picked up a total of 8.0". There was lightning and thunder along with gale force winds accompanying the snow.


The month of November 1909 was very wet with multiple rounds of rain and snow. There was even flooding in some areas. Some form of precipitation fell in some part of the state on all but 4 days of the month. This caused significant problems with harvesting in many areas. The corn was molding or rotting in the fields at the end of the month.

Some of the higher snowfall totals for the month were 20.6" at Northwood, 24.5" at Larrabee and 29.5" at Plover in Pocahontas county.

One interesting phenomena that happened during the month was the brilliant meteor that passed over Dyersville at 4:30 p.m. on the 28th. It was accompanied by a noise resembling light thunder and a vibration causing dishes, windows and doors to rattle. It is believed to have come down somewhere northwest of town.

If you enjoy reading my blogs you may want to check out my column Let's Talk Weather in Our Iowa magazine. It has weather folklore and weather history.

That's all for now. On the "wild" side of weather, I'm Steve Gottschalk wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.

*Here's an invitation for you to become a graduate of Weather School at TSwails University. Get the details on the program and your "degree" below. is offering a very special and unique opportunity for you to learn first-hand the ins and outs of weather forecasting with one of the best meteorologists in the country along with his team of expert meteorologists.

That’s right… You want to forecast right along with Terry Swails, well now you can. He’s teaching weather with TSwails newest program called WEATHER SCHOOL. The opening bell rings this January and you can be a member of the very first graduating class. The one-day forecasting seminar for weather enthusiasts will be held at his home in January. It’s not your typical run-of-the-mill school. There will be no tests, but Terry, Rebecca, and Nick will cram your head with so much knowledge, it’ll be spinning like a tornado before the day is over

You want to know the essential online sites to use for models, radar, and the basic weather tools? DONE! You want to understand the structure of models and the role they play? DONE! You want to be able to construct forecasts from the ground up? DONE!

WEATHER SCHOOL will be presented in a seminar-type format where you'll have the ability to ask questions and dig deep. You’ll get the scoop on data acquisition, model analysis, severe weather, and actual forecasting from the big dog himself, T. Swails. With 43 years of experience and an uncanny ability to break the science down, you’ll open the door to forecasting like never before.

Along with the head master T. Swails himself, meteorologists Rebecca Kopelman and Nick Stewart of KGAN TV will be there to lend their knowledge and experience to the discussion. It will be fun, informative, and factual! This is the day for you to see, feel, and experience what it’s like to be in the hot seat of a meteorologist.

The seminar will be held January 25th and will last from noon until 5:00pm. We have limited seating and the cost is $ 99 dollars per person. A catered lunch will be provided. Again..not a lot of seats so reservations with a pre-payment are required. Sorry, no refunds. If there’s enough interest, a second session will be added in early February. To register or get additional information send an email to

GIVE THE GIFT OF WEATHER. This might be the perfect gift for that hard to buy for person this Christmas. Along with a WEATHER SCHOOL admittance voucher, TSwails will send a special holiday greeting to your weather enthusiast if you give the gift of weather with the TSwails touch!



Purpose: To help weather enthusiasts understand the basics of forecasting and apply the knowledge and techniques learned to construct personal forecasts.


The essential on-line sites for models, observations, satellite and radar images, and general weather data.

Session 2: ANALYSIS:

Determining your objective goals. Short term, intermediate, or long-term. Understanding the process of analysis and its relationship to forecasting.

Model options and choices. What to use and when!

The GFS, EURO, NAM 3k, NAM 12K, Canadian, HRRR, MJO, ensembles, teleconnections, etc.

Locating, learning, and knowing what’s essential to make a reliable forecast.

The art and science of model interpretation: Using and understanding model output. Its called guidance for a reason!

Learn how to analyze key parameters such as:

Surface and upper air data

Vorticity and energy

Precipitation output

Wind and pressure


A simulation of the basic process using model output.

BREAK: A 25-30 minute recess to enjoy a catered lunch…


Thunderstorms, tornadoes, derechoes, and squall lines.

Soundings. What are they and why should I care?

Instability (CAPE) vs (CIN) Critical interaction involving moisture, heating, and forcing.

Uncovering the ingredients of a severe weather set-up.

TVS signatures. What to look for on radar.

Role of SPC vs NWS, and your local TV station regarding the warning process.

Simulated model driven forecast of a severe weather event/tornado outbreak


The key ingredients required for significant winter storm:

How to forecast the rain snow line.

How to forecast snow totals from QPF

Determining totals from snow ratios.

What to look for at the surface and at upper levels (500 and 850mb)

Model bias and determining the storm track

Simulated model driven forecast of a significant Midwest winter storm


An open period for attendees to ask questions regarding relevant topics or issues discussed during the day.


Some final words of inspiration from the events headliners

Once again, to reserve a spot or ask questions send an email to See you when the bell rings! T. Swails

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