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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. After a long COVID break, Steve's "wild" world of weather can be found regularly right here on Take it away Steve!

July Is The Month For Damaging Winds And Derechos

The month of July is notable for some exceptional windstorms and at least 3 derechos.

July 31, 1877 - a derecho caused widespread damage across the state.

July 20-21, 2008 - a derecho produced a wind gust of 94 mph in the Quad City area causing widespread damage.

July 11, 2011 - a derecho produced 100+ mph winds in the Marshalltown area and 125 mph gusts in the Vinton and Garrison areas causing a tremendous amount of damage.

Two exceptional windstorms:

July 14, 1970 - a line of severe thunderstorms swept across the state from northwest to southeast. The damage started in Sioux and Monona counties and continued all the way to Scott and Lee counties. At Sac City where the winds gusted to 100 mph almost every building in town was damaged. Wind gusts reached 90 mph at Storm Lake and 80 mph at Harcourt. I recorded a wind gust of 93 mph here in Lowden which caused considerable damage to trees and power lines. A barn collapsed on the southeast end of town. Across the state 2 persons were killed and another 19 were injured from the storms.

July 9, 1980 - severe thunderstorms produced very intense straight-lined winds in northeast Iowa. At the Waterloo airport a 105 mph gust was recorded which blew the roof off of the control tower. Seventy airplanes and National Guard helicopters were damaged. The storm also blew over a mobile home at Dunkerton injuring 5 persons.

A Quiet Season For Lightning And Thunder, So Far:

This season has been exceptionally quiet as far as lightning and thunder are concerned. I have only seen 1 cloud to ground lightning stroke in my area so far. Typically the months of June and July are the peak times for electrical storms. I looked through the weather folklore to see if there were any sayings on the number of thunderstorms during the summer and the upcoming winter but I didn't find anything.

Before they came out with lightning tracker on the TV weather segments I observed the intensity of thunderstorms, the old fashioned way using my eyes, a hand held counter and a stopwatch. I have recorded some exceptional electrical displays over the years and sometimes sent my findings in to some of the local TV stations. Here are some of the more interesting events.

June 25, 1997 - 300 cloud to ground strokes in 30 minutes.

June 14, 2001 - 225 cloud to ground strokes from 2 separate storms.

June 4, 2005 - 120 cloud to ground strokes in a 5 minute period.

July 21, 2001 - 200 cloud to ground strokes in 1 hour.

July 6, 2003 - 30 cloud to ground strokes in 5 minutes.

July 18, 2007 - 85 cloud to ground strokes in 15 minutes.

Some Lightning Folklore:

There are quite a few weather sayings about lightning that go back to the 1700 and 1800's that some folks took seriously. Here is what I found:

Lightning is attracted to mirrors.

An old dog draws lightning.

As a protection against lightning, during a storm a spade may be thrown out into the yard.

If a man sits on a fence and curses, he will be struck by lightning.

If a tree is struck by lightning, the wood will not do to burn in the fireplace, as it will bring bad luck.

If you cover a mirror when a storm is raging the lightning will not strike you.

Wear shoes to bed during a lightning storm and you will not be struck.

Where the lightning strikes, go dig your well.

You will not be struck by lightning, if during a storm you wear your belt twisted.

Your house can be protected against lightning, if you throw your scissors out into the yard during a storm.

Place a shoe under each bedpost and you will not be struck by lightning.

From My Early Weather Journal, July of 1863:

July 13, 1863 - frost here this morning, a great deal of damage was done. It froze all the blades off the corn.

July 16, 1863 - still no rain. The dust is about 2" deep in the roads. The ground is exceedingly dry and the crop prospects are very poor.

July 19, 1863 - a refreshing shower of rain this evening. The first in many weeks. No serviceable rains fell here the past 60 days. The shower did much good but much more is needed

That's all for this addition, on the wild side of weather I'm Steve Gottschalk


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