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STEVE'S "WILD" WORLD OF WEATHER...


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. Only one person takes climatology to a level like this. He even has a lifetime achievement award from the National Weather Service for his devotion to data and science. His name is Steve Gottschalk by way of Lowden, Iowa. He's a knowledgeable and interesting man. I'm grateful to him for lending his unique perspective to the site. Steve's "wild" world of weather can be found regularly right here on TSwails.com. Take it away Steve!


My Old Country Almanac For The Week Of October 27th - November 1st

This week usually sees 2 days with measurable precipitation. The day with the greatest probability is November 1st with a 43% chance and the least is October 27th with a 18% chance. There are usually 2 clear days, 1 partly cloudy day, 4 cloudy days and 4 windy days during the week.


Oct. 27th - "The wind at north and east is neither good for man nor beast." On this day in 1980, I had 3" of snow, 33 mph winds from the N.E. and a high of 37 degrees.

Oct. 28th - "St. Simon's Day is never dry." My records show a 28% probability of rain for this day.

Oct. 29th - "When a herd of cows are lying down, it is going to rain." Look for cooler temperatures, wind and a chance of rain. On this day in 1873, several inches of snow fell and the sleighs are out.

Oct. 30th - " For every fog in October, a snow in winter, heavy or light according as the fog is heavy or light." On this day in 1925, several inches of snow on the ground and Cedar Rapid's low temperature is down to -2 degrees.

Oct. 31st - "The chill is on from near and far in all the months that have an R." On this day in 1871 we had our first snow of the season during the afternoon.

Nov. 1st - The First Quarter moon. All Saints Day, "If All Saints Day brings out winter, St. Martin's Day brings out Indian Summer." Look for warmer temperatures, wind and a chance of rain.

Nov. 2nd - All Soul's Day. " Raw weather on All Soul's Day warns you of the approach of winter, but if the weather be fair, it will last 6 weeks." On this day in 1876, the roads are very bad, a "light and open winter is predicted".

Winter Of 1976-1977 Was Very Cold And Dry

From Sept. 28th through Oct.21st we had 14 days with temperatures of 32 degrees or below. This only happened one other time since 1960 and that was in 1976. A very cold winter followed, especially December and January. Here is a synopsis of the events.


The average monthly temperature for October was 45.4 degrees which was 5.6 degrees below normal and it was the coldest since 1925's average of 39.0 degrees. It was the 5th coldest on record. The warmest reading was 96 at Jefferson on the 1st. Cedar Rapids had 90 degree readings on the 1st and 2nd with the maximum of 93 occurring on the 2nd. The lowest reading for the month was 10 at Ida Grove and Audubon on the 17th. Vinton was down to 15 on that morning.


The average precipitation for the month was 1.53" which was 1.16" below normal. Tipton had the greatest amount with 3.46" and Sioux City had the least with 0.40". The greatest monthly snowfall total was 7.0" at Mason City with 6" of that falling on the 23-24th. Vinton had the greatest total in east central Iowa with 0.5" that fell on the 19th. The first snowfall of the month was in the north and west central counties with up to 4" at Hampton. Early on the 24th Mason City had 5" of wet and heavy snow.


The soil moisture at the 5 foot depth at the month's end was similar to the mid 1950's.


November's average monthly temperature was 29.5 degrees which was 7.4 degrees below normal. It was the coldest since 1959. In the Quad Cities the average temperature for the month was 10.3 degrees below normal. The warmest reading was 74 at Keosaqua on the 19th and the coldest reading was -15 at Elkader on the 30th. The Quad Cities dipped to -9 the 29th. Readings were below 0 on the last 3 days of the month. Anamosa had -14 and Vinton had -10. Even Burlington got down to a -2 tying their 1898 record.


The average precipitation for the month was 0.10" which was 1.72" below normal and the driest on record. Eight stations had totals of 0.00". Donnellson had the greatest total with 0.60" with all it falling on the 27th. The June - November total was less than 60% of normal. The prolonged drought resulted in sharply dropped water tables, wells, ponds and streams were at record low levels.


The greatest snowfall total for the month was 7.0" at Columbus Junction. Davenport Lock and Dam 15 had 5.1" with 1" on the 21st and 4" on the 27th. My weather station had a total of 5.6" and Muscatine had 3.3".


December was very cold with an average temperature of 17.6 degrees which was 7.4 degrees below normal. The warmest reading was 72 at Logan on the 18th. The coldest readings was -24 at Cresco, Decorah and Elkader on the 31st. Cedar Rapids had 14 days with 0 readings with the coldest being -18. The coldest periods were the 6th - 13th and the 28th - 31st. It was the coldest autumn and early winter of the 20th century. The frost levels ranged from 2 feet in the south to 3.5 feet or deeper in the N.W. sections.


The average monthly precipitation was 0.31" which was -1.06" below normal. The greatest total was 0.87" at Sanborn and the least was 0.01" at Estherville. The average total for east central Iowa was 0.25". It was the driest May through December since 1894. Many wells, ponds, and streams dried up.


The greatest monthly snowfall total was 14.0" at Britt. LeClaire had 8.0", Anamosa - 7.0", Clinton - 6.3" with 4.5" on the 5th and 6th, Cedar Rapids had 4.1" with 3" on the 5th-6th. The wind gusted to 50 mph on the 23rd.


January's average monthly temperature was 6.2 degrees which was 13.3 degrees below normal. In the Quad Cities January was a remarkable 15 degrees below average! The warmest reading was 45 on the 23rd at Onanwa and the coldest reading was -30 at Elkader on the 17th and Cresco on the 28th. Anamosa had -26 on the 17th with 23 days with 0 or colder readings for the month. Cedar Rapids lowest was -23 with 22 days with 0 or colder readings. The coldest periods were from the 7th-19th and the 27th-31st. Vinton's low was -25 with 24 days with 0 or lower readings. The coldest periods were the 4th-19th and the 27th-31st. It was one of the coldest months in 104 years, 1912 was colder. Waterloo's average temperature for the month was -0.1 degrees with an average daily wind speed of 12.9 mph giving it a daily wind chill of -25. The wind chill got down to -80 in northern sections of the state. Keokuk's average monthly temperature of 11.0 degrees was their coldest back to 1872. Frost levels were down to 7 feet or more.


For eastern Iowa it was the coldest late fall and winter of record. Dubuque had 39 days with temperatures of 0 degrees or colder by the end of the month, just 4 days short of the record 43 days for the whole winter of 1874-1875, but they equaled that record on Feb. 7, 1977.


The water lines were frozen down to 7 feet in N.W. and central locations. The state average depth was 3 to 5 feet. The 50 mph winds swept snow and soil into the ditches. By late January the ice was from 18"to 24" thick and some streams were frozen solid. The Iowa Conservation Department said there were high fish kills especially on the Iowa River. The fuel requirements were much higher as was the amount of feed for the livestock.


The bitter cold also produced intense lake effect snow. A blizzard at the end of January crippled Buffalo, New York. Wind gusts ranging from 46 to 69 mph were recorded by the National Weather Service in Buffalo, with snowfall as high as 100 inches recorded in areas. The high winds blew the snow into drifts of 30 to 40 ft.

The cold ravaged the eastern U.S. as well with ice on the Chesapeake Bay thick enough to support tractors and sleds

The average monthly January precipitation in Iowa was 0.50" which was 0.77" below normal. The greatest total was 1.41" at Donnellson and the least total was a trace at Sioux City. The average total for east central Iowa was 0.60".


The greatest monthly snowfall total was 17.8" at New Hampton. Clinton had 11.1", Iowa City and Lowden had 10.0". A blizzard ranged from the 26th-28th. I had 4.2" of snow, 65 mph wind gusts, 6 foot drifts blocking the roads and dangerous wind chills. I had 50 mph or higher wind gusts every hour for over 30 hours.


February's average monthly temperature was 26.5 degrees which was 2.4 degrees above normal and some 20 degrees warmer than January. The warmest temperature was 71 at Logan, Red Oak and Sidney on the 21st. Muscatine had 64 and Davenport had 61. The coldest reading was -26 at Elkader on the 6th. Anamosa and Maquoketa got down to -20. The coldest temperatures were during the first week of the month. Many water lines remained frozen at the end of the month.


The average precipitation for the month was 0.51" which was 0.66" below normal. The greatest total was 1.16" at Onawa and the least was 0.03" at Shenandoah. The statewide total was less than 15" during the past 10 months and the least in 104 years of records. The water shortage continued with record or near record stream flows. The water tables remained low and many wells were dry.


The greatest monthly snowfall total was 4.3" at Sanborn. The average monthly snowfall total for east central Iowa ranged from a trace to 2.5" at Davenport.


It definitely was a winter to remember!! That's it for this edition. Hope you enjoyed it! On the "wild" side of weather, I'm Steve Gottschalk

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