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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. 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 Take it away Steve!

Our Coldest Novembers

Looking through the state's temperature records, I found our coldest 15 Novembers. They are in order as follows.

1. - 1880 - 25.1 degrees

2. - 1959 & 2014 - 29.1 "

3. - 1896, 1985 & 1996 - 29.4 "

4. - 1911 - 29.7 "

5. - 1875 - 29.9 "

6. - 2018 - 30.0 "

7. - 1891 - 30.3 "

8. - 1976 & 1995 - 30.6 "

9. - 1951 & 1955 - 31.0 "

10. - 1876 - 31.1 "

There may have been other colder Novembers in 1841, 1848, 1852, 1857, 1858, 1863, 1868 and 1872 according to Muscatine and Monticello's early records.

Here is what I found on November of 1880 which happens to be during the famous Long Winter of the Little House On The Prairie books. The state's average monthly temperature was 25.1 degrees. Clinton's average was 25.3 and Iowa City's was 26.6 degrees. The warmest reading for the month was 68 at Glenwood. Some other high temperatures were Clinton - 66, Davenport and Iowa City had 64. The coldest reading was -12 at Cresco. Some other cold readings were -6 at Clinton, -5 at Dubuque and -2 at Iowa City. One of the colder periods was from the 23rd to the 26th when Keokuk got down to -5.

The state's average precipitation total was 1.29". Some snowfall totals for the area included 3.0" at Muscatine and Clinton had 2.7".

As far as the rivers were concerned it was Dubuque's earliest closing date on record for the Mississippi. It was the same for Clinton and Davenport. Muscatine had it's earliest closing as well on the 16th. The river was closed on the 18th at Burlington and Keokuk. At Monticello, the Maquoketa River was frozen over 20 days earlier than the previous year. The Des Moines River was frozen over on the 16th. At Boonsboro, the men were crossing the Des Moines River on foot the 16th and with horse teams on the 18th.

Here is what I found in my old weather journal about the month.

Nov. 15th - ground was white with snow this morning but by the afternoon it had all disappeared.

Nov. 18th - COLD, winter has arrived.

Nov. 25th - hay is scarce and high priced.

November Of 1959

This month tied for Iowa's second coldest. The state's average monthly temperature was 29.1 degrees which was 7 to 9 degrees below normal. It was the most severe November since 1880. At Dubuque, where the monthly average was 27.0 degrees, it was the coldest in 109 years of record. It was the coldest for Des Moines as well. The Missouri River froze over on the 14th-15th which was 3 to 4 weeks earlier then usual. The warmest reading for the month was 71 on the 4th at Glenwood and Keosaqua. The coldest reading was -24 on the 14th at LeMars. In east central Iowa the low temperatures ranged from 1 degree in Davenport to a -8 in Cedar Rapids.

The average precipitation total for the state was 1.80". The greatest total was 4.18" at Vinton and the least was 0.14" at Ft. Madison. The greatest 24 hour total was 2.93" at Newton on the 4th.

The greatest monthly snowfall total was 21.3" at Sheldon. Some of the local totals were New Hampton - 17.0", Belle Plaine - 12.1", Cedar Rapids - 9.4" and Maquoketa - 2.6". The average snowfall in the N.W. portion of the state was from 15.1" to 21.3" which was the greatest amount in the past 70 years. The snowy periods were the 4-5th, the 11-12th and the 25-26th. During these periods the roads were quite icy and the drifting snow left many highways impassable. There were numerous accidents during the month.

An Unusual November Tornado

On November 6, 1885, at 3 p.m., an F2 tornado, 75 yards wide tracked through Des Moines and Louisa counties for a distance of 8 miles. It moved from 2 miles S.W. of Morning Sun to 3 miles S. of Wapello. At Morning Sun, 4 grave diggers saved themselves by jumping into the grave. They were partly buried by the loose dirt. Barns were destroyed on 2 farms with shingles carried for 5 miles. Corn plant debris was reportedly carried for up to 15 miles. Two dead pigs were carried for 500 yards.

The Number Of 70 Degree Days And Winter?

So far this month I have recorded 5 days with 70 degree readings which ties for the second most with 2001 and 2016. Two of those days tied the record and 2 broke the records for the date. The most days ever in my 63 years of record was 8 days back in 2020. I found 8 years with 4 or more such days. Five of those years had a normal to colder than normal winter. We will see what happens this winter.

An Old Country Almanac For The Week Of November 17th - 23rd

The week of Nov. 17-23rd usually sees at least 2 days with measurable precipitation but can range from 0 days to 6 days. The probability of any one of those days seeing 1" or more of precipitation is just 13%. The day with the best chance for measurable amounts is the 22nd with 40%, the least chance is the 20th and 21st with 30%. There is usually 2 clear days, 1 partly cloudy day, 4 cloudy days and 4 windy days during this week.

Nov. 17th - "As November, so the following March." On this in 1994, high winds across the N.W. Iowa gusted from 50 to 60 mph.

Nov. 18th - "If the sun sets clear on Friday, generally expect rain before Monday." On this date in 1957, a snowstorm with 12" at Marshalltown and 13" at Decorah.

Nov. 19th - "When the woodpecker leaves, expect a hard winter." On this day in 1957, Cresco had 19" of snow on the ground. Look for colder temps., wind and a chance of rain or snow.

Nov. 20th - "Domestic fowls look towards the sky before rain." On this day in 1975, heavy snow and blizzard conditions across far N.W. Iowa with 8" of snow at Hawarden and Rock Rapids. Six foot drifts blocked roads and closed schools.

Nov. 21st - "As November 21st, so the winter." On this day in 1890, 3" of snow on the ground. the sleigh bells were heard.

Nov. 22nd - "The whiteness of a goosebone indicates the amount of snow for the winter." On this day in 1898, a severe blizzard in W. Iowa. At Sidney, the temperature dropped 64 degrees in 28 hours and 14.2" of snow fell. Look for variable temps., wind and a chance of rain or snow.

Nov. 23rd - The New Moon. It's St. Clements's Day. "St. Clements gives the winter." On this day in 1909, a 3 day storm (21-23rd) produced 11.3" at Charles City. Look for warmer temps., wind and a chance of rain or snow.

That's all I have for this edition. On the wild side of weather, I'm Steve Gottschalk.


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