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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 Aprils Are Tending To Be Less Snowy

This week I wanted to focus on April's snowfall trend so I went through Iowa's snowfall records that date back to 1888. Here is what I found.

For the 2 years of April of 1888 and 1889, the average was 0.9".

The 1890-1909 period saw an average of 1.3".

The period from 1910-1929 was snowier with 2.0".

The 1930's-1950's saw the average drop to 1.2".

The 1960's saw the lowest average with 0.6".

The 1970's-1980's saw a substantial increase with an average of 2.2".

The 1980's was the snowiest decade with 2.2", followed by the 1970's average of 2.1".

Starting with the 1990's the average started to decrease until the 2020's.

The latest 30 year average (1990-2019) is 1,4".

The average since 2000 is 1.4".

The 2020's (2020-2022) average is 1.8".

The Top Ten Snowiest Aprils

1. 1973 - 9.1".

2. 2018 - 7.8".

3. 1982 - 7.5".

4. 1997 - 7.4".

5. 1983 - 5.9".

6. 2003 - 5.3".

7. 1892 - 5.2".

8. 1928 - 5.0".

9. 1893 - 4.7".

10. 1945 - 4.6".

Least Snowiest Aprils

1889 and 1890 - 0.0".

There were 31 years with just a trace.

1941, 1942 and 1943 had Traces.

2004, 2005 and 2006 had Traces.

The 1940's saw 4 years with Traces.

The 2000's saw 4 years with Traces.

Since 2000 we have had 8 years with Traces.

First Bumblebees And Paper Wasps

I saw my first paper wasp on April 3rd. They are the wasps that build their flat paper nests under the eaves of buildings, propane gas tank covers and even the ends of swing set poles. I think we have all at one time or another been stung by these critters? Biologist Justin O. Schmidt created a Pain Index (1.0 to 4.0) for stinging wasps, bees and ants using himself as the test subject. He rated the paper wasp, a 1.5 out of 4.0.

There is some weather folklore that says if you see a wasp build it's nest out in the open, the summer will be dry. If the wasps are more biting and nastier than usual, stormy weather will be coming.

I saw my first bumblebee on Easter Sunday, the (9th). The bumblebee is considered the more docile of the bees and doesn't sting a person as easily. I don't think that I have ever been stung by one over my many years. On the Pain Index they are a 2.0 out of 4.0. A weather saying about them is that if you see one flying around your door, the weather will turn warm.

Earthworms And Weather

I saw my first earthworms on the evening of March 16th. Here are a couple of popular weather sayings about them:

"If many earthworms appear, it presages rain."

"When earthworms appear in the daytime. expect rain, but when early in the evening, it indicates a mild night with heavy dew and 2 days of fine weather."

The Tornado Outbreak Of April 14, 1886

On April 14, 1886 at least 19 tornadoes touched down across the state causing death and much destruction. Here are details of 6 of the most violent ones.

The first tornado occurred at 3:00 p.m., an F4, 400 yards wide that traveled for 55 miles. It moved NE from 5 miles S. of Griswold to beyond Coon Rapids. At least 4 farm homes were destroyed in Cass County, some having nothing left but bare foundations. The funnel(s) passed 3 miles E of Griswold, 3 miles E of Atlantic, 3 miles E of Brayton across SE Audubon County through the W side of Coon Rapids and dissipated 4 miles N.N.E. of there. It was described as the "swaying trunk of an elephant" with the funnel damaging or destroying about 70 farm houses and killing many hundreds of animals. One woman died on a farm near Brayton. An 18 -car train at Coon Rapids, heading west for California was struck and derailed. The cars at the head of the train were thrown to the south, the cars to the rear were thrown to the east. A middle car loaded with beer, remained on the track.

At a school, a 14 year old boy was crushed to death by the chimney and a 12 year old boy was injured while they were cleaning the building. Farm houses were destroyed both north and south of Coon Rapids, 32 buildings, including 9 homes, were destroyed in that town. One farmer was killed 3 miles N of town. A total of 3 persons were killed and 18 injured in the storm along with an estimated $100,000 damage.

The second tornado occurred at 5:00 p.m., an F2, 70 yards wide which traveled for 3 miles. Barns were destroyed and 2 homes were unroofed 0.5 mile E of Story City. Another home lost a second floor. One person was injured.

The third tornado occurred at 6:00 p.m., an F2. Two miles NW of Chardon barns were destroyed.

The fourth tornado occurred at 6:15 p.m., an F3, 100 yards wide traveled for 45 miles. It moved NE to E.N.E. from "Lickskillet", which is 7 miles S of Plum Hollow (now Thurman). A school 3 miles W of Sidney was scattered for 2 miles. A church and a store were "blown to atoms" at Strathan. Five homes were hit in the Wheelers Grove community. One of those homes had been destroyed in the June 9, 1880 tornado. A total of at least 15 homes were destroyed along the storm's track. Five persons were injured.

The fifth tornado occurred at 7:45 p.m., an F3, 200 yards wide traveled for 20 miles. It moved NE from 8 miles NW of Bedford, passing 7 miles W of Lenox, to Prescott. Several homes were blown completely away, with no trace except for a few pieces of lumber. Two persons may have been killed W of Lenox? Fifteen persons were injured in this storm.

The sixth tornado occurred at 9:00 p.m., F2, 100 yards wide traveled for 5 miles. It moved N.N.E. from 2 miles W of Orient to 2 miles E of Greenfield. Three farm homes were destroyed and 2 persons were injured in the storm.

That same day, an F4 tornado, 800 yards wide traveling for 25 miles would strike St. Cloud, Minnesota and then Sauk Rapids killing 72 people and injuring another 213.

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


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