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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's even earned 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!


It was just a week ago today (24th) I had a record high of 83 degrees and today as I write this the thermometer is hanging in the low 30's. I had 3 record "warm" lows from the 24th to the 26th. Now this, what a change! Good ole Iowa weather!


There have been a lot or box-elder bugs around this fall. Some people have told me that the south sides of their houses and garages were covered with them and that they were trying to get inside. I was wondering if there was any connection to the years that there were large numbers of them and the upcoming winter.

I found 12 years in my records that had unusually large numbers of them. Of those 12 years, 7 of them saw a colder than normal winter, 3 saw a mild winter and 2 saw a near normal winter.

As far as snowfall was concerned, 7 of the 12 years saw normal to above normal snowfall and 5 had below normal snowfall.

This is the first time I have tried using this for predicting the winter.


I am up to 11 woolly bear reports now and their stripes are still indicating a warmer than normal winter.

THE WEATHER OF OCTOBER 1976 - February 1977

I have seen some similarities between this year and 1976. Both were dry years, both had 90 degree readings in October and both were during a developing El Nino. Here is a summary of 1976's fall and the following winter.

October of 1976 saw an average temperature 46.4 degrees which was the coldest since 1925. The warmest reading was 96 at Jefferson on the 1st, Cedar Rapids had 93 and Anamosa had 92. The coldest reading was 10 degrees at Carroll and Ida Grove on the 17th. It was 17 at Anamosa.

As far as precipitation goes the monthly total was 1.54". It was the driest May-October since 1894 with the state in moderate to severe drought. The soil moisture down to 5 feet was the driest since the mid 1950's.

The average snowfall for the month was 0.8". Mason City had the greatest total with 7.0" with 5.0" falling on the 27th. Hampton had 4.0" on the 18th-19th.

November of 1976 saw an average temperature of 30.6 degrees, the normal is 36.9. It was the state's coldest autumn. The coldest reading was -15 at Elkader. Anamosa had -14, Vinton had -10 and Cedar Rapids had -9. Both Cedar Rapids and Vinton had 3 days with 0 degree readings.

The total precipitation for the month was 0.10" making it the state's driest on record. Cedar Rapids had 0.11" and Tipton had 0.10" for the lowest amounts in this part of the state.

The average state snowfall total was 1.0". Columbus Junction had the greatest total for the month with 7.0". Davenport had 5.0", Muscatine had 3.3" and Cedar Rapids 1.2".

December of 1976 saw an average temperature 18.7 degrees which was 5 to 9 degrees below normal. It was the coldest autumn - early winter in the 20th century.

The maximum temperature for the month was 72 degree at Logan on the 18th and the coldest was -24 on the 31st at Cresco, Decorah and Elkader. Anamosa and Vinton were down to -19 and Cedar Rapids got down to -18. Cedar Rapids saw 14 days with 0 degree readings.

The state's precipitation total was below normal with 0.32". Cedar Rapids had 0.17" and Belle Plaine had 0.16".

The state's average snowfall was 5.0". Britt had the highest total with 14.0". In the eastern part of the state Anamosa had 7.0", Clinton had 6.3" and Cedar Rapids saw 4.1".

January of 1977 saw an average temperature of 7.3 degrees which was from 9 to 15 degrees below normal. The coldest reading was -30 at Cresco and Elkader. Anamosa saw -26; Maquoketa and Vinton saw -25 and Cedar rapids saw -23. Anamosa had 23 days with 0 readings, Vinton had 24 days and Cedar Rapids had 22 days.

The total precipitation for the month was below normal with 0.52". Cedar Rapids had 0.59" and Davenport had 0.56".

The average snowfall was 7.2". New Hampton had the greatest total with 17.8". Clinton saw 11.1", Iowa City had 10.0" and Cedar Rapids had 8.8".

From mid to late January, strong winds of 50 mph swept snow and topsoil in the western to central parts of the state filling the ditches and protected areas.

The average frost depth was from 3 to 5 feet with some areas down to 8 feet, freezing up the water lines.

Waterloo saw an average monthly temperature of 0.1 degrees with an average wind speed of 12 mph creating a wind chill of a -25 degrees. On the 28th, northern parts of the state saw wind chills of -90.

At Keokuk their average temperature was 11.2 degrees, the coldest on record going back to 1872.

Through January, at Dubuque, they saw 39 days with 0 degree readings which was just 4 days short of their all time record of 43 days for the whole winter of 1874-75. They equaled it by Feb.7th.

A blizzard on the 27-28th of the month produced 60 mph winds with 1" to 2" of snow. The visibility was down to 0 at times. Travel was halted with highways blocked by 6 foot drifts. The wind chills were down to -60 to -90 on the old scale used at the time. Many cases of frostbite were reported along with many frozen and broken water lines.

February of 1977 saw a big change with an average temperature of 27.3 degrees which was 3.2 degrees above normal. It was 20 degrees warmer than January. The maximum reading was 71 degrees on the 21st at Sidney and Red Oak. The coldest reading was -26 at Elkader on the 6th. It was -20 at Maquoketa and Anamosa.

The precipitation total for the month was 0.50". Cedar Rapids had 0.49" and Davenport had 0.53". The water table was low and the state was in extreme drought.

The monthly snowfall total was below normal with 1.2". The maximum total was 4.3" at Sanborn. Davenport saw 2.5", Cedar Rapids had 0.7" and Belle Plaine just a trace.

Many water lines were still frozen at the month's end. Wind erosion of soils was still a problem in parts of the state.

On the 23rd of the month, at 2:10 p.m., a tornado touched down in Mason City lifting the roof off and virtually destroying the home with a neighboring home receiving extensive roof damage. Another funnel was spotted by a railroad crew 44 minutes later.

November Weather Trivia

Week of 1-4th - "As the winds is in the month of November, so it will be in the month of December."

Week of 5-11th - Nov. 10, 1998 - A very intense low pressure moved across the state setting an all time state record for low pressure with a reading of 28.54" at Estherville and Spencer. There was heavy snow across N.W. part of the state with 8.0" at Sioux Center. Strong winds across the state with 50 mph winds. Oelwein had a gust of 70 mph.

Week of 12-18th - " If the moon rises large and red among clouds, expect rain within 12 hours."

Week of 19-25th - Nov. 21-23, 1909 - A snowstorm swept across the state with amounts from 2.0" at Pella to 12.5" at Ridgeway. By the end of the month snowfall totals were up to 20.0" at Northwood, 24.0" at Larrabee and 29.5" at Plover.

Week of 26-30th - "Moonlit nights have the heaviest frosts."

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


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