Christopher C. Burt is the author of 'Extreme Weather; A Guide and Record Book'. He studied meteorology at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison.
By: Christopher C. Burt , 8:36 PM GMT on December 20, 2012
A Couple of Examples of Historic Thunder-Snowstorms in Illinois
Winter storm Draco (as The Weather Channel has designated it) has produced multiple reports of heavy thunder snow so far in Iowa, Wisconsin, and northern Illinois. Although rare, this phenomenon has occurred frequently in the past. Here are two examples (from 1933 and 1960) from Illinois that were particularly devastating.
Storm of March 20-22, 1932
A deep low-pressure system of similar intensity to Draco also followed roughly the same path , albeit about 150 miles further to the south, on March 21-22, 1932. By the evening of March 21 heavy snow with intense lightning and thunder was occurring over portions of northern Illinois including Chicago. Snowfall reached a total of 16” in the north-central portion of Illinois with 6-10” in the Chicago area. A squall line bisected the warm front and crossed the southern two-thirds of the state producing two tornadoes and hail up to 3.5” in diameter in southern Illinois. Hail fell for 30 minutes and accumulated 3” deep in the Effingham area of east-central Illinois. The combination of ice, snow, wind, and hail shut down transportation and communications in the northern half of the state for two days following the storm.
The top map shows the path of the cyclone of March 21-22, 1932 as it traversed Illinois creating virtually every kind of severe weather across the state. The bottom map contains the details of snowfall, precipitation amounts, and areas reporting hail, high winds, and tornadoes. Maps by Stanley A. Changnon, reproduced in Weatherwise magazine in 1964.
Storm of February 9-10, 1960
This storm followed the path of Draco more closely but its pressure (while over central Illinois) of 998 mb was not as deep as Draco’s (around 988 mb in central Illinois as I write this). Like the 1932 event, the 1960 storm produced blizzard conditions in northern Illinois with intense lightning and thunder. Chicago received 8-12” of snow and drifts of 8-10 feet were common across the northern third of the state. Lightning struck and damaged a building during the period of heavy snowfall in a Chicago suburb. In southern Illinois three tornadoes caused widespread damage, killed two persons, and injured 59 others.
As in the previous example, the top map shows the path of the cyclone of February 9-10, 1960 as it traversed Illinois creating virtually every kind of severe weather across the state. The bottom map contains the details of snowfall, precipitation amounts, and areas reporting hail, high winds, and tornadoes. Maps by Stanley A. Changnon, reproduced in Weatherwise magazine in 1964.
It will be interesting to compare Draco to these previous events when all is said and done.
Christopher C. Burt
REFERENCE: Stanley A. Changnon, Jr. for the maps and story he wrote about these storms in Weatherwise magazine, Vol. 17, No. 6, December 1964.
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