October's Wild Side

By: Stu Ostro , 3:20 AM GMT on October 12, 2012

October has a split personality. On one side is its reputation of being an exceptionally quiet month weatherwise, but when I hear that, I wince! I understand why it is thought of in that way, as when October is quiet, it can be really quiet, when there are no late season tropical cyclone landfalls or early season snowstorms and the atmosphere is not as unstable as in spring for severe convection.

But October also has a wild side! When the weather in this month is wild, it can be really wild, in fact some of the wildest weather events in U.S. history have occurred during October.

One of those occurred 50 years ago, on Columbus Day 1962. Here is more on that storm as well as a selection of other extreme ones in Octobers past.


The definitive meteorological analyses on this storm are this one from Wolf Read’s fantastic website on Pacific Northwest storms, and this Monthly Weather Review paper by Lynott and Cramer.

About that storm log above included in his analysis on his site -- note the inscription in larger letters in the middle of it -- Wolf writes, "This is the only time in the history of the Pacific Northwest that an officially supervised weather station had to be abandoned due to high winds."

And here’s Wolf’s summary graphic:


One of the most unusual storms on the opposite coast of the country also occurred in October.

Who’s that dude in this video (from which is the screen capture below) with the not-ready-for-primetime eyeglasses?

I posted a full analysis of what was originally known as the Halloween Storm a few years ago on weather.com.


Another one of the wildest East Coast weather events in recorded history occurred in October: Hurricane Hazel in 1954, which remarkably so late in the season set the record for the farthest-north Category 4 U.S. landfall, near the SC/NC border.

Not only did Hazel cause coastal devastation where it made landfall, it produced extreme wind gusts up across the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast urban corridor and then tragic flash flooding in Toronto.

Image credit: NOAA, Paul Kocin


Another October extremity in the Northeast involved a tornado. F/EF4s are uncommon in October anywhere, much less in Connecticut, but in 1979 one hit Windsor Locks.

The type of radar map that existed in 1979, shortly before the time of the tornado, from an in-depth analysis of the meteorological situation by Riley and Bosart.


(That was the name given by the Buffalo office of the National Weather Service, which has been naming weather events long before The Weather Channel!)

Another extreme convective event, this one involving snow!

Very cold air aloft in October 2006 associated with an exceptionally big and intense mid-upper level low (map below shows departure from average 500 millibar heights), occurring so early in the season on top of warm water, produced a lake-effect snow blitz which was extraordinary even by Buffalo standards. At the time, Tom Niziol, now TWC's winter weather expert, was meteorologist-in-charge of the Buffalo office of the National Weather Service.

From the NWS analysis:

"Words cannot do justice to the astounding event which opened the 2006-07 season. Not only was it the earliest named event by far (two weeks) of the over 120 in the 13 year record of our lake effect archive, but it was the most unique in regards to destruction of trees and power outages, directly because of its out of season factor. Almost a million residents of the Niagara Frontier lost power, some for as long as a week, and tree damage was the worst in memory, especially to the lush vegetation in the many historic parkways and parks in the Buffalo area."


Another exceptionally early snowstorm in the Northeast in which huge amounts of heavy wet snow fell on still-leaved trees.

The cyclone last year which produced it was also a meteorological bomb, the criterion being the central pressure dropping at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. Here's how that process looked on satellite imagery:

Image credit: NASA Earth Science Office


And, speaking of weather bombs, TWC on-camera meteorologist Mike Seidel dropped one on me a couple of years ago when I was at dinner in Moab, Utah, where I was hiking. He called me on my cellphone and said, "Have you seen what the models are showing?"

"No," I responded. "Do I want to know? I’m in Utah trying to get away from everything!"

Of course, being the weather geek I am, I couldn’t help but at least briefly look at what the models were forecasting. I was able to not further engage much with it, but then, upon departing a couple of days later and after a flight cancellation from Grand Junction which led to a 3-leg, all-night journey back to Atlanta via SLC and LAX, and wanting to just go home and sleep, I instead went into TWC and encountered this (about which shortly thereafter I posted a blog on weather.com with commentary on the event and the title, "Historic hype. Historic storm?") …

October 26, 2010 surface pressure chart from an in-depth analysis by the NWS in Duluth of the cyclone bomb and its record-setting pressures

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

Log In or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 8 - 1

Page: 1 — Blog Index

7. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
5:00 PM GMT on October 21, 2012
stuostro has created a new entry.
6. Angela Fritz , Atmospheric Scientist
10:17 PM GMT on October 13, 2012
Stu I think you need to bring those glasses BACK! They'd probably be cool with the hipsters now. :)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
5. BriarCraft
7:31 PM GMT on October 13, 2012
The Big Blow, aka the Columbus Day Storm, was the strongest extratropical hurricane/cyclone in over a hundred years, both stronger and more wide-ranging than the so-called Perfect Storm.

Thought I'd share a 6:38 video I found on KGW TV's website:
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4. Barefootontherocks
4:18 PM GMT on October 13, 2012
One of those occurred 50 years ago, on Columbus Day 1962
That storm dropped a Douglas fir on my Dad's new Karmann Ghia. That's about all I remember.

One of our wublogger's has written a neat personal account of the Columbus Day storm.

BriarCraft's blog, Extreme weather events
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
2. Christopher C. Burt , Weather Historian
5:06 AM GMT on October 13, 2012
Thanks for this great wrap up of some of October's surprise weather extremes. I was born in NYC on October 12th (actually at midnight Oct.12-13)--Columbus Day (that is why I'm named Chris:-) and Hurricane Hazel almost caused the evacuation of the hospital my mom was recuperating in (the Lenox Hill Hospital) when Hazel hit NYC on October 15th. NYC's highest measured wind gust of 113 mph was measured at the Battery site at that time.

Just a note from a fellow weather geek! My mom says my interest in weather began at that point ;-)

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1. originalLT
4:30 AM GMT on October 12, 2012
Thanks for the new blog post Mr. Ostro. I credit Hurricane Hazel and Hurricane Carol, which occurred a month and half before, in getting myself interested in weather. Although I was only a little over 5 years old when these events happened, I still remember going around and looking at the damage from both storms. I grew up in New Rochelle NY, which is about 15 miles NE of NYC.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 8 - 1

Page: 1 — Blog Index

Top of Page
Ad Blocker Enabled

Stu Ostro's Meteorology Blog

About stuostro

Proud to be a weather-obsessed weather geek! \m/ Senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel. If not a meteorologist, would be a DJ ♫

Recent Posts

Local Weather

50 °F

Recommended Links