November 11th, 1911

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

OK…granted most, if not all of us were not alive then, and if you were and you’re reading this on your birthday…major props to you…and Happy Birthday! On this date however in 1911 there was a dramatic weather change that happened in a period of a few hours. All because of a cold front that moved across the region, replacing record warmth with record cold, all in one short day.

On that date, in Kansas City we went from a record high (at the time) of 76 to a record low (at the time) of 11. Now granted there weren’t that many years of record keeping going on up until then but it’s still sort of impressive. Across the mid section of the country, this was all too common. Here is an excerpt from the MO Climate Center.

Pat Guinan
State Climatologist
Commercial Agriculture/University of Missouri Extension

For many climate enthusiasts, November 11, 1911, is a date that generates much interest in regard to the extreme weather conditions that were experienced that day in Missouri and surrounding states. During sunrise, on 11/11/11, temperatures were unseasonably warm and had already climbed into the lower 70’s across mid-Missouri. A southerly breeze had increased to 25-30 mph by noon as the mercury climbed into the lower 80’s. By early afternoon, record high temperatures were broken in several locations including Kansas City, Springfield, Hannibal, Columbia and St. Louis.

Many people were outside enjoying the warm conditions including several hunters who had walked miles from home wearing only lightweight clothing. Unknown to many early that afternoon was that an arctic cold front had entered northwestern Missouri and was diving southeastward. Eyewitness reports that day describe the arctic boundary as a rapidly moving dark boiling mass of clouds accompanied by lightning, thunder, rain, hail that eventually turned to sleet and snow. Some of the hunters, unaware of the impending cold blast, were caught out in the elements and perished.

Hourly wind reports from the Columbia weather service office reported a southerly wind gusting to near 40 mph at 2 p.m. shifting to northerly winds gusting to over 40 mph about an hour later. The temperature in Columbia reacted to the wind shift and dropped from a toasty 82° at 2 p.m. to a cold, rainy and windy 38°F one hour later; an incredible 44° temperature drop in 60 minutes! One hour later the temperature was 30° in Columbia and the rain had changed to sleet with a wind chill of 16°. By midnight it was a frigid 13°, which set a record low for the day. In one day the temperature fell a whopping 69°, a record that still stands today for Columbia.

On November 11, 1911, many locations in Missouri established a record in terms of the largest daily temperature swing and this remarkable occurrence remains unprecedented today. Generally, for Missouri, the temperature drop was 50° in less than 3 hours and 65-70° in 18 hours. Maximum and minimum temperatures for some Missouri locations on 11/11/11 include Kansas City, 76°/11°; Springfield, 80°/13°; Columbia, 82°/13°; Hannibal, 82°/16°; and St. Louis, 78°/18°.

end text

For us here in KC…the data for the 12th shows that the high then was 21 degrees and the low was 6 degrees. WOW! The 6° low was a record for the 12th. We also had .06″ of moisture on the 11th.

Here is a google map showing some of the dramatic changes that happened…

There was an article printed in the Ozarks Weather Observer written by one of the NWS meteorologists from Springfield, MO…take a look…

The Great “Blue Norther” of November 11, 1911
This article was originally published in the Ozarks Weather Observer for the October 2003 newsletter.  It was written and researched by NWS SGF Meteorologist  Drew Albert.

 The term “blue norther” is most commonly associated with Texas. Various other names for the same phenomenon exist over the central and southern Plains. There are also various theories as to the exact origin of the term. In general it is associated with a rapidly moving cold front (usually in the Autumn) that causes temperatures to drop quickly and that often brings with it precipitation and unsettled weather, followed by a period of blue skies and cold temperatures.

On November 11, 1911, the central U.S. experienced one of the most dramatic cold waves to affect the United States. During the early morning hours a deep Midwestern storm system, along with an associated arctic cold front, separated unseasonably warm and humid air from arctic cold. Temperatures ranged from the upper 60s and lower 70s over Missouri to the single digits in central Nebraska.

As the day wore on, record warmth was felt across much of Missouri and Oklahoma. In Kansas City, the temperature rose to a record high of 76 degrees by late morning before the arctic front moved in from the northwest. Skies became overcast, winds shifted to the northwest, and the mercury began to plummet. By early afternoon, it was cold enough to snow, and by midnight the temperature had dipped to a record cold reading of 11 degrees above zero.

In Springfield, the effects of the front were even more dramatic. Afternoon temperatures had reached record high levels by 2:00 to 3:00 pm when the mercury reached 80 degrees. South winds increased to a sustained 30 mph with gusts over 40 mph. The wind shifted to the northwest at 3:45 pm dropping the temperature to 40 degrees by 4:00 pm. The temperature continued to plummet to 20 degrees by 7 pm. Finally by midnight, a record low of 13 degrees was established. The temperature fell to 9 degrees above zero during the early morning hours on November 12th. November 11, 1911 marks the only day in the Springfield, Missouri climate record where a record high and low temperature exist on the same day.

Temperature and Pressure Traces on Nov. 11, 1911

Pressure and temperature traces for Springfield, MO on November 11, 1911

The extreme cold was only part of the story. The huge storm also brought damaging wind. The following were notes taken by John S. Hazen, the weatherman-in-charge at Springfield in 1911:

“Increasing S to SW winds shifting to the NW at 3:45 pm and attaining an ex.(extreme)velocity of 74 miles for one minute. Considerable damage done to buildings, wires, and trees. Many windows blown in and several people injured. Record high temp. occurred about 2 pm and low temp for this early in the month. Temp fell from 80 to 21 at 7 pm. Cold wave order received and given usual distribution. Hail, sleet, rain, and snow fell. First thunder 4:52 pm. Last 6:10 pm. Storms came from north.”

The rest of the Midwest was affected by the storm. Oklahoma City also established a record high of 83 degrees and record low of 17 degrees. Many areas saw the temperature plummet 50 degrees in one hour. The front produced severe thunderstorms and tornadoes across the upper Mississippi Valley, a blizzard in the Ohio Valley and the upper Midwest, and a dust storm in Oklahoma. Nine tornadoes occurred in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. An F4 tornado occurred in Janesville, Wisconsin where 9 people were killed and 50 were injured. Within an hour after that tornado struck, survivors were working in blizzard conditions with near zero degree temperatures to rescue people trapped in tornado damage debris. end text

Elsewhere in MO the NWS from St Louis has this information…

The Dramatic 11/11/1911 Cold Front

A cold front moved through the central part of United States on Saturday, November 11, 1911 causing one of the most dramatic temperature drops ever recorded over such a large area of the United States.   An excerpt from the annual climatological report written by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Weather Bureau (the predecessor to today’s National Weather Service) described the front like this:  “The fall in temperature on the 11th was remarkable; the maximum temperatures up to about 2 pm were of summer heat, but by 7 p.m. over most of the Section (Missouri), freezing conditions obtained.  As a rule the fall was 50° in less than three hours; and 65° to 70° in eighteen to twenty-four hours; in many instances there was a fall of 25° to 30° in the first twenty minutes.  The cold wave was immediately preceded by typical thunderstorm conditions; some local damage was done by both wind and hail. 

Table 1 shows that the high had climbed up to 78° in St. Louis and 82° at Columbia ahead of the cold front on the  11th.  Temperatures had fallen into the teens just before midnight, and then to around 10° the next morning.  The low of 13° still stands as the daily record low at Columbia, and the high of 82° has never been exceeded (it was tied in 1949).  The low of 18° at St. Louis on the 11th has only been tied, but the high reached  85° in 1989.  The daily record lows on the 12th at both Columbia and St. Louis have never been equalled. 

 

Nov. 11

Nov. 12

 

High (°F)

Low (°F)

High (°F)

Low (°F)

St. Louis, MO

78

18

20

12

Columbia, MO

82

13

17

9

Table 1. Temperatures from November 11 & 12

Another Weather Bureau report noted:  “In St. Louis the temperature was 75° at 6:10 pm on the 11th, when the change began, and in 10 minutes it had fallen to 49°, and by 1 a.m on the 12th it had fallen to 17°.” 

Table 2. lists additional reports from cooperative observers across central and eastern Missouri and adjacent sections of Illinois.  The high temperatures are from November 11th and the lows are from the 12th.  These numbers document the remarkable 60-70° change that occurred over the two day period.  The reports also showed that there were thunderstorms that caused high winds and hail followed by up to 2″ of sleet and snow.

The cooperative observer from St. Louis University station noted: “Coldest 12th of Nov. on record in St. Louis.  A drop of 64 degrees in 24 hours.  A man died from the effects of heat on the 11th, and within another 12 hours another man succumbed to the cold.  On the 11th dandelions were blooming and yellow butterflies fluttering about.” 

The observer in St. Charles reported this about thunderstorm damage that occurred when the front passed through the area:  “Church steeple in St. Charles was blown down, several homes unroofed, and trees broken off.  One windmill twisted off in county about 2 1/2 miles west of St. Charles.”

end text….

Now since I always go the extra mile for you…I was able to dig through the weather archives and I found the actual weather map for that date! Check it out and keep in mind that observations back then were VERY limited and getting the observations to a central location was not easy…

Even back then they painted a large expansive area of High Pressure building down through the Northern Rockies and W Canada. My feeling is that with such cold dense air spilling southwards, that the HP area was MUCH stronger than what is being depicted. the cold front appears to have been just to the NW of the KC area in SE NE…so odds are the AM lows that morning were very mild thanks to south winds. Click on that image to make it larger…also just saw KOMU from Columbia, MO had a write up about the events that unfolded…and the NWS in Pleasant Hill has an excellent writeup on the scenario…

Well that will do it for the day. I’ll post some more winter weather forecast stuff over the weekend IF I can figure out how to do it in video form…

Joe

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