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108 years since the “Great Blue Norther” of November 11-12, 1911

CARTERVILLE (WSIL) — November 11th and 12th marks the 108th anniversary of the largest cold front on record to move across the Plains and Midwest. 

On November 11, 1911, a very strong cold front produced temperature drops of nearly 75 degrees in less than 24 hours. Most of the records still stand today across the Central U.S. The massive temperature swing caused widespread damaging winds and even severe thunderstorms. 

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Springfield, Missouri set the daily record high and low temperatures for November 11th that day. The records have been unmatched in the more than 100 years since. At Springfield the temperature reached 80º at just after 3:00 p.m., then the front moved through at 3:45 p.m. and the temperature fell by nearly 40º in just 15 minutes, then to 21º at 7:00 pm and 13º at midnight. Winds gusted to as high as 74 mph behind the front and rain, hail, sleet and snow were reported in a period of less than two hours.

In St. Louis, the temperature at 6:10 p.m. on the 11th was 75º, but by 6:20 p.m., it had fallen to 49º. The temperature would finally bottom at 12º the next morning. 

A climatological report written by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Weather Bureau (the predecessor to the National Weather Service) explained the front:  "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."

Several tornadoes produced F-3 or F-4 damage in northern Illinois with fatalities as far north as Wisconsin. A weaker tornado was also observed just west and northwest of Davenport. Strong winds behind the front resulted in numerous injuries and widespread damage to farm buildings, trees, windmills, power lines. 

In Chicago a man died from heat stroke on November 11th, then two people froze to death the following day. 

Many of the records set during the Great Blue Norther of 1911 have not been matched in more than a century, and those who experienced it remembered it for the rest of their lives.

                   High Temperature           Low Temperature
                    November 11th                 November 12th

Mt. Vernon                80º                           14º

Golconda                  84º                           19º

Cairo                         78º                           19º

McLeansboro           76º                           15º

Marble Hill, MO        70º                           18º    

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