Great Blue Norther of 11-11-11
Blue northers are sudden cold snaps that occur when Arctic air plunges south, often under clear blue skies, to drive out warm humid air. The clash of the two systems creates strong storms, occasionally even blizzards or tornadoes. Blue northers usually occur in November and sometimes can come in February or March but rarely any other time.
The blue norther of 1911 was a doozie! Sometimes referred to simply as 11-11-11 to indicate the date it happened, the Great Blue Norther affected all of the central United States. The Ozarks was right in the middle of it.
Temperatures were unseasonably warm during the early to mid-afternoon of Saturday, November 11, 1911. Several places set record highs for the date. By late that night, some of the same places also experienced record lows. For many Midwest cities, it is the only time that record highs and record lows were broken on the same day.
In Springfield, Missouri, the temperature soared to a record-high 80 degrees in the early afternoon. Then the storm hit. High winds blew out windows, felled trees, and damaged houses across the city. For one minute the wind maintained a velocity of 74 miles an hour. A rate of 54 miles an hour was sustained for a full five minutes. The temperature dropped almost to freezing within a matter of minutes. When the wind let up, a terrific hail storm pelted the city. This was followed by heavy rain. The rain soon turned to sleet and snow, which fell the rest of the day.
By shortly after dark, the thermometer read 21 degrees. By midnight, it stood at 13, giving Springfield a record low and record high on the same day. The record low set in 1911 still stands. The record high has been tied but not surpassed.
The sudden shift in the weather was just as dramatic in the eastern Ozarks, although the storm hit a couple of hours later so that few, if any, record highs and record lows were set on the same day. The Potosi Journal reported that the turn in the weather was “the most sudden and extreme in variation of temperatures this section has experienced in several years, and the coldest since 1838 for so early in November.”
The newspaper went on to say that warm temperatures and a strong south wind had prevailed for several days prior to the 11th. The mercury almost touched 80 on Saturday. Then came the storm. “Between five and six in the evening, the sky took on a threatening, stormy cast, with little whips of rain. About 6:20, the wind suddenly veered around to the west, and the storm broke with a fury. A deluge of rain swept on before the gale, and the quicksilver made a hurried retreat down the tube.”
By nine o’clock, it was almost freezing, and by early Sunday morning the temperature was “down pretty close to zero.” There was also a skiff on snow on the ground. Between Saturday afternoon and sunrise Sunday morning the temperature had dropped 70-75 degrees.
My grandmother was a teenage girl growing up in Texas County in November of 1911. I remember her talking about this storm. She said the temperatures dropped so fast that most of her family’s potato crop, which had been stored in a shed, froze before she and her siblings could move the potatoes to the cellar.
Let’s hope we don’t have a repeat of the Great Blue Norther in 2015. Although some folks could use a little rain.