3 of the Biggest Snowstorms in Illinois History

Winter in Illinois is no joke. Plunging temperatures, wailing winds and driving snow are realities. But there are some snowstorms that are so severe they stick in the memory of Illinoisans longer than others. What are the most impactful snowstorms in Illinois history?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the most snowfall Illinois has ever received in a 24-hour period was 36 inches on Feb. 28, 1900. (So even if it feels like we've experienced the worst on record, that's not quite true.) The highest-ever snow depth ever recorded in the state was also associated with that storm. Forty-one inches of snow were measured in Astoria, Ill. on Feb. 28, 1900. The record was challenged (but not broken) on Jan. 31, 1979 when 41 inches of snow were again measured at Gebhard Woods State Park. The coldest temperature ever recorded in the state came in at -36 degrees in Congerville on Jan. 5, 1999. The winter of 1978 to 1979 saw the most total snowfall of any season on record in Illinois, with 105.1 inches of snow measured.

NOAA does not keep records that measure the biggest snow events in every state, but they do track snowstorms by region. The Regional Snowfall Index keeps track of big snowstorms every winter and how much impact they may have on an area. The storms are ranked as notable, significant, major, crippling or extreme. The ranking is called the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale. NOAA likens these rankings to the Fujita Scale for tornadoes or Saffir-Simpson Scale for hurricanes. They are based on the amount of snow, the area affected and the population within the affected area.

From NOAA:

The index differs from other meteorological indices in that it uses population information in addition to meteorological measurements. Thus NESIS gives an indication of a storm's societal impacts. This scale was developed because of the impact Northeast snowstorms can have on the rest of the country in terms of transportation and economic impact.

Illinois has been affected by 26 of 53 of these ranked storms since 1961. Six of them included storms where parts of Illinois received more than 10 inches of snow in a single storm.


6. Dec. 13 to Dec. 16, 2013

Overall rank: 40

Category: Significant

5. March 4 to March 9, 2014

Overall rank: 39

Category: Significant

4. Jan. 29 to Feb. 4 , 2014

Overall rank: 30

Category: Major

Check out the top three most headache-causing Illinois storms at Reboot Illinois, plus see a map that shows last winter's snow cover.

The 2015 Farmer's Almanac says most of Illinois is in for a particularly cold and snowy winter once again, so bundle up, Illinois.

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