One Crazy November Day

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 70s across mid-Missouri. A southerly breeze had increased to 25-30 mph by noon as the mercury climbed into the lower 80s. 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 38F 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.