MEMORABLE SNOW STORMS IN MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN
(Excluding lake-effect snow storms, but does include lake-enhancement)
From 1896 to Present
November 5, 1896. 14.6 inches.
Heaviest snowfall on record for so early in the season. Snow had all melted
within five days.
January 12, 1908. 16.0 inches.
Heavy snow accompanied by high north winds prevailed all day. Snow stuck to
trees and wires causing many to break. Street car service crippled.
April 15-16, 1921. 15.0 inches.
Snowstorm accompanied by very high winds which was quite unusual because of
the lateness of the season. Three days after the storm had ended only a trace
remained on the ground due to rapid melting from warmer temperatures.
March 12, 1923. 13.0 inches.
Ranks as third heaviest March snowstorm. Up to $1 million damage. Lowest
barometric pressure during the storm was 28.82". Freezing rain occurred with
the snowstorm downing wires..awnings..signs and branches. All objects were
coated with up to 1 inch thick. Telephone/telegraph poles were downed.
February 4-5, 1924. 20.3 inches.
Still ranks as the most snowfall in a 24-hour period since 1884. The most
paralyzing blizzard up to that time. Over $1 million damage. Communication
with the outside world was said at the time to be back to the days of the
"Indian signal fire". Street car and train service crippled. Drifts of 8
to 10 feet high with considerable ice on trees and wires. Car ferries
remained in port. Schools were closed and several plate glass windows broken.
February 3-4, 1936. 9.6 inches.
This snowfall, on top of nearly 10 inches already on the ground, was blown
about by very high winds which caused huge drifts. In some neighboring
communities complete abandonment of snow removal work occurred. Trains were
stalled for periods of more than 24 hours and there were reports of automobile
travelers being marooned in farm homes for more than a week!
January 28-30, 1947. 18.0 inches.
Arguably the worst snowstorm that ever struck Milwaukee. The three-day
snowfall total from records was 18 inches, but this amount is likely to be
far below the actual amount that fell, due to the considerable blowing and
drifting. During the height of the storm the winds were northeast at 25 to
45 mph and visibilities were near zero in the moderate to heavy snow and
blowing snow. Huge drifts, as high as 15 feet, brought all traffic to a
standstill and not until the 31st was partial train and streetcar service
restored. All stores, factories, offices, and schools were closed from two
to four days with many people stranded in cars, buses, trains, railroad
depots, and hotel lobbies. The snowstorm was perhaps the longest, worst, and
most costliest in Milwaukee history.
March 8, 1961. 11.2 inches.
A heavy wet snow fell that accumulated very rapidly during the first several
hours and was accompanied by northeast winds well in excess of 30 mph. This
caused very serious traffic problems.
April 9, 1973. 11.9 inches.
After a relatively mild and snow-less winter, a major early spring snowstorm
struck with about a foot of heavy, wet snow accompanied by thunder and
lightning and winds gusting in excess of 50 mph. The city was virtually
shutdown. The storm led to an overhaul in plowing strategy and equipment.
Twelve days later heavy rains on top of snow-melt runoff brought rivers and
streams over their banks. Severe flooding occurred along the Root and Fox
rivers in Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Racine counties.
December 31, 1978 - January 1, 1979 14.0 inches.
Major snowstorm hit during the New Year's holiday which also happened to
fall on a weekend. Winds gusting to 40 mph caused drifts to 6 feet,
blocking many rural roads.
January 12-13, 1979. 14.3 inches.
Another major snowstorm followed the New Year's storm by two weeks.
Winds gusting to 40 mph caused near blizzard conditions with drifts to
6 to 8 feet blocking many roads. Travel became nearly impossible with
many snow plows pulled off the roads.
January 23-24, 1979. 9.5 inches.
Incredibly, less than two weeks later another major snowstorm struck
the area with near blizzard conditions and blocked roads. After this
storm, record snow depths of nearly three feet were measured. Accumulated
snow on roofs of houses, barns, and other buildings caused the roofs to
sag greatly or collapse during the month.
January 3-4, 1982. 8.6 inches.
An intense "Lower Mississippi Valley" type winter storm produced very
heavy snow in the Milwaukee metro area from the evening of the 3rd to
the late morning on the 4th. Temperatures just a few degrees below
freezing produced very high water-content snow, which coupled with
accompanying northeast winds of 30 to 60 mph, caused considerable damage
to trees and power lines. Severe drifting snow produced 3 to 5 foot
drifts that closed virtually all roads in the metro area. Thunder and
lightning occurred for several hours centered around midnight. Total
snow amounts included 16 inches at Germantown, 15 inches on the northwest
side of Milwaukee, and 8 inches on the southeast side.
December 15, 1987. 13.1 inches.
Powerful winter storm! Schools..businesses, airports, and most
government offices were closed. Numerous accidents were reported along
with widespread power outages. The storm began early in the morning and
continued for much of the day. At the height of the storm thunder and
lightning was observed and winds gusted up to 73 mph. $100,000 damage
was inflicted to a Milwaukee harbor pier that was repeatedly struck by
a Greek cargo ship whipped by 10 to 15 foot waves! Ten people died of
heart attacks and there were dozens of cases of severed fingertips caused
by people trying to unclog the heavy wet snow from snow blowers.
November 27, 1995. 9.7 inches.
Major winter storm struck during the afternoon and evening especially
during the "rush hour". Thunder and lightning, winds gusting to 50 mph
and near zero visibility created the worst traffic "gridlock" in 40 years.
What normally would have been a 30 minute commute turned into a 3 to 4 hour
nightmare! There were over one thousand vehicle accidents in the metro
area and Milwaukee's Mitchell International airport was closed for over 12
hours which added to the burden of travelers. This was the third worst
November snowstorm in Milwaukee on record dating back to 1884.
January 8-9, 1998. 12.4 inches.
Low pressure moved north along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, producing
heavy snow. Convective snow bands produced lightning and thunder along
with hourly snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour. The snowfall total of
12.4 inches was the 14th greatest all time snow total for a 24 hour period.
Hundreds of motor vehicle accidents were reported.
December 18-19, 2000. 10.5 inches.
An area of low pressure tracked across Iowa, northern Illinois, and northern
Indiana with an inverted trough extending north of the low. This storm
produced 10.5 inches at Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport
which contributed to Milwaukee's record breaking 49.5 inches for the month.
This monthly total was 430% above normal for the month and 105% above normal
for the season. This snow also contributed to set a new snow depth record
for the month of 32 inches on December 21.
February 11, 2003. 5.0 inches.
Vigorous energy dropping south from Canada produced heavy convective snow
squalls during the afternoon across the Midwest. A very heavy burst of
snow, accompanied by lightning, thunder, and wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph
creating blizzard conditions, lasted for 2 to 2.5 hours during the late
afternoon commute along the I-94 corridor. Snowfall rates of around
3 inches per hour and snowflakes around an inch in diameter caused
massive problems for the city. Travel times were tripled and Milwaukee
General Mitchell International Airport was closed for 2 hours as crews
couldn't clear runways fast enough. Total snow fall amounts ranged from
5 to 7 inches across Jefferson, Waukesha, and Milwaukee counties. Some
counties across central Illinois had Severe Thunderstorm Warnings issued
due to wind gusts of 60 to 75 mph associated with heavy convective snow
January 21-22, 2005. 11.4 inches.
A fairly normal clipper type system developed in Alberta, Canada and slid
southeast into the Lower Great Lakes during the evening hours of January 21.
However, unusual amounts of moisture returning north from the Gulf interacted
with arctic air just to the north of the low which created heavy snow across
most of the Midwest. Cold easterly winds over the warmer waters of Lake
Michigan aided in creating even heavier snow over southeast Wisconsin. Snowfall
rates overnight on January 22 were in the 2 to 3 inch per hour range at times.
Total storm accumulations ranged from generally 7 to 11 inches, with the heaviest
totals near the Lake. Additional lake effect snow on January 22 produced an
extra 3 to 4 inches across southeast Wisconsin for a 2-day total of 10 to 15
inches. In addition to heavy snow, winds began to strengthen to 20 to 30 mph
with gusts to 45 mph by the morning of January 22, producing considerable blowing
and drifting snow and blizzard conditions at times. Although hundreds of accidents
were reported, the storm swept through on a Friday night and road crews had an
easier time clearing roadways without the presence of rush hour traffic on