April 2019: Mild with Record Snow?

May 8, 2019 // Article by: Jim Sullivan

From severe thunderstorms to record breaking, out of season snowfall, April 2019 certainly had it all across the Midwest! Amazingly, even with the snowfall, it was a generally mild month across the region. Let’s dive into some specifics…

The Monthly Totals:

Believe it or not, every official climate station, including Chicago, finished April warmer than average in the temperature department. Dayton was the relative warm spot at 3.1 degrees warmer than normal; Cincinnati was 2.5 degrees above. Indianapolis and Columbus finished between 1.0 and 2.0 degrees above average. Chicago was the relative cold spot, but still finished 0.8 degrees warmer than normal, despite historically late snowfalls. As far as precipitation (rain, and in Chicago melted snowfall), everyone finished with a surplus.  Dayton and Columbus were closest to average, at only 0.13 and 0.15” more rain than usual, respectively. It got wetter as you wet to the west, with Cincinnati and Indianapolis coming in with 4.60” and 4.96” of rain…which is 0.71” and 1.15” more than normal. Chicago was the wet spot, ending with half a foot (6.02”) of precipitation in April, 2.64” above average.

Historic, Out-of-Season Snowfall(s):

Northern Illinois, including Chicago, was affected by two snow events between April 14th and April 27th. Both events featured enough snowfall to cover pavements across parts of the region, and both set records in Chicago.

April 14th was the more widespread and heavier of the two events. Chicago O’Hare received 5.4”, which tied April 16, 1961 for the largest snowfall so late in the season, and was the second latest 5”+ snowfall in Chicago behind the 1961 storm. Heavier totals occurred just north and northwest of the metro, with a swath of 6-8” of snow from Peoria through the northwest suburbs, up towards McHenry County and into southeast Wisconsin. Some of the more impressive totals from the Chicago suburbs include 7.2” near Medinah, 6.8” near Mundelein, 7.5” near Lake Villa, and 8.3” in Woodstock! What was impressive is this snow mostly fell late morning and through the afternoon, but was able to stick to pavement despite warm ground temperatures and the high sun angle. This goes to show that when it snows hard, it will stick any time of the day, even in April.

Not to be completely outdone, parts of Indiana and Ohio, including Indianapolis and Dayton, did see a few snowflakes mix in with rain showers overnight April 14th and into the 15th on the backside of the same storm…though with above-freezing air temperatures and a minimal amount of snow, it wasn’t enough to stick anywhere.

Everyone thought (or at least hoped) winter was done after the April 14th snowfall…this line of thinking was apparently incorrect. Northern Illinois was hit by an even later snow event on April 27th, with O’Hare measuring 2.5”. This snow was the latest accumulating snow reported in Chicago since May 6th 1989, and the second latest 2" snow event (behind the 2.2” on May 1st and 2nd, 1940). This was the latest that a storm dropped 2.5” of snow on Chicago. Amounts were once again more impressive to the north and west of downtown, with 4-5” amounts reported in portions of the far northwest suburbs and out towards Rockford, with over 6” northwest of Rockford! While not as much stuck on pavement as the April 14th event, enough snow (and in some cases sleet) fell during the mid-to-late afternoon hours to cover pavements at times and cause a few accidents, especially along and north of the I-88 corridor.

A Few Severe Events

Ohio ended up on the warm side of the systems that brought the chilly, and at times snowy conditions to Chicago. This resulted in a few severe events throughout the month, with more limited activity in the Chicago and Indianapolis areas.

Scattered thunderstorms moved through parts of Indiana and Illinois the evening of April 7th with a few reports of damaging wind. In particular, the Navy Pear off the coast of Chicago clocked a 72 MPH gust with a passing storm! Fortunately, this was rather isolated.

April 12th was an active day across southwestern Ohio as a morning line of storms came through, bringing a rather concentrated swath of damaging thunderstorm winds that affected the Cincinnati and Dayton metros. Two brief tornadoes even occurred in Clark County just east of Dayton at around 8:30 AM, showing that tornadoes can occur at any hour of the day.

A more substantial severe weather event occurred across Ohio and eastern Indiana April 14th (due to the same storm that dropped snow on Chicago). Indianapolis was spared the severe weather, though did see over an inch of rain. Scattered large hail and wind damage reports dotted the map across Ohio, with a few tornadoes as well. Yet another brief tornado affected Clark County, with a long-tracked EF-2 tornado occurring in Shelby, near Mansfield.

Another small severe event set its sites on southwestern Ohio on April 25th as numerous storms moved across the region. Yet another tornado occurred not too far from Dayton, in Darke County, with a few other reports of isolated straight-line thunderstorm wind damage in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas.