1982: An extremely rare December tornado produced F1 damage in Des Moines County striking a home, a mobile home, and some outbuildings. This is the last time a tornado occurred this late in the year and is one of only three December tornadoes on record in Iowa.
1856: A very severe blizzard struck Iowa on December 1-3 completely immobilizing the state and causing numerous fatalities and injuries. December 1st opened sunny and fair leading many to venture outside to tend to livestock or make trips to town. During the afternoon dark clouds moved in quickly from the northwest and it began to snow heavily with winds increasing and temperatures falling rapidly to dangerous levels. The snow and wind persisted through that night, the following day, and late into the 3rd before beginning to diminish. Despite the relatively low population of Iowa at that time there were a high number of people caught in the open who either froze to death, survived with frostbite injuries, or barely managed to find shelter during the howling storm. Most of the fatalities were reported across northern Iowa where well over than a foot of snow fell but all portions of the state were severely affected. Near Greenfield a resident wrote that “four stage horses were buried in their frail pole and hay stable, and had to be shoveled out next morning. One horse was dead; the others were badly bruised, in their efforts to get away during the night.” At Fontanelle a party of seven men became lost while attempting to cross the town square, and after more than an hour barely managed to find their way back to a store for shelter. Near Boone an observer reported that the snow piled up into “great, white mounds and eddying corners; covering up hay stacks, wood piles, and, in some instances, the little one-and-one-half storied houses of the new city. In one case the resident found, when the storm had ended, that his front door was covered by a drift reaching to the comb of the roof, through which he tunneled and, for the rest of the winter, had an entrance to his dwelling.” A few days after the blizzard an ice storm struck portions of Iowa producing a thick crust of ice on top of the deep snow pack. This combination of severe winter weather was devastating to local wildlife, particularly deer whose hooves “cut through the ice and rendered their escape impossible. In some instances they were run down by men on foot, with no other weapon, than the family butcher knife, which was all too effective. A neighbor discovered a fawn in his back yard one morning, which he captured with his hands” as noted by the same observer near Boone.
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This post was written by Schnack on December 2, 2012