A Look Back on October 1997

In Historical by Jeff Wilcox

October 1997 will best be remembered for having 3 seasons in one whole month in Iowa. At the beginning of October, record highs in the mid 90s occurred. Cedar Rapids recorded 94° on October 3rd which broke not only the record for the date but also the warmest temperature for the month of October, Dubuque did the same with 90°, Moline with 93° (their monthly record would be broken in 2006) Burlington hit 92° which was a record for the date but not for the month. In central Iowa Des Moines hit 92° which was a record for the date, Waterloo was 95° which broke the record for the date and tied the record for the warmest on record for October. Mason City did the same with a 95°. Sioux City had record highs on October 2nd and 6th with 94° and 91° respectively. The warm weather did not last, a week later temperatures had fallen into the 60s with lows in the 30-40s for most of the state. Three weeks after the record highs had been broken on October 25-26th, a freak blizzard blew in from the rockies, dumping measureable snow south of a Prairie Du Chien Wisconsin to Onawa line. Over 6 inches fell in Des Moines, 2-5 inches was common elsewhere with amounts of 10 inches near Omaha (There were amounts near 2 feet! in central Nebraska). Numerous trees which still had their leaves on them from the earlier heat wave three weeks earlier were weighted down by the heavy wet snow. Many trees couldn’t stand the weight and fell down leading to power outages. Numerous schools were closed due to the snow. After the storm temperatures plummeted further, On October 27th, Omaha fell to 15° which tied a record. Mason City fell to 13°, Waterloo and Cedar Rapids fell to 15° Dubuque fell to 19°, all new records for the date.

NWS Quad Cities Summary on October 26th Snow
NWS Omaha Summary on October 25-26th Snow
WOWT-TV Omaha Page on the Blizzard of ’97
CNN Story on the storm
Full Analysis on the Snow Storm