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November 1911 vs. November 2019 epic cold fronts

Comparing November Arctic outbreaks
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Posted at 9:03 PM, Nov 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-14 21:43:39-05

As a meteorologist Monday's mighty Arctic front brought back memories of Synoptic Meteorology class when we did a case study on a similar early season front, even down to the date. 108 years ago a cold front plunged through the central and eastern U.S. with such great force that a number of record lows were set, and stood until this week.

There were several factors that come together to create this historic weather event. Arctic air collected near the North Pole, and stayed in place long enough to become truly frigid. On November 10, 1911 a powerful burst of upper-level winds picked up the huge dome of frigid air over northern Canada. The jet stream then dove southward the following day, forcing the cold air into the U.S. At the same time, there was a strong ridge of high pressure present over the Southeast and the western Atlantic. Unusually warm and humid air was sent into the central U.S. setting the stage for a wild weather ride.

There were huge thunderstorms the erupted across the Great Lakes region. There was a tornado outbreak with several F2-F4, making this the worst November tornado outbreak ever seen in the north-central U.S. Just hours after thunderstorms erupted, some areas were hit blizzard conditions as temperatures plummeted. People that were helping to clean up after a F4 tornado tore through Janesville, WI had to work through blizzard conditions.

The front went through Kentucky on the 12th. The rain and snow hasn't all that impressive; only 0.2" of snow was reported. The temperature drop was more significant. Lexington began the day with a temperature near 70°. By the end of the day a new record low of 14° had been set. The bitter cold lingered into the following day with another record low of 13° and a daily coldest high temperature of only 28°.

Those were the records that we chased on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The low Wednesday morning broke the daily record by a single degree. Some areas even dipped into the single digits. That's big weather news for January, let alone November 13th!

The present day front also produced more snow. Lexington's two-day snowfall total was 1.8" with 1.6" of that falling on Veterans Day, a new daily record snowfall total. This is the 23rd earliest first measurable snowfall and the 6th earliest date to have a snow depth of at least 0.1" in Lexington. For the last century plus the epic cold front of November 12-13, 1911 was the big story. Now this latest cold front will be significant event i weather history for these dates.