Today in Weather History: Strongest U.S. cold front on record - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Today in Weather History: Strongest U.S. cold front on record

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

After a nice dose of Springtime weather this weekend, a reality check is headed in our direction.  Highs are forecast to drop nearly 20 degrees after our next cold front moves through.  However, that's nothing compared to what we saw on this date in 1911.

On November 11-12, 1911, a cold front surged through the central and eastern US, plunging temperatures, triggering huge thunderstorms and then bringing blizzard conditions to parts of the country.  

Before the front moved through, many cities east of the Rockies were reporting record high temperatures.  In Columbia, Missouri at 2 p.m., it was 82°.  By 4 p.m., sleet was falling.  That night, a record low of 13° was set for the city.  Chicago saw a heat-related death on the 11th.  The next day a man froze to death.  Several Midwestern cities reported a 30° temperature drop in only 20 minutes.  Bowling Green, KY fell from 75° to 22° over the course of the day on the 12th of November that year.

While Charlotte did not see record-breaking temperatures, local newspaper "The Charlotte News" reported that rain was forecast for the 12th, and that temperatures would be much colder by nightfall.  Temperatures on the 13th were forecast to be much colder.  An outbreak of tornadoes in the Great Lakes region also made front page news that day.

Many factors came together to produce this event.  For many days, Arctic air had been collecting near the North Pole.  Finally, on the 11th of November that year, a powerful jet stream moved in and shoved the frigid air southward into Canada and the U.S.  Just before its arrival, much of the U.S. was seeing unseasonably warm air brought about by a ridge of high pressure parked over the southeastern part of the country.  That warm, moist air was carried all the way into Canada before the front moved through.  The clash of the bone-chilling cold air into the warm, humid air mass created strong thunderstorms over much of the country, especially the upper Midwest, where upper level winds were the strongest.

That region saw the worst from that system.  Massive thunderstorms moved through the area, some producing tornadoes up to F4 in strength that leveled small towns.  It was the worst tornado outbreak ever seen in the month of November.  Hours later, near blizzard conditions plagued much of the upper Midwest.

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