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Weather History: April 3: Record temps, snow, ice, wind & '74 Outbreak

Meteorological events that happened on April 3rd:


A snowslide near Chilkoot Pass, AK in the Yukon during the Gold Rush buried 142 people and killed 43 others.


A heavy Easter weekend snowstorm produced 10 to 20 inches from the Mid Atlantic to southern New England. 19.4 inches fell at Philadelphia, PA accompanied by winds gusting to 60 mph, 17 inches at Trenton, NJ, 15 inches at Dover, DE, and 10.2 inches at New York City. Richmond, VA reported 10 inches; their heaviest snow in April.


Fresno, CA began a 214 day stretch without measurable rain, their longest such streak on record.


19 inches of snow fell at State College in Centre County, PA.


St. Louis, MO dropped to 20°; their lowest April temperature on record. Sioux Falls, SD dropped to 4°; their coldest temperature ever recorded for the month of April.


Record snows fell in north central Wyoming and south central Montana. Billings, MT received a storm total of 42.3 inches, and on April 4th reported a record snow depth of 35 inches. Sheridan, WY established a 24 hour snowfall record of 26.7 inches.


This day marks the worst tornado outbreak in Western Michigan history, including one deadly F5, plus a F4 and an F3. An F5 tornado hit Hudsonville, Standale, and Grand Rapids, MI. 18 people were killed and 340 were injured.

The F5 tornado that struck a Vriesland-Hudsonville-Standale-Trufant corridor killed at least 17 and injured 340 in one hour's time: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Its path was 52 miles long and up to 400 yards wide, and was the strongest twister reported among a six-state tornado outbreak that killed 39 people.

That F5 is one of only two ever recorded in Michigan since record keeping began in 1950.

An F4 tornado hit from Saugatuck to Holland, injuring seven and flattening the historic Saugatuck Lighthouse. Its path was 9-miles long and up to 100 yards wide, hitting just before 6 p.m. An F3 traveled from Bangor to Alto, injuring 12. Its path was 55 miles and up to 150 yards.


Riverside, CA soared to 103°, the earliest date in the season on record to hit the century mark or higher. It was 85° at Idyllwild, CA, their highest April temperature on record. This was tied on April 27 & 28, 2004.


KAUZ in Wichita Falls, TX broadcasted the first live television pictures of an F5 tornado moving through the city. Seven people were killed, 111 injured and 225 homes were destroyed during the twisters 5 to 6 mile path. Extensive damage was done at Sheppard Air Force Base where three tanker planes, a hanger, the power plant, and the chapel were all destroyed. Damage estimates exceeded $15 million dollars. Severe thunderstorms produced hail up to 3 inches in diameter and at least eight other tornadoes across central and southern Oklahoma on this same day, including one that struck Catfish Bay Marina and Lake Texoma State Park during the early morning.


A snow storm of unusual severity for so late in the season caused blizzard conditions with near zero visibility at times with severe drifting over parts of northeastern Colorado; including the Denver metropolitan area. Highways were blocked to the north of Denver and south to Colorado Springs. Rain at the start of the storm contributed to power and communication outages. Officially 7 inches fell at Stapleton Airport in Denver where winds gusted to 45 mph.


The worst tornado outbreak of the 20th century known as the infamous "Super-Outbreak" ravaged the Midwest, Ohio Valley and southeast. Severe thunderstorms spawned 148 tornadoes in 13 U.S. States, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York; and the Canadian province of Ontario; most occurred between 1pm ET on this date to 1pm ET on April 4th. The combined path length of all tornadoes during this period was approximately 2,500 miles with as many as 335 fatalities, 5,484 injuries, and an estimated $600+ million loss (in 1974 dollars). Not only was the eastern U.S. devastated by the twisters, but high winds and large hail accompanied many thunderstorms that day. Alabama, Kentucky and Ohio were especially hard hit. An F5 tornado destroyed half of the town of Xenia, OH killing 34 people and injuring about 1,150 others. About 1,400 structures were heavily damaged or destroyed. Damage in Xenia alone was estimated at $100 million (1974) dollars. Famed tornado researcher Dr. Theodore Fujita said that the closest he ever saw to F6 damage was in the Xenia, OH tornado. The longest path of any tornado during the outbreak was the F4 Monticello, IN tornado. Originally having a 121 mile path, further analysis and research by Dr. Ted Fujita indicated it was two separate tornadoes. The reclassification still documents the Monticello tornado as having a 109 mile path with a width of ½ mile. The same supercell that spawned the Monticello twister produced nine tornadoes across Illinois and Indiana. Another tornado, near the town of Stamping Ground, KY, produced a path of destruction a record 5 miles in width. Brandenburg, KY was devastated by an F5 tornado with 31 people killed; including 18 on the single block of Green Street in downtown Brandenburg. The Cincinnati/Sayler Park tornado is only one of two F5’s in history to have traveled through three states (parts of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio); the other being the Tri-State Tornado on March 18, 1925. At one point, 15 tornadoes were on the ground simultaneously in Indiana. Two powerful tornadoes roared across northern Alabama during the early evening hours, killing 50 people and injured 500 others. Some rescue vehicles responding to the first tornado were struck by the second. An F5 tornado raced through Guin, AL at a speed of 75 mph demolishing almost the entire town. Beginning at around 8:50pm CT near the Mississippi-Alabama border, this was the longest duration F5 recorded during the outbreak traveling over 100 miles to just west of Huntsville, AL lifting at around 10:30pm CT. 23 people were killed in Guin, 5 in the nearby community of Delmar, AL with about 300 injured.

Further north, the outbreak also spawned one of the worst tornadoes in Canadian history. An F3 tornado affected Windsor, Ontario Canada and surrounding areas killing 9 people and injured 30 others. Total damage exceeded $1.5 million (1974) dollars.

Of the 148 tornadoes, at least 118 had paths of a mile or more.

The average path was 18.7 miles. Ten states were declared federal disaster areas.

The intensity of the 148 tornadoes:

F5 – 6

F4 – 24

F3 – 34

F2 – 32

F1 – 33

F0 – 19


A severe early spring storm over the northeastern U.S. began on this date and blasted the area for the next three days. Wind gusts reached 87 mph at West Harpswell, ME and Boston, MA recorded its lowest April pressure on record with 28.68 inHg. Hurricane force winds along the coast produced tides 2 to 4 feet above normal flooding. Winds atop Mount Washington, NH gusted to 140 mph. 1 to 4 feet of snow fell from western New York to northern Maine with the higher elevations receiving the most.

Sioux City, IA plunged to -2°; their coldest April temperature on record.


An early spring snowstorm hit parts of the Rockies dumping 6 to 12 inches of snow in the foothills of northeastern Colorado and 4 to 8 inches north of Denver. Only 2 inches fell at Stapleton Airport in Denver.

St. Louis, MO had a wind gust of 83 mph; their highest reported gust on record.

That same day, a tornado causing F4 damage was responsible for 32 injuries and $25 million dollars damage in Madison County, Illinois.


A prolonged heavy snowstorm blanketed parts of Colorado along with very cold temperatures. The greatest amounts of snow fell in the foothills where 24 to 42 inches fell. A foot of snow fell at Boulder, CO. Snow fell for 50 consecutive hours at Stapleton Airport in Denver, CO. with a total of just 8.8 inches that compacted to 6 inches on April 5th. The mercury failed to rise above freezing at Denver for three straight days from April 4th through April 6th; a record for the month. Five daily temperature records were set from the 4th through the 6th, record low temperatures of 12° occurred on the 5th and 7° on the 6th. Record low maximum temperatures of 25° occurred on the 4th, 27° on the 5th and 28° on the 6th.


A large, slow moving low pressure system produced very heavy snows over the Appalachian Region lasting through April 5th. 60 inches fell at Newfound Gap in western North Carolina, the largest single storm snowfall in the state's history. Up to 36 inches was reported in southeastern Kentucky. The total of 25 inches at Charleston, WV easily surpassed its previous record for the entire month of April of 5.9 inches. The 20.6 inch total at Akron, OH established an all-time record for that location. Interstate 40 was closed by snow for the first time since it was opened in 1967. Meridian, MS reported 2 inches of snow and an inch fell at Jackson, MS; both records for the latest snowfall at those locations. This storm also dumped heavy snow in central and northeastern Alabama. Never before had a snowfall blanketed Alabama in April. 10 inches fell at Valley Head, 9 inches piled up at Fort Payne, and Birmingham recorded as much as 7 inches. Lightning and thunder accompanied the snow in some areas while a trace fell as far south as Mobile. This was the first snow ever reported in the month of April in Mobile since records began in 1872. The storm became known unofficially as the "Dogwood Snowstorm" as many trees had fully bloomed.


Thunderstorms in Michigan and Indiana spawned five tornadoes and produced golf ball size hail. A wind gust to 114 mph was clocked at Ann Arbor, MI during a severe thunderstorm.


Thunderstorms produced severe weather from the Southern Plains to the southern and central Appalachians. The storms spawned 20 tornadoes, including one which caused $8 million dollars damage at Fort Branch, IN. A severe thunderstorm produced baseball size hail along an almost continuous 130 mile path through southern Illinois and Indiana.


Rain and snow prevailed in the northeastern U.S., with snow reported in New York State. Boston, MA was soaked with 2.91 inches of rain, and up to half a foot of snow blanketed the hills of Steuben County, New York during the night.


Powerful winds generated by strong synoptic-scale winds convectively enhanced by a series of dry microbursts were associated with a strong cold front in parts of Wisconsin. Numerous trees and limbs were blown down with power outages. Grass fires occurred north of Onalaska and across Juneau County. The high winds blew part of a roof off a home in south La Crosse, WI. Some peak wind gusts reported in Wisconsin: La Crosse: 69 mph, Mauston: 61 mph, Coon Valley: 60 mph and Black River Falls: 59 mph.


Marquette, MI recorded 12.6 inches of snow on this day to raise its seasonal snowfall to 250.8 inches, the city's snowiest winter ever until 1997. The old record was 243.8 inches set back in 1981-82. The snowfall for the month now stood at 43.4 inches, the snowiest April on record for the city as well.


An ice storm hit the Arrowhead of Minnesota. An 800 foot television tower in Duluth collapsed due to the weight of the ice.


On this date through April 4th, 2.6 inches of rain drenched Barcelona, Spain. At the Costa Brava, as much as 13 inches fell in just 12 hours.

Nine people were killed, 50 injured and 500 homes were destroyed by a tornado that touched down just north of Calcutta, India. The tornado was on the ground for close to 20 minutes.


On this date through April 4th, a rare mid-spring ice storm covered southern Ontario Canada causing nightmares on the regional highways. The Ontario Provincial Police fielded over 900 calls in the Toronto-area alone. Adding to the misery, most private snow-clearing contracts had expired on April 1st. At Pearson International Airport, ice-caked wings grounded aircraft for hours.


Heavy snow from a slow moving cut off low began to wind down over Ohio, northwestern Pennsylvania, and western New York. Two day snowfall totals included 29 inches at Colt Station, PA, 26.5 inches at Stockton, NY, 24.8 inches at Thompson, OH, and 18 inches at Erie, PA.


A tornado hit parts of Little Rock, AR and its suburbs passing directly over the National Weather Service office. The tornado, rated an EF1, knocked down numerous trees, power lines and destroyed homes in Leawood and Cammack Village. A total of six tornadoes rake central Arkansas this day, fortunately there were no fatalities.


Check out my colleague Weather Examiners:

Baltimore, MD area weather with Tony Pann at

Orlando, FL area weather with Dr. Steve Oliver at

Houston, TX area weather & the weekly Weather America Newsletter with Larry Cosgrove at

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