First Snow in Iowa: The Earliest & Latest First Snows on Record

Written by August Croft
Updated: December 8, 2022
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Marked by humid temperatures and particularly wet springtimes, when is the first snow in Iowa on average? This centrally-located state is bordered by Nebraska as well as Minnesota, making it one of many states that experiences frigid winters. But just how cold does Iowa get on average and what can you expect out of the snowfall in this particular state? 

In this article, we will address everything you need to know about snowfall in Iowa, particularly when it begins and when you can expect it to end. We will go over some record snowfalls throughout Iowa’s history, especially particularly large or small storms. Whether you want to visit Iowa or simply want to learn more about the state that you live in, here’s what wintertime is like! 

Understanding First Snow in Iowa

first snow in iowa

Depending on the year, Iowa can see high amounts of snowfall.

©Keith Erlandson/Shutterstock.com

Iowa Snowfall
Earliest First SnowfallOctober 10th
Latest First SnowfallFebruary 2nd
Average Temperature15-35 degrees Fahrenheit
Largest Average Snowfall72 inches
Smallest Average Snowfall8 inches
Places to Enjoy the SnowDubuque, Des Moines, Boone

Humid and extreme in its temperatures, both within a single season and throughout the entire year, Iowa has a lot to offer the average visitor. Bordered by 6 different states, it is a fairly accessible region of our nation. It has hot, humid summers and dry, frigid winters. You can experience a very different Iowa depending on the time of year that you visit! 

More often than not, Iowa experiences its first snowfall in the month of November, if not late October. This is slightly earlier than average, with many places throughout the Midwest experiencing their first snowfall for the end of November. But when is the earliest first snowfall in Iowa’s history, and what about the latest first snow? Let’s take a closer look at the figures now! 

Earliest and Latest Snowfalls in Iowa

first snow in Iowa

More often than not, Iowa experiences its first snowfall in the month of November, if not late October.

©Christian Mueller/Shutterstock.com

Depending on how you classify first snowfall, Iowa has had varying dates for this occurrence. With an accumulation of an inch or more, Iowa first saw this happen as early as October 10th in the year 2009. That’s an incredibly early date compared to the state average of the beginning of November! 

When it comes to the latest accumulation of an inch or more of snow, falling on the state for the first time, the record is indeed staggering. In the year 1989, Iowa didn’t see more than an inch of snowfall until February 2nd. This is well after the coldest and most precipitous months of the year in terms of snowfall, and it’s unlikely that Iowa had very much snow during the year 1989! 

Largest and Smallest Snowfalls in Iowa

Just like the varying dates of snowfall in Iowa, the amount of snowfall in Iowa also experiences extremes. Depending on the location, there have been some extremely large snowfall years, with an average snowy season typically producing 20 to 40 inches of snow. However, some years were both greater and smaller than this average. 

For the 1911 to 1912 winter season, Iowa experienced a grand total of 72 inches of snow, nearly double the highest average. While records are unclear as to where exactly this occurred, it’s likely that all of Iowa felt the chill of this particular snowy season! No doubt it was devastating to local residents and people unfamiliar with heavy snowfall. 

In direct contrast, there was a limited snowy season in Iowa in the year 1965 to 1966. The average snowfall during the wintertime only amounted to roughly 8 inches, making this season one of the smallest snowfall seasons in all of Iowa’s history. While residents likely appreciated the break from Iowa’s cold and harsh winters, 8 inches is significantly less than the state’s average. 

Winter Temperatures in Iowa

first snow in Iowa

In the year 1989, Iowa didn’t see more than an inch of snowfall until February 2nd.

©Dean Pennala/Shutterstock.com

Given that snow is common throughout the state of Iowa, cold temperatures are just as standard. But what are the winter temperatures like throughout Iowa, depending on the region you are in? Let’s take a closer look at that now. 

Western Iowa

Bordered by South Dakota and Nebraska to the west, there are portions of western Iowa that are higher in elevation than you might expect. However, the average winter temperatures in Iowa to the west range from 15 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It rarely reaches negative digits but you’re unlikely to experience winter weather that’s warmer than 40 degrees Fahrenheit! 

Central Iowa

The most populous city in Iowa is located almost directly in its center, known as Des Moines. While central Iowa is fairly flat, it still experiences high levels of snow and chilly winters, averaging anywhere from 14 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Eastern Iowa

The city of Chicago isn’t very far from eastern Iowa, so you can only imagine just how dry and cold this region is in the wintertime. On average, this region of Iowa is slightly colder than the rest of the state, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Winter Wildlife in Iowa

first snow in Iowa

Given that snow is common throughout the state of Iowa, cold temperatures are just as standard.

©Rebecca C. Photography/Shutterstock.com

With forested regions alongside plains and grasslands, Iowa has plenty of winter wildlife. Some animals that you might be able to see include: 

  • Foxes
  • Otters
  • White-tailed deer
  • Raccoons
  • Rabbits
  • Osprey

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Keith Erlandson/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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Sources
  1. Des Moines Climate, Available here: https://www.weather.gov/media/dmx/Climate/DesMoinesOverallExtremesClimateData.pdf