The Biggest October Snowstorm in Indiana History Will Blow Your Mind

Written by Eliana Riley
Published: October 11, 2023
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Key Points

  • Northern Indiana receives the greatest amount of annual average snowfall compared to central or southern Indiana.
  • Southern Indiana saw the least amount of snowfall during the state’s worst October blizzard, with some areas recording less than an inch of snowfall.
  • The largest snowstorm in Indiana history across any month was the Blizzard of ’78.
Indiana Snowstorm

Discover the worst and largest October snowstorm in Indiana.

©Callan Verdon/Shutterstock.com

When was the Biggest Snowstorm in Indiana in October?

The biggest October snowstorm in Indiana occurred in 1989 between October 18th and 20th. During these two days, an incredible 9.3 inches of snow fell in Indianapolis, Indiana. Perhaps even more surprising was that just a few days before the snowstorm, temperatures in Indiana measured approximately 80ºF. Therefore, the transition from remaining summer heat to a frigid winter was abrupt and shocking.

Furthermore, the areas that experienced the greatest amount of snowfall during the snowstorm of 1989 were central and northern Indiana. On the other hand, much of southern Indiana saw less than an inch of snowfall at the time of this snowstorm. In addition, much of the snow melted following the snowstorm because the ground had already been warm before the drop in temperature.

In addition, the blizzard broke three weather records in Indiana during 1989. For one, the snowstorm of 1989 broke the record for the earliest measurable snowfall in the state. One interesting fact about the record for the earliest snowfall in Indiana is that before 1989, the record had not been broken since 1925.

The other broken records included the earliest full inch of snowfall and the snowiest October on record. In total, only 10 Octobers have reported measurable snowfall in Indiana history. Some of these instances include the years 2014 and 1993, where October saw 0.1 inches and 2.4 inches of snowfall, respectively.

street during winter

Indiana’s biggest October snowstorm occurred in 1989.

©iStock.com/4u4me

When was Indiana’s Largest Snowstorm on Record?

Indiana’s largest and most brutal snowstorm on record was the Blizzard of ’78, which began on January 25, 1978. The blizzard set several incredible records, including the most snowfall in one month in Indiana at 30.6 inches. Another record set by the Blizzard of ’78 was specific to Indianapolis; the blizzard brought the most snow on the ground to the city at 20 inches.

Furthermore, the Blizzard of ’78 left many people without much-needed resources or medical attention. People were trapped on interstates and roadways, waiting for rescue. Due to the abundant snowfall, medical professionals and emergency task forces couldn’t reach these people by vehicle. Rather, they had to use skis or snowmobiles to rescue stranded travelers.

On January 26th, the governor of Indiana declared a snow emergency that applied to the entire state. Following this proclamation, Indiana law enforcement closed all roadways. Overall, the Blizzard of ’78 had a devastating effect on Indiana. In Indianapolis, snowfall continued for approximately 31 hours, and snow drifts rose as high as 25 feet. Tragically, 70 people died as a result of the Blizzard of ’78.

Denver Colorado Holiday blizzard 2006

The Blizzard of ’78 was so devastating that emergency task forces had to ski down to rescue people trapped on roadways.

©iStock.com/hayesphotography

What was the Biggest Snowstorm in the United States?

The biggest snowstorm to ever hit the United States was the Great Blizzard of 1888, also known as the Great White Hurricane. Between March 12th and 14th of 1888, America experienced its most devastating blizzard to date. Winds rose to speeds of 50 miles per hour on March 12th in New York City. Albany, New York saw 47 inches of snowfall across the two-day blizzard. The location that recorded the greatest amount of snowfall was Saratoga Springs at 58 inches.

Additionally, the Great Blizzard of 1888 crippled the infrastructure and routines of many northern and northeastern states. All forms of transportation were shut down, including the New York City subway system. Furthermore, people were not able to communicate with one another through telegraphs during the blizzard. Many homes and businesses suffered irreversible damage, and more than 400 people lost their lives due to the Great White Hurricane.

NYC Blizzard of 1888

The Great Blizzard of 1888 took 400 lives.

©Miscellaneous Items in High Demand, PPOC, Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

How Common is Snowfall in Indiana?

Snowfall in Indiana is common, particularly in northern and central Indiana. However, most everywhere in Indiana sees snow throughout the winter. Cities across northern Indiana average between 40 and 45 inches of annual snowfall. However, snowfall in northern Indiana varies drastically according to the area and proximity to the Great Lakes.

Central Indiana, on the other hand, sees an average of 24 inches of snowfall annually. Indiana’s most populous city, Indianapolis, receives 25.5 inches of snowfall on average. In addition, Indianapolis experiences 22.4 days of snowfall throughout the year. Compared to northern Indiana, central Indiana sees significantly less snowfall.

Southern Indiana, though, receives even less snowfall than both northern and central Indiana. Southern Indiana sees around 15 inches of snowfall every year, which measures nearly three times less than the average snowfall in northern Indiana. In fact, one of the least snowy cities in Indiana is Evansville, which receives only 10.8 inches of annual snowfall on average.

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA skyline over Soliders' and Sailors' Monument at dusk.

Indianapolis averages 25.5 inches of annual snowfall.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

When Does Indiana Typically See its First Snowfall?

Indiana’s first snowfall varies according to the region. Northern Indiana is likely to experience its first snowfall before both central and southern Indiana. In northern Indiana, the first snowfall typically occurs around late November and early December. Cities near the border between Indiana and Michigan usually experience their first snowfall between November 11th and 30th. Cities that lie in the north-central portion of Indiana may see the first measurable snowfall between November 21st and December 10th.

Throughout central Indiana, the average first measurable snowfall varies greatly; it may occur between November 21st and December 20th. However, central Indiana is most likely to see its first snowfall after December 1st and before December 10th. Southern Indiana, on the other hand, usually receives its first measurable snowfall between December 1st and after December 21st, sometimes even into January. Most southern Indiana cities experience the first snowfall between December 11th and 20th.

Scenic view snow covered city highway slippery road drive cars moving fast speed motion. Snowfall danger blizzard bad winter weather conditions. Urban cold snowy day snowstrom town background

Snow in Indiana may arrive as soon as mid-November or as late as January.

©Gorloff-KV/Shutterstock.com

When was Indiana’s Earliest First Measurable Snowfall on Record?

Indiana’s earliest first measurable snowfall occurred on September 25th during both 1942 and 1994! This record was reported by South Bend, Indiana, which receives some of the most abundant snowfall in the state. In addition, the earliest first inch of snowfall in Indiana also occurred on the same dates and in the same location. Finally, Indiana’s earliest first three inches of snowfall fell on October 19th, 1989 during Indiana’s largest October snowstorm, which affected most of the state.

Early snow background, climate changing concept.

The earliest first measurable snowfall in Indiana occurred on September 25th.

©UWMadison/iStock via Getty Images

Which Parts of Indiana Receive the Most Snowfall?

Northern Indiana receives the most snowfall compared to central or southern Indiana. However, all regions of the state typically receive some snowfall throughout the calendar year. In northern Indiana, La Porte receives the highest average annual snowfall with 65.2 inches per year. Snowfall in La Porte occurs approximately 38.2 days out of the year. While La Porte receives the most snowfall, it does not experience the most days of snow during the year. Rather, South Bend sees the greatest number of snow days on average with 42.2 days of snowfall during the year.

In central Indiana, Kokomo reports the highest rate of snowfall with 34.1 inches of snow per year. In addition, Kokomo records the greatest amount of snow days per year at an average of 24 days of snowfall. On the other hand, southern Indiana receives the least amount of annual average snowfall. The snowiest area in southern Indiana is Brookville, which receives 17.6 inches of snowfall per year. Furthermore, Brookville records an average of 12.5 days of snowfall per year. Following at a close second to Brookville is Bloomington, which records an average of 17.5 inches of snowfall per year and 12.3 days of snow. These statistics propel Bloomington to hold the title of southern Indiana’s second-snowiest city.

Snowstorm, snow-covered street and cars with a lonely pedestrian

Northern Indiana receives the most snowfall, averaging between 40 and 45 inches per year.

©Tainar/Shutterstock.com

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sambulov Yevgeniy/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Eliana Riley is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on geography, travel, and landmarks. Eliana is a second-year student at Miami University majoring in English Education and Spanish. A resident of Tennessee and Ohio, Eliana enjoys traveling to national and state parks, hiking, kayaking, and camping.

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