The Biggest October Snowstorm in Missouri History Dumped an Absurd Amount of Snow

Written by Jennifer Geer
Updated: November 7, 2023
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Missouri typically gets hot summers, but October is when the temperatures start to turn cool, and the weather grows crisp. The average temperature for the state in October is 57 degrees. However, it’s not unheard of for an early-season snowfall to occur in Missouri. But there were two years in particular where an unusual amount of snow was dumped in the state in October.

Read on to learn about the biggest October snowstorms in Missouri history.

Missouri History: The Biggest October Snowstorms on Record

St. Louis, Missouri with winter snow

Snow mainly falls in December, January, and February in Missouri, but it has been known to fall as early as October.

©iStock.com/Kent Raney

Although October in Missouri is a time for brisk weather and vibrant fall colors, there were two occasions when Missourians were surprised by early-season snowstorms. 

Not just gentle snowfalls, these winter storms dumped nearly a foot of snow in one day. Missouri’s single-day snowfall record for October is tied at 11.5 inches.

October 27, 1913 — Rolla, Phelps County

Rolla is located in the Ozark Mountains, midway between St. Louis and Springfield. The town was settled in 1856 as a construction site for the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway. 

Weather in Rolla varies by season, with hot summers and cold winters, while the fall is usually pleasant. October is usually cool and dry with typical daytime temperatures ranging from the 60s to the 70s. However, on October 27, 1913, Rolla received a record-high 11.5 inches of snow from an early-season snowstorm.

October 23, 1996 — Fairfax, Atchison County

The record for the biggest snowstorm in October was tied in 1996 in Atchison County, in northwestern Missouri. The snowstorm was dubbed the “October Surprise,” because snow wasn’t even on the forecast. A local weather blog for nearby Kansas City, which received five to eight inches of snow that day, describes how the day began with heavy rain and dropping temperatures. Before long, a very heavy, very wet snow was falling. 

Impacts in Missouri

Halloween finish.pumpkings under snow

October snowstorms tend to melt quickly in Missouri.

©norr/Shutterstock.com

When an early-season snowstorm hits an area, falling temperatures can cause wet roads to get icy, catching motorists by surprise at the slick conditions. Further, the temperatures are usually high enough that the snow is heavy and wet. The heavy snow lands on trees still full of leaves, causing tree branches to break, and down power lines. 

In the 1996 October snowstorm in Missouri, widespread power outages were reported from heavy snow downing trees. According to Missouri Farmer Today, the Kansas City area reported $1.5 million in property damage due to the storm.

The good news from an early-season snowstorm is that temperatures generally rebound quickly, and the snow melts shortly after it falls. 

Missouri’s Wildlife During the Storm

Deer. The white-tailed deer also known as the whitetail or Virginia deer in winter on snow. White taild deer is the wildlife symbol of Wisconsin and game animal of Oklahoma.

In winter, white-tail deer will seek out areas where the snow is not as deep and use their antlers to brush the snow out of the way so they can find their winter diet of buds, small branches, and twig tips.

©Karel Bock/Shutterstock.com

Missouri is home to many freshwater lakes, streams, and rivers. A variety of wildlife lives among the waterways, gently rolling hills, and forested areas of Missouri. Some of the many animals that live in Missouri include black bears, raccoons, river otters, red foxes, beavers, and white-tailed deer. Missouri is also home to many birds including migrating birds and year-round songbirds. Some of these include great blue herons, northern cardinals, eastern screech owls, wild turkeys (eastern turkeys), and Carolina wrens.

For the most part, animals most likely fared better at the unexpected snowstorm than people. Because the snow was short-lasting and began melting shortly after it fell, wildlife in the area was not severely impacted.

Many mammals, like white-tail deerraccoons, and beavers, will find shelter or head to their dens to hide out the storm. Birds also take shelter in their usual nesting spots and try to avoid getting snowed on. And many migrating birds will have already headed south for warmer climates.

What’s the Biggest Snowfall to Ever Fall in Missouri?

The biggest one-day snowfall in Missouri is a four-way tie at 24 inches. Three out of the four days occurred in February, with one happening in December.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the following are the four dates that Missouri recorded 24 inches of snow at one time:

  • February 25, 1912 — Nodaway County
  • December 5, 1925 — Chariton County
  • February 25, 1979 — Scott and Girardeau Counties
  • February 2, 2011 — Johnson and Bates Counties

What is the Earliest Snowfall to Ever Hit Missouri?

The two biggest snowstorms to hit Missouri in October are not the earliest measured snowfalls for the state. The earliest snow Missouri has ever seen happened on October 17, 1898. On that day one inch of snow fell in Springfield, Missouri, and over three inches in Kansas City.

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


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About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.

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