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

Written by Mike Edmisten
Updated: October 30, 2023
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Key Points

  • Ohio experienced its biggest October snowstorm on record in 1993, with some areas receiving up to 7.7 inches of snow.
  • The snowstorm disrupted Halloween plans, with trick-or-treaters braving the snow and jack-o’lanterns placed on snowmen.
  • The snowstorm extended beyond Ohio, affecting cities in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.
  • Ohio typically sees snow in October, especially in the northeast, but significant snowfalls are still rare.
  • Ohio’s wildlife, including migratory birds and hibernating mammals, were largely unaffected by the early snowstorm.

Halloween in Ohio brings all sorts of things to mind: parties, costumes, jack-o’lanterns, trick-or-treating, and other longstanding traditions. What Ohioans do NOT usually think about on Halloween is snow. However, snow was top of mind on Halloween 1993 as the state saw its biggest October snowstorm on record. For many Ohioans, that Halloween felt like it was all trick and no treat!

October 30-31, 1993

This super rare snow event was set up by a polar jet stream that dipped much further south than normal for mid-autumn. That polar air met a low-pressure system coming off the Gulf of Mexico, which provided plenty of moisture for the storm. It was the perfect scenario for a big October snow.

The bulk of the snow fell on October 30, with smaller additional accumulations falling on October 31. Cincinnati received 6.2 inches of snow from this storm. Columbus measured 4.6 inches from the two-day snow event. Youngstown was among the hardest-hit locations in the Buckeye State. The town had to dig out from under 7.7 inches of snow.

A Christmas Jack-O-Lantern

Ohioans weren’t quite sure which holiday to celebrate in October 1993!

©Zaereth / CC0 – License

Halloween Plans

The snowstorm hit on a weekend, so Ohio schools were not impacted. However, the freak winter storm drastically affected many other plans Ohioans had made for that Halloween weekend. Parents bundled up their kids for trick or treating, if they went out at all. Snowball fights replaced Halloween bonfires. Jack-o’lanterns were placed atop snowmen, giving the snow sculptures a Headless Horseman type of vibe.

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats football team played their homecoming game on October 30 of that year. The snowy game was tied near the end of regulation, but the Bearcats had a chance to win on a last-second field goal. A Cincinnati groundskeeper tried to give the team an advantage by using a snow shovel to clear a spot for the ball to be placed during the kick. That was against the rules, however, and it cost Cincinnati a five-yard penalty. Thankfully for the team, the fans, and especially for that overeager groundskeeper, the kicker still made the field goal. The Bearcats prevailed over Memphis State by a score of 23-20.

This video from a local news station in Cincinnati shows what the scene was like during this unprecedented Halloween snowstorm.

Beyond Ohio

This early winter storm was not contained to Ohio, though. Louisville, Kentucky, received 2.4 inches of snow. Evansville, Indiana, measured 4.6 inches of accumulation. Parts of southern Illinois received four to five inches of snow, with isolated pockets of six inches. Cities as far west as Charleston, Missouri, measured three inches of accumulation.

The snow had a sharp cutoff to the east, though. For instance, Lexington, Kentucky, only registered a trace of snow. Instead, the city received half an inch of rain.

Previous October Snowstorms in Ohio

Before the 1993 storm, Youngstown’s biggest October snowstorm was on October 24-25, 1962, when 5.7 inches of snow fell. Cincinnati’s previous high for an October snowfall came on October 19, 1989, when the Queen City saw accumulations of five inches.

Average October Snow in Ohio

This is not to say that snow itself is rare in Ohio during October. It is actually relatively common in parts of the state, especially in the northeast.

As the weather cools, storms roll across the warmer waters of Lake Erie and create lake-effect snow in northeast Ohio. In Youngstown, for example, there has been at least a trace of snow recorded on nearly every date in the month. October 5 and 14 are the only two October dates in Youngstown’s meteorological history dating back to 1934 without at least a trace of snow.

However, while northeastern Ohioans are used to seeing flakes fly in October, significant October snowfalls are still a rarity. The average snowfall in Youngstown for the entire month of October is only 0.7 inches.

Sunlight emerges after a wintery storm dumps snow along the shores of Lake Erie at Edgewater Park in Cleveland, Ohio.

Heavy lake-effect snows off of Lake Erie typically don’t begin until November.

©Dee Browning/Shutterstock.com

Ohio Wildlife in an October Snowstorm

For the most part, Ohio’s animals are more suited to deal with an October snowstorm than the state’s human residents. However, this type of super-early snowstorm can be a hardship for some. While most migratory birds had already left the state by the time this storm hit, waterfowl such as geese and ducks typically don’t migrate until November. Such an early winter storm would certainly be a shock to them. 

Ohio’s only hibernating mammals include groundhogs, jumping mice, and little brown bats. Groundhogs typically enter hibernation in late October. There’s a good chance most of the state’s groundhogs didn’t know this October snowstorm even happened. 

Most of Ohio’s native wildlife are well-adapted to winter weather, so the 1993 storm presented little problems for them. Plus, the temperatures in much of the state soared back above 40°F on November 1. By November 5, just five days after this historic Halloween snowstorm, the high temperature in Cincinnati reached 61°F. In no time at all, the snow melted and left Ohioans with nothing but stories of the year they were dreaming of a White Halloween.

Pair of cardinals perching on a tree branch in the snow

Ohio’s non-migratory animals are typically well-suited for winter storms.

©iStock.com/Hongkun Wang

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


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About the Author

Mike is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on geography, agriculture, and marine life. A graduate of Cincinnati Christian University and a resident of Cincinnati, OH, Mike is deeply passionate about the natural world. In his free time, he, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks.

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