The Biggest November Snowstorm To Ever Hit Illinois

Written by Justin Sexton
Published: October 30, 2023
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Perspective of narrow road lined with tall, bare, deciduous trees that disappear in fog after a snowstorm in northern Illinois, USA

A snowstorm in northern Illinois in late spring affects wildlife.

©Ken Schulze/Shutterstock.com

The winter weather in Illinois can get very harsh. Chicago isn’t called “The Windy City” for no reason. Thrillist cited Illinois winters as “occasionally Siberian-like” for its snow and crazy winds. It’s a part of the Midwest region of the United States which can have harsh weather in the winter seasons. Illinois’s annual snowfall exceeds thirty-eight inches. The normal monthly snowfall averages for Chicago goes as such:

  • November- 1.8 inches
  • December- 7.6 inches
  • January- 11.3 inches
  • February- 10.7 inches
  • March- 5.5 inches
  • April- 1.3 inches

Illinois has had its fair share of dangerous snowstorms such as The Blizzard of 67 and The Blizzard of 79, but those took place in January. January is where the snowfall peaks in Illinois. So what is the biggest November snowstorm in Illinois? Keep reading to find out.

What Is The Biggest November Snowstorm In Illinois?

The biggest November snowstorm in Illinois took place over a century ago. On November 25-26, 1895, a snowstorm hit the Windy City of Chicago, resulting in twelve inches of snow. It didn’t affect just Chicago though. Rockford, Illinois received just under a foot of snow and just over a foot of snow hit the Quad Cities area hard. The average snowfall for that month in 1895 per the National Weather Service was 14.5 inches. There aren’t many accounts about the November 25-26, 1895 snowstorm aside from the National Weather Service providing the metrics. However, there was a similar snowstorm that hit Illinois over one hundred years later.

The Snowstorm of November 20-21, 2015

The snowstorm that hit Illinois on November 20-21, 2015 resulted in 11.2 inches of snow in the Chicago area. It was the first snowstorm of that year for Illinois! On the first day, about 4.2 inches hit the O’Hare International Airport and seven inches hit the international airport on the second day. Nearly three hundred fifty flights were cancelled in the two-day span of the snowstorm.

Plenty of the other cities outside of Chicago were also hit severely. Rockford, Illinois caught eight inches of snow in the two-day snowstorm. Mundelein, Illinois in Lake County got the most snow with nineteen inches. Capron, Illinois in Boone County was second behind Mundelein with eighteen inches in the state. Northern Illinois around the cities of Rockford and Waukegan averaged anywhere between twelve to eighteen inches. Temperatures were in the single digits and low double digits in cities like Chicago, Rockford, Moline, and other northern Illinois cities.

How Does The November 1895 Snowstorm Compare To Other Historic Illinois Snowstorms?

Now, the November 1895 snowstorm was a huge snowstorm. It resulted in an average of twelve inches of snowfall for the Illinois area. How does this compare to the other Illinois snowstorms?

The Great Blizzard of 67

Still to this day, The Great Blizzard of 67 is recorded as the worst snowstorm in Illinois history. Snowfall began shortly after 5 a.m. on January 25th, 1967 and ended around 10 a.m. on January 26th. The Great Blizzard gave the Illinois area twenty-three inches of snowfall throughout the area. Prior to the storm, the temperature was at a record high of sixty-five degrees for that specific day.

By noon on the 25th, eight inches of snow had already hit the O’Hare International Airport. The copious amount of snow and windy conditions closed the airport. Schools and jobs closed school early, but that didn’t help traffic conditions. Over twenty thousand cars and one thousand buses were stranded on the roads. Helicopters delivered medical supplies to the hospitals along with food and blankets to the stranded drivers. The O’Hare Airport reopened on January 30th. Most schools reopened on the 31st.

January 1-3, 1999 Snowstorm

On New Year’s Day of 1999, a two-day snowstorm commenced in the state of Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reported that the storm was “packing high winds and dropping 21.6 inches of snow- closed roads, [hundreds of flights cancelled and thousands stranded] at home, hotels, and shelters across the Chicago area.”

Groundhog Day Blizzard

From January 31, 2011, to February 3, 2011, the Groundhog Day Blizzard was a massive snowstorm that hit the United States and Canada. The storm brought cold air, mixed precipitation, blowing and heavy snowfall from New Mexico through Texas and upward to the New England region of the United States and Canada. In Chicago, winds got up to over sixty miles per hour and 21.2 inches of snowfall amassed the Windy City. Over 1,300 flights at the Midway and O’Hare Airports. City officials stated that on Feb 2nd, Lake Shore Drive had over 900 cars stranded on the road.

The harsh winds blew off a portion of the famous Wrigley Field. On the first day of the storm, all of the major stores made record-breaking sales. Several universities cancelled classes. Over thirty-nine thousand state workers did not go to work as ordered by the state government. By February 3rd, eleven deaths were reported. Five hundred Illinois National Guard troopers rescued many stranded motorists on Interstates 80, 290, 57, and 55. Over eighty traffic accidents occurred during the snowstorm. Eleven deaths were reported on February 3rd as a result of the snowstorm.

Additional snowfall totals include Midway International Airport’s 20.9 inches and 14.3 inches at Chicago-Rockford Airport. The storm’s highest snowfall count was at an insane twenty-seven inches in Roselle and Medinah. Peak gusts include sixty-one-mile-per-hour winds at the O’Hare International Airport and sixty-seven-mile-per-hour winds at the lakefront.

The Great Blizzard of 79

From January 13th to January 14th of 1979, a two-day snowstorm covered Illinois in a white blanket. It resulted in a total snowfall count of 20.3 inches! It affected most of Northern Illinois by shutting down transportation methods from all over the area. Most of the Greyhound buses didn’t run to their stops. The CTA buses remained running but with long delays. Interstates 80 and 55 were closed due to the great snowfall.

The O’Hare International Airport closed for the sixth time in its history at the time. Thousands of passengers were left stranded. Not to mention, many of the hotels fifteen minutes from the airport filled up quickly. The storm was powerful enough to have buildings collapse upon themselves. Fortunately enough, no one was injured from some of the reported building collapses.

The snowstorm provided even more problems after it ended. Many Illinois towns still weren’t able to clear off the main roads as fast as they intended. Chicago citizens complained about their mayor at the time for the lack of preparation for clearing off the roads. The CBS news station interviewed one citizen and that person asked them “How come cities like Minnesota, Montreal and Toronto can clear off two to three feet of snow in less than 24 hours, but Chicago can’t.”

Summary

The largest November snowstorm in Illinois happened over one hundred years ago. On November 25-26, 1895, a snowstorm hit the Windy City of Chicago, resulting in twelve inches of snow. The large snowstorm also affected several surrounding cities. Rockford, Illinois received just under a foot of snow and just over a foot of snow hit the Quad Cities area hard. Unfortunately, there aren’t many articles or sources going into detail about how the snowstorm affected Illinois during that time.

The closest thing to this November snowstorm happened over a century later. Between November 20th and November 21, 2015, a snowstorm hit Illinois. It resulted in 11.2 inches of snow in the Chicago area. It was also the first snowstorm of that year for Illinois and the earliest November snowstorm in its history! On the first day, about 4.2 inches hit the O’Hare International Airport and seven inches hit the international airport on the second day. Nearly three hundred fifty flights were cancelled in two days because of the snowstorm.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/EJ_Rodriquez


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About the Author

Justin is an A-Z Animals Writer that loves to cover places, unique natural disasters, and travel. He has eight years of experience as a writer in the medical and media fields. He wrote for the likes of VCU Health, theMSQshop, PayDay LA, and Comic Book Resources under the penname Jay Guevara. Although he's a full time writer, Justin graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019 with a Bachelors in Health, Physical Education, and Exercise Science with a background in Community Engagement. After spending over two decades in Richmond, Virginia, Justin now resides in the suburbs of Rancho Cucamonga, California. He's a dedicated gymrat. He's also a two-time poetry author who's influenced by rappers Joe Budden and IDK along with Dante Alighieri.

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