Record-setting Halloween storm leaves Midwesterners tired of clearing snow already

Maura Kelly

An intensifying winterlike storm dumped disruptive snowfall across parts of the Midwest on Halloween -- and many cities smashed record snowfall amounts for the holiday. The late-month storm pushed October totals to rank among the top five snowiest on record in many locations.

The heaviest snow, up to 6 to 9 inches, buried communities from southern Wisconsin to northern parts of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Hundreds of flights were delayed and canceled across the region on Thursday, and roadway conditions deteriorated as the afternoon hours wore on and snowfall rates increased.

In Mukwonago, Wisconsin, the early snowfall caused issues for drivers on the roads. (Image/ABC News One)

It was the snowiest Halloween on record with 5.4 inches falling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). That amount smashed the old record of 0.4 of an inch set back in 1926. Also, the storm total of 5.8 inches which fell from Wednesday into Thursday ranks as the second highest in a single October snowstorm. The old record of 6.3 inches occurred back on Oct. 19 to Oct. 20, 1989.

Nearby Wisconsin's state capital of Madison also shattered its snowiest Halloween on record. Four inches of snow broke the previous record of 3.2 inches set in 1926, the NWS reported. The storm's total of 5.1 inches now ranks as the city's single biggest October snowstorm, breaking the old record of 3.8 inches set from Oct. 26 to Oct. 27 in 1997.

Thursday was the fourth consecutive day on which 1 inch or more of snow has fallen in the city, something that has happened only three other times. The previous streaks had been four days during December 1950, four days during February 2007 and five days during December 1974.

Madison also set a new monthly record of 8.1 inches. That amount surpassed the 5.2 inches of snow recorded in October 1917.

As temperatures slipped a few degrees, roads in the western suburbs became slippery. Flight delays and cancellations were increasing at O'Hare. The airport picked up 3.4 inches of snow on Oct. 31, shattering the record for Halloween snowfall set in 1993 when just a trace was recorded.

Wednesday was also a record snow day, with 1.2 inches falling in the Windy City. That was the earliest snow day in the season on which an inch or more fell since Oct. 20, 1989. In total, 4.6 inches of snow fell in Chicago during October 2019, making it the second snowiest October on record coming in only behind the 6.3 inches set in 1989.

After breaking a snowfall record on Wednesday, Oct. 30, in Chicago, the snow continued to blanket the city on Thursday, Oct. 31, Halloween. (Image/Blake Dava)

Earlier Thursday morning, the Des Moines airport recorded 1 inch of snow, marking the first time Des Moines has recorded two separate snowfall accumulations of more than 1 inch in the month of October, according to the NWS.

Anywhere from 4 to 7 inches of snowfall had buried parts of Iowa by Thursday afternoon, leaving roads in central and eastern parts of the state snow-covered and slick, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT). By 1:30 p.m. CDT, a NWS cooperative observer had reported 7 inches of snow in Lowden, Iowa, northwest of Davenport.

More than 240 plows were out in force across eastern and southeastern Iowa on Thursday morning as snow thumped across the area, Iowa DOT tweeted. However, officials cautioned drivers to "buckle up, slow down and allow extra space between vehicles."

Kids had to trudge through snow in Halloween parades across the area.

Meanwhile, Midwesterners lamented the early-season snowfall that forced them to break out the snow gear.

"I have to clean off my car, and it's Halloween... not okay," one Mukwonago, Wisconsin, woman told WISN.

"It sucks, it does," Don Sanderson of Mukwonago, Wisconsin, said. "But this is my weekly cut-grass insurance, so I'm pretty sure I'm out of that."

But it wasn't just the snow that was notable. Cold air plunged into the region as strong winds whipped through the region and the storm strengthened on Thursday.

Thursday's high of 35 F in Chicago will go down in the history books as the third coldest Halloween since records began in 1871, and it was the coldest since 1917. The average high for Chicago on Oct. 31 is 57 degrees, but on Thursday afternoon, the AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperature hovered in the mid-20s.

Rockford, Illinois, endured its second coldest Halloween on record as the high temperature topped out at 33. It was the coldest holiday since 1905. In 1917, the high climbed to only 32.

Temperatures bottomed out in the teens and 20s in the Chicago area early Friday morning, which is 15-20 degrees below normal.

The same storm system dished out snow and record cold in the Rockies earlier this week.

Behind this storm, another blast of snow and cold is expected to target the Great Lakes this weekend.

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