COLD WINTERS AND HOT SUMMERS, FLOODS AND
1711 — Mobile visited by a destructive storm and flood, which caused the
settlers to remove to present site of the city.
1740 and 1746 — Destructive
storms and floods, which destroyed the rice crop near Mobile.
1748 — The Mississippi at
New Orleans was frozen thirty to forty feet from its banks.
1768 — Another cold
1772 — A cold winter followed by an extremely hot
summer. August 31st to September 3d. a terrible storm, which blew the
water from the bay over the city of Mobile. Vessels were stranded in the
center of the town.
1779-80 — Cold all over the South. No thaw from
November 15th to middle of February, and constant succession of snows.
Domestic fowls and wild turkeys were frozen. Deer sought shelter around
the cabins of the settlers.
1783 — Winter clothing worn in July and August. White
frosts in September.
1793, 1794, 1796, and 1799 were cold winters.
1807 — February 7th first
"Cold Friday." Afterwards turned warmer and then suddenly cold again, with
high wind from the North. On February 16th the frozen sap in the trees
caused the bark to explode.
1816 — This is known as the year without a summer. On
16th of April spray blown from the waves would freeze in the rigging of
vessels at Mobile. June 8th there was a killing frost south to latitude 33
degrees, and frost every month of the year north of latitude 34 degrees.
Corn meal sold at $5.00 a bushel in Tuscumbia the following winter and
1817 — A year of constant rains.
1819 — August 25th to 28th a
gale from the gulf flooded Mobile and stranded a large brig on Dauphin
1823 — February 16th the thermometer down to 5
degrees at Mobile, the lowest on record up to that time.
1825 — Dry summer. Year
without a winter. The cotton crop, which seemed almost ruined by the
drought, was open early in the fall. Showers in September caused a second
growth and fruitage,
which matured a
fine crop during the winter. This entailed great loss on speculators, who
had bought up the first crop in the fall and were holding it for higher
1827— A killing frost 27th of May.
1829 — A year of continuous
rains and poor crops.
1832 — Year of heavy rains and extraordinary floods.
Cold winter. The thermometer dropped to 9 degrees below zero at
1833 — Great floods. Rivers higher than ever before.
The great meteoric display occurred on the night of November 13th. Most
people thought the world was coming to an end, and they confessed their
sins and prayed as never before.
1834-35 — Extremely cold winter. February 6th and
7th. 1835, have since been known as the "Cold Friday and Saturday." The
writer has been told by early settlers of Calhoun county that the creeks,
where not very swift, were frozen over so as to bear the weight of a
horse. They say also that the frozen sap in trees caused the bark to
explode with a noise like the firing of pistols in the forests.
1839 and 1840 — Extremely
dry. Alabama river got too low for navigation, but good crops were made in
1844 and 1845 — Both very dry, but fair crops were
produced in Alabama. The last named — 1845 — is known as the dry year in
the States of the South farther east. Crops in South Carolina and Georgia
were a complete failure.
1846 — Cotton caterpillars first made their
appearance north of the black belt. Damage from them and from boll worms
was fearful this year in Middle and South Alabama.
1847 — A year of rains and
floods. Crops much below the average.
1849 — Unusually mild up to the middle of April and
all vegetation well advanced. Wheat in some sections was ripening and corn
waist high. Cotton up with from four to six leaves, and the leaves
of the forest about grown. On the 16th of April there
was a killing frost, and ice formed on still water. Corn and cotton had to
be replanted. Small grain crops were killed. In the States east there was
a heavy snow, being four inches deep in Charleston, S. C.
1851 — High waters in April.
Summer hot and dry.
1852 — Thermometer down to 8 degrees at Mobile on
January 20th. Much rain in July and August, causing cotton insects.
Equinoctial gale flooded Mobile.
1853 — Heavy rains and floods. Cotton crop greatly
reduced thereby. Rainfall at Mt. Vernon 106.57 inches.
1855-56 — Cold winter.
Standing water in ponds near Mobile at one time was frozen hard enough to
1857 — Spring backward. On April 13th a heavy snow
storm. Vegetation not being advanced was not injured as in 1849, except
wheat, in Middle Alabama, which was killed.
1858 and 1859 — Heavy spring
Hoods, but good weather later made fine crops.
1860 — Summer very hot.
1865 and 1867 — High waters
in the spring.
1868 and 1871 — Great damage from cotton
1874-75 — Winter mild. No frost of consequence until
1876 — Heavy snow storm March 19th, especially in
West Alabama. December 30th heavy snow storm, which culminated in
extremely cold weather during first week in January, 1877. (See next
1877 — Thermometer fell to zero on the 1st of January
at Columbus, Miss., where the Bigbee was frozen over. In Calhoun county
the mercury fell to 10 degrees below zero. All mill ponds not immediately
below large springs were frozen hard enough to skate upon.
1881 — Noted for being the
hottest summer recorded in this State. Temperature during June, July and
August at many places 3 degrees higher than the average for thirty years.
Heavy rains in March caused the rivers to be higher than in 1865. This was
followed by a protracted drought, but average crops were made. Eggs are
said to have been hatched by the temperature of the atmosphere ten days
after the hens abandoned their nests during the hottest spells in July and
August. The writer's thermometer — in Calhoun county — reached 102 degrees
in the shade one time in July, and 101 degrees once in August — the only
times it has gone so high in twenty-eight years, the nearest approach
being 98 degrees in July, 1897.
1883 — Long drought during the summer and fall. Many
wells dried up. More sickness from malaria than ordinary.
1884 — Noted as the year of
freshets, tornadoes, wet summer, dry fall, and poor crops. In parts of
Northeast Alabama the streams in April were higher than ever before.
Probably a total of less than
people were killed by the eighteen tornadoes in this State during the
spring of 1884, the greatest fatalities from storms in the history of the
State. Two or three of these tornadoes passed into
Georgia. and according to newspaper reports, each of
them wrought ten-fold greater destruction of life and property in that
State than in Alabama. Notwithstanding the April flood, and the wet
of June, when
only two days plowing was done in Calhoun county during said month, the
total rainfall of the year was less than usual. Following winter
1885 — This year noted for number of tornadoes next
1886 — Very cold in January. Thermometer down to 8
degrees below zero in Northern Alabama on the 8th of January. From the 3d
to 5th of December, 1886, the heaviest snow storm recorded in
this State — twelve inches deep in South Alabama to
twenty inches deep in portions of North Alabama. Rivers in the spring of
1886 higher and more destructive than for many years past.
1889-90— Mild winter.
1891 — January, February and
March wet. April and May dry. Good rains July and August. Crops good.
Cotton crop first reached 9,000,000 bales. Alabama's crop amounted to
1,000,000 bales for the first time — only a few thousand ahead of that of
1860, but about double any after the war up to 1875 of this State.
1892 — Rained all through
the month of August. Corn crop good. Cotton crop short.
1893 — Much rain in the
spring. Crops short.
1894 — Very miid and vegetation was more advanced
than ever before up to the 25th of March. Leaves of the forest half grown
in Northern Alabama. On the 25th it turned cold suddenly and there
was a killing frost on the 26th. Corn that was up and
all garden vegetables were killed, also such trees as white mulberry,
mimosa, etc. Wheat and oats were thought to be killed but recovered.
1895 — First week in January
and about the middle of February considerable snow and extremely cold. For
a few hours during each of these two spells the mercury stood below zero
throughout a large
part of the
State. All the blue birds, which were very numerous, were killed by the
February freeze. The snow extended farther south in Florida than ever
before, and the orange trees were killed in the main orange belt of that
State, Few blue birds have reappeared in Calhoun county up to this
1896 and 1897 — Each hot and dry during the summer
and fall, especially the latter year. Many wells and springs dried
1898 — May and June very
hot. Fall very wet, so that cotton picking was much delayed, and the
cotton badly stained. Much fine bottom corn was destroyed in the fall by
overflow of the creeks.
1899 — Very cold for a week previous to the 11th of
February ,when a heavy snow storm began and continued until 9 a. m. the
next day, when the snow was eight inches in Calhoun county. The next
morning, February 13th, 1899, the thermometer dropped to zero everywhere
in this State for the first time on record. At Mobile it was 1 degree,
Montgomery 5 degrees, Calhoun county 7 degrees
to 10 degrees, and at Valley Head, DeKalb county, 17
degrees. Thus we see it ranged from one degree below zero at Mobile to 17
degrees below at Valley Head. For the second time in twenty-eight years
the peach blooms were killed in the bud, so that there were no peach
blooms in the spring throughout a large part of this State. Strangely to
the writer, the mill ponds were not frozen so hard as twice before during
his observations since 1873, although the snow in the roads furnished good
sledding for nearly a week. Several tornadoes in this State during March,
1899. Owing to wet weather but little plowing was done before April and
much good land lay out.
1900 — Like the year previous preparation of land for
planting greatly delayed by wet weather. Continuous rains in June ruined
low bottom corn, greatly injured other crops by preventing work in
the fields, and almost destroyed early peaches just
as they began to ripen.
The following years produced unusually good crops:
1823, 1825, 1835, 1837, 1839, 1840, 1842, 1844, 1855, 1858, 1859, 1870,
1872, 1875. 1878, 1879, 1885, 1886, 1889, 1891, 1892, corn; 1894, 1897,
years produced crops below the average: 1816, 1817, 1827, 1838, 1843,
1846, 1847, 1849, 1850, 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854, 1857, 1867, 1868, 1871,
1876, 1884, 1890, 1893, 1899, 1900.
None of the foregoing crops were complete failures
all around — such as are often experienced by the farmers of Texas and the
Northwest, and occasionally by the farmers in the States to the East, on
account of drought. With the exception of 1816 — which had summer and of
which we know very little as only a small part of the State was settled up
— there is not a year when two-thirds of the cultivated land devoted to
food crops would have failed to produce an abundance for man and beast.
Many of our people fear drought — probably on account of disasters from
droughts in other States — but a study of the weather notes here given
shows that the wet years in Alabama produee the short crops.
TORNADOES IN ALABAMA.
cyclone is often improperly used for tornado. The latter is a
furious and terrible storm of wind, or of wind and electricity combined,
which revolves with lightning rapidity, and with a deafening roar sweeps
for itself a straight, narrow swath and demolishes everything in its
course. The path of a tornado is usually only a few hundred feet wide,
while a cyclone is a great storm with a breadth of many miles, and with a
reach that is continental in extent. Lieutenant Finley, of the United
States signal service, has made a record of 112 tornadoes which occurred
in Alabama during the sixty-seven years from 1822 to 1890. The year of
greatest frequency was 1884, with nineteen tornadoes. Sixty-six of the 112
occurred during the three months of February, March and April — fourteen
in February, twenty-eight in March, and twenty-four in April. The months
without tornadoes are July, August, September and October, although some
of the most destructive cyclones at Mobile have occurred during August and
September. Hours of greatest frequency of tornadoes, 6 to 8 p. m.
Prevailing direction of movement, northeast. Width, 100 to 3,900 feet. It
will doubtless surprise many readers, as it did the writer, to learn that
seventy-three of the 112 tornadoes occurred in the twenty-seven counties
of the mineral belt, which is probably more hilly and mountainous than any
of the three other great belts of the State. There were fourteen tornadoes
in the cereal belt, seventeen in the cotton belt, and only eight in the
great timber belt of South Alabama. All the counties of the timber belt
lying east of the Alabama and Mobile rivers, except Pike and Henry, have
escaped tornadoes so far as reported, as have the contiguous counties of
Lowndes and Wilcox, in the cotton belt. The tornadoes most destructive of
life and property occurred as follows: In Colbert county, 6 p.m.. November
22d, 1874. Same date in Shelby county at midnight. Talladega and Calhoun
counties, February 19th, 1884. Jeflferson and Cherokee, March 15th, 1884.
(The writer has been unable to get report of tornadoes from 1891 to 1896.)
On the 18th of March, 1899, there were destructive tornadoes in Cleburne.
Shelby. Jefferson, Montgomery, Dallas and Walker. The counties in which
the greatest number of tornadoes have occurred so far as reported are as
follows. Cleburne 8, Cherokee 8, Tuscaloosa 7, Calhoun 6, Blount 6,
Jefferson 6, Pickens 5, Lee 5, Talladega 4, Chilton 4, Etowah 3. Most of
these counties are noted for their numerous beds of iron ore — and when we
consider that no tornado is reported for a large section of South Alabama,
where no iron ore is found, some interesting questions arise as to the
part played by electricity in a tornado, and whether vast deposits of iron
ore is one of the agencies, which produce a tornado.