Alabama Historic Weather Timeline 1711 - 1900
 
COLD WINTERS AND HOT SUMMERS, FLOODS AND DROUGHTS.

A. D. 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 winter. 

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 spring. 

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 street. 

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 prices. 

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 Huntsville. 

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 this State. 

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 skate upon. 

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 caterpillars. 

1874-75 Winter mild. No frost of consequence until December 8th. 

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 below.) 

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 
two dozen 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 weather 
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 cold. 

1885 This year noted for number of tornadoes next to 1884. 

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 time, 

1896 and 1897 Each hot and dry during the summer and fall, especially the latter year. Many wells and springs dried vp. 

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, cotton. 
The following 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. 

The term 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. 

Taken from: HISTORY OF ALABAMA ADAPTED TO THE USE OF SCHOOLS by L. D. Miller. Published by Roberts & Sons, Birmingham, Ala. 1901.  Submitted by Veneta McKinney


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