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Publication Abstract

Illinois Third Consecutive Severe Winter: 1978-1979 Changnon, Stanley A., Jr., David Changnon, and Phyllis Stone, 1980  Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, IL,  ISWS RI-94    Full Text Available

For the first time since records began in the 1880s, a third consecutive severe winter occurred in Illinois in 1978-1979. Seventeen major winter storms, the state's record coldest January- February (15.9F, or 14 below normal), and record snow depths (=40 inches) gave the winter of 1978-1979 a rank as the second worst statewide for Illinois, exceeded only by the prior winter of 1977-1978 (18 storms, coldest statewide December-March, record longest lasting snow cover). The 1978-1979 winter was the worst on record in the northern fourth of the state, where snowfall averaged 68 inches and point record totals of up to 100 inches occurred. Average snowfall for the state was 42.8 inches, or 23.3 inches above normal. In other parts of the state snowfall averages were: 40 inches (20 above) north central, 32 inches (12 above) south central, and 31 inches (22 above) southern Illinois. Severe storms began in late November and extended into March; fourteen storms also had freezing rain, but ice was moderately severe in only two cases. High wind and blizzard conditions occurred in only three storms (compared with eight in prior winter), suggesting a lack of extremely deep low pressure centers. The 1978-1979 winter had a myriad of socio-economic impacts, the most serious ones in the Chicago metropolitan area. Surface and air transportation was hardest hit, but utilities, businesses and industries, institutions, farm operations, and many human activities were also affected. Ten deaths and at least 60 serious injuries were attributed to the storms.

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