Historic Tri-State droughts are known in the pre-1895 era from 1820, 1838, 1839, 1841, 1854, 1856, 1860, 1871, 1881, 1887 & 1894. It is the less extreme droughts that are more elusive, particularly the 1845 drought that was reported from St. Louis, Missouri, through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio & Kentucky to the Northeast. This drought also extended into the southern U.S.
Like 2012 (though not as bad or as hot here or over a much larger area), it had its roots likely in winter dryness.
The 1844-45 winter was unusually mild, another elusive fact that it was nearly as mild as 1827-28, 1875-76 & 1889-90, which were all historically warm winters.
According to the Owensboro data, from observer Joseph Thomas, the temperature reached 81 in November 1844, 65 in December & 68 in January with the only snowfall of the entire winter occurring January 11. This snow was reportedly good enough for sleighing, however. The spring-like weather continued into February with no ice reportedly available for storage from area ponds, lakes & rivers the entire winter. The highest temperature in February was 64 & a beautiful spring rainbow appeared February 14.
Spring was unusually early, not only at Owensboro, but at other locations. For example, at modern-day Minneapolis-St. Paul (Ft. Snelling), February 19 saw a hail-producing t’storm & a 0.70″ rain in the evening with 50s. March 26 saw a 2p temperature of 79 at Minneapolis, followed by 80 on the 28th with furious prairie fires & an evening t’storm. This was the warmest March weather at the time since records began in 1820 (only 1838 was very close).
At Owensboro, the Ohio River was so low in April that large boats could not run & the river. After a rise in the Ohio in early May, it fell for the remainder of the month. The lowest temperature in April was 39, but the high was 90. “Warm and generally clear” weather was reported May 10-31. Although a highly-damaging frost/freeze was reported from northern Indiana to central Ohio with most crops wiped out (seeds that could germinate in the dry soil), no frost was reported at Evansville or Owensboro.
It was reported “but little tobacco set out” (owing to lack of soil moisture) in early June & that dying crops showed “promise to be light” on account of the drought with “warm and dusty” conditions & 93 in the first days of June.
After “several rains” June 19-28 with Ohio seeing a rise to “a good stage”, there were only four days of rainfall in July with “most of the days, flying clouds”. It was reported that the Ohio River “got very low”.
However August 8, the dusty, dry conditions were changed to rivers of water & mud with a tremendous, violent storm with damage & “one of the hardest rains ever witnessed here [at Owensboro]”. Buildings & homes saw damage & destruction & many trees were topped or otherwise heavily damaged.
This intense storm seemed to at least precede a slight turning point toward welcome rainfall. Numerous t’storms, many severe with damaging winds & hail, were reported from the Ohio Valley to the Northeast. Particularly highly-severe t’storms with extensive damage occurred in the Washington D.C & Baltimore areas to northern Virginia & Maryland & northwestern New York State.
Intense heat occurred September 1-5 at Owensboro. There is a note of 95 on September 3 & 100s were measured at St. Louis. Wetter & cooler weather occurred mid to late month.
1845 followed the wet year of 1844 with historic floods on the larger Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio River to Wabash & White River systems locally.
This was still an extensive drought in the 1845 growing season, followed a drier, very mild winter. The drought was likely locally-severe here, but the tree ring data provides rather low resolution during this year. You see the trend here, however.