The Tri-State was on the edge of an unprecedented, historic southern snow storm in early December 1886. The heaviest snowfall accumulations until the Blizzard of 1993 occurred in some locations. It was also impressive in the amount of real estate it blanketed with snowfall in more southern locations. To this day, nothing compares to this storm in southern & central Alabama, as well as Atlanta. It is still the biggest snowstorm on record for Montgomery, Alabama & Atlanta. Rome, Georgia received a remarkable 25″.
It was also unusually cold there & here with highs here in the teens & lows near 0. Some places dropped below 0. Nearby at St. Louis, temperatures dropped to -3, while Cincinnati dropped to -3, both without snow cover & in downtown areas.
4″ of snowfall occurred in Madisonville & Greenville, while up to 1″ fell in the Evansville area. Downtown Chicago reached -10, while Dubuque, Iowa dropped to -24 with already some snow on the ground from an earlier storm system. Des Moines registered -20 for a low temperature.
Fort Sill, near Lawton, Oklahoma dropped to 3, while San Antonio, Texas bottomed out at 17. Even Brownsville, Texas reached 27 & Rio Grande City, 25, according to U.S. government weather station records.
Up to 18″ of snow fell just north of Montgomery, Alabama, while up to 18″ fell near Atlanta & +40″ in the mountains of North Carolina. 15″ fell near Chattanooga & 22.5″ at Knoxville, Tennessee.
Overall, 1886-87 was a rough winter & it set in early! In November, 18.5″ snow fell at Princeton, Indiana, while 17.5″ of snow fell at Flora, Illinois & McLeansboro saw 11″. Evansville area saw less at 5″ for the month.
In December snowfall from 2.5″ Evansville area to 6″ McLeansboro, 2″ Madisonville, 4″ Princeton occurred.
In January, 3″ of snow fell over much of the area & it was cold & dry. However, 1 day skyrocketed to the upper 50s to mid 60s in January with some hail-producing t’storms (22nd).
February was cold & snowy, but the 1887 summer was the hottest, driest since 1881 & the worst until 1901.
Arctic higher from the U.S. Plains to southeastern Canada bled in unusually cold, dry air. Meanwhile, strong, moisture-loaded storm moved from the northern Gulf of Mexico to coastal Florida, then coastal South Carolina over the December 4-6 period. The slow movement led to extreme snowfall accumulation with some orographic enhancement over the Appalachians & Piedmont.
The pressure gradient between the Arctic highs & storm caused white-out conditions & strong winds with the heavy snowfall in the South. This appears to have reached blizzard status.
This storm may have very well brought major snowfall accumulations to the Northeast. However, Arctic high tended to force storm slightly to right, keeping the heaviest snowfall offshore. Nonetheless, solid 8-13″ accumulations occurred along the coast of the northeast U.S. with strong winds.