Aurora’s worst January ever

By Mary Clark Ormond, President, Aurora Historical Society

The next time an elderly person bends your ear about how much tougher Aurora winters were back in the day, you should listen respectfully. Because although winter is winter year after year, and you can always count on some commonalities like endless gray days and long, long nights, there are some standout seasons to talk about.

One such took place 103 years ago, the winter of 1917-1918. January was the worst part of that bad winter: the snowiest and coldest in recorded history. Chicago’s 42.5 inches of snow that month is STILL the region’s one-month record for snowfall.

The cherry on top of that well-frosted cake was the cold. For 28 straight days (December 28-January 24) the temperature – night or day — never rose above freezing and the average temperature was 11.6 degrees. Although that frigid record was finally broken in 1977, it still stands as the second-coldest stretch of days in local history.

Despite the extreme records, the human toll was small. In its “Causes of Death” report for 1918 the Aurora Health Department listed only one death possibly related to the weather during January; it was due to “exposure and freezing”. In light of the 284 Aurora citizens who would die later that year of the so-called Spanish flu, January wasn’t so bad, after all.

Mittens and mufflers are still de rigueur in Aurora this winter, but the data show that so far in January, 2021, Aurora has seen 16 days out of 26 reach above freezing and only 1 day in which overnight lows dropped into the single digits. At least this year we can’t argue with those elderly storytellers.