How severe weather has impacted Halloween over the years

How severe weather has impacted Halloween over the years

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


Not to be biased, but Halloween, as we know it today, could be one of the best holidays ever invented. Dressing up in punny costumes and heading from door-to-door to collect candy, what a beautiful invention.

Halloween looks different around the world, but in Canada, it means balancing a fun and functional costume. It can look cute but must keep you warm through inclement weather.

The word Halloween dates to about 1745. Today's costumes can be traced back to traditions from the Gaelic festival Samhain. The holiday, celebrated between Oct. 1 to Nov. 1, marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter (also known as the "darker half" of the year).

Halloween made it to North America in the 1930s.

Waterdown Public School Ontario 1928 halloween costume
Waterdown Public School Ontario 1928 halloween costume

"Girl in a Halloween costume in 1928 in Ontario, the same province where the Scottish Halloween custom of guising is first recorded in North America." Courtesy of Wikipedia

Here are some of the most extreme weather events that have taken place on Halloween.

1846 - The Donner Pass Tragedy

The Donner Party was a group of American pioneers. They migrated from the Midwest to California on a wagon train. In the 1846-1847 winter, the Donner Party was delayed by a snowstorm in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The group was faced with snow that was high as five feet deep. The heavy winds added 10-meter drifts, trapping 87 pioneers, of whom 47 survived.

Throughout the journey some of the migrants resorted to cannibalism, eating those who had succumbed to the ailments including the extreme cold.

1280px-Donner Pass kingp053
1280px-Donner Pass kingp053

"The 7,088-foot (2,160-metre) high pass above Truckee Lake became blocked by early snow in November 1846 (here photographed in the 1870s). Both the pass and the lake are now called Donner." Courtesy of Wikipedia

1876 - The Great Backerganj Cyclone of 1876

The Great Backerganj Cyclone of 1876 hit the coast of present-day Barisal, Bangladesh, killing about 200,000 people. The storm formed on Oct. 27 over the Bay of Bengal. On Oct. 30, the storm intensified into a cyclone, and on Oct. 31, it made landfall on Backerganj.

The cyclone brought wind speeds as fast as 220 km/h. A hundred thousand people drowned from the storm surge, and the other half died from subsequent famine.

1903 - Arica, Chile drought

The Atacama Desert, located in Chile near the Pacific coast, is known to be the driest place on Earth.

The area holds the record for the least amount of rain. From Oct. 1903 to Jan. 1918, the area didn't receive any measurable rainfall.

1920px-A trip to Mars
1920px-A trip to Mars

"The lack of humidity, rain, and light pollution together produce a dusty, rocky landscape." Courtesy of ESO/S. Lowery/Wikipedia/CC BY 4.0

1984 - Kansas tornadoes

Between Oklahoma and Kansas, seven tornadoes were confirmed on Halloween of 1984.

One of the tornadoes was reported to be connected to a plane crash. All three people in the plane died, as well as two people on the ground. The plane's debris ended up at the Mineral Springs Mobile Home Park.

1987 - Heavy rain in Southern California

Anaheim's 64th annual Halloween parade was cancelled due to extreme rain. “It’s never been cancelled and I didn’t want to be the one to cancel it,” said Arlene Taormina-Ready, parade chairperson.

A Pacific storm brought more than half an inch of rain to some parts of Orange County, California. The stormy conditions caused several traffic accidents.

Rain totals for the season are 2.08 inches, but areas saw up to .64 inches that day. Many motorists died that day as a result of the storm.

2007 - Warm in Ontario

On Nov. 21, 2007, the Great Toronto Area's high was 9C. But on Oct. 31, trick-or-treaters were lucky with temperatures as high as 18C.

The record for the hottest GTA Halloween is 22.8C, set in 1971. The norm for the time of year is 10 degrees.

2019 - Montreal cancels Halloween

Montreal had a very wet Halloween in 2019, with rainfall forecasts as high as 50+ mm. The area was also faced with strong winds that reached up to 90 km/h. The conditions were rough enough to postpone the holiday.

“I invite Montrealers to have Halloween on Friday because of the rain and strong winds announced tomorrow,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

To learn more about Halloween weather events throughout the years, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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Thumbnail: Courtesy of Pixabay