Two warm spells were almost the bookends of October weather in Berks County, with the mercury reaching at least 80 degrees on seven days plus a 79-degree near miss.
The average high temperature on Oct. 1 is 72 degrees, to put a perspective on the warmth. However, overall there was enough offsetting cold to keep the month off the list of 10 warmest Octobers.
“October 2023 opened quickly with late summery daytime temperatures, including 80s (highest 85) each of the first five days,” said Jeffrey R. Stoudt, Berks weather historian and founder of the Berks Area Rainfall Networks, which is marking its 40th anniversary. “However, nights cooled down to the 50s under clear and tranquil conditions. One warm low, 66 on the 6th, occurred as cloudiness increased ahead of the change to cooler. The ensuing cool front brought a modest amount of rain on the 6th and 7th.”
There was only one temperature record set last month with the warmth: the 81-degree high on the 26th nipped 80 degrees from 1984. The 66-degree low for the 6th was well off the date record of 71 from 1941.
Later that day in 1941, the temperature topped out at 92 degrees, which had been the latest 90 in a year until Oct. 9, 2007, came along with its high of 91 degrees.
Meanwhile, last month, “after accruing an average daily departure in temperature of 9 above normal the first seven days, below normal temperatures, though none by very much, dominated the following 17 days and offset much of the earlier temperature excess,” Stoudt said.
“Then a robust warmup after the month’s lowest of 36 (degrees) on 24th brought two more 80s, both 81s, the first of which became a new record warm high for the 26th. Then moderate cooling came at month’s end to finalize October’s average temperature at 58.6 which is 3.4 degrees above the 1991-2020 30-year average. Only 15 Octobers during the 126 years of complete temperature records averaged warmer, and two others tied with this October’s average.”
While that 36 degrees was chilly, it wouldn’t have been a record for cold on any October date. It also fell on the date that marks the first 20-degree reading in the records during fall, a bone-chilling October morning that occurred in 1969.
Rain was rather scarce in October, and totaled only 1.58 inches at Reading Regional Airport, 2.22 under the official average, and it was distributed over only six days, Stoudt said.
More than half of the monthly total, 0.81 inch, fell on the 14th as a steady light-to-moderate rain fell mostly during the day.
Monthly totals around the county by trained spotters ranged from much below normal to only slightly below normal, Stoudt said. An embedded thunderstorm on the 7th across northern Berks and into Schuylkill County produced greater amounts and variability that day and for the month, he added.
The normals for temperature and precipitation are inflated due to the warmth of last decade and the soggy years near the decade’s end. For example, the normal rainfall for October is now 3.80 inches but the previous 30-year average — which is how “normal” is determined — was 3.22 inches.
Snowstorm 70 years ago
The year 1953 saw a memorable 13-day heat wave in late August into early September but just two months later it also saw the earliest major snowfall on record by far when 11.5 inches was officially recorded on Nov. 6-7.
The storm whipped up winds and waves on the East Coast, with Pennsylvania especially hard hit. Berks County was at the forefront of tragedy. Two men were overcome by fumes in an Allentown taxi stuck in a snow drift on Route 22 about a half-mile east of Strausstown, the Reading Eagle reported.
The bodies of the Rev. Cornelius Hogan, 42, and Gabriel G. Koncz, 29, were found about 12 hours after Koncz ignored his company’s warnings to not leave the Allentown area and started to drive Hogan to Harrisburg. Carbon monoxide was the cause of the deaths.
The snowfall fell during a rather placid autumn, with temperatures in the 70s a few days before the snowfall, and back in the 70s about 10 days later, according to Stoudt. Needless to say, no one remembered such an early major storm.
George F. Hittner was the highway superintendent for Reading, and he told the newspaper that he had never experienced such an early season storm. It was all hands on deck for the cleanup, and the roads were clear by the morning of the 9th, though piles of snow pushed from the streets to the sidewalks in Reading had yet to be removed.
“The snowfall of 11.5 inches … yielded 1.90 inches of rainfall equivalent. Precipitation was almost only snow, which means the snow consistency was quite slushy,” Stoudt said.
“The snow on the ground was slow to melt for an early snow accumulation due to seasonal low sun and daily low temperatures below freezing, which resulted in considerable refreezing of melt water that crusted the unmelted pack, which insulated the unmelted pack from potential rapid melting,” he said.
There is only one other storm in November of that magnitude and it occurred much later. On Nov. 24, 1938, 11.8 inches of snow was measured in Reading.
For both of the storms, the measurements were taken by U.S. Weather Bureau personnel in center city. Those meteorologists mentioned in their wrap-up of November 1953’s weather that part of the snowstorm included thunder.
Stoudt used the early November storm in 1953 and the even earlier-in-a-year storm of Oct. 29, 2011, to compare the two winters, finding the winters similar.
That storm in 2011, which officially measured 5.5 inches, more than doubled the amount of snow recorded in all of the Octobers in the preceding 141 years of precipitation records for Berks.
There has been no October snow since.
October weather in Berks
• 58.6°: Temperature
• 55.2°: Normal
• 1.58″: Rainfall
• 3.80″: Normal
• High temperature: 81 degrees on the 26th (80, 1984)
Berks Area Rainfall Networks precipitation totals:
• Pine Grove, 3.52 inches
• Auburn, 3.38
• Harlem, 2.86
• Mohrsville, 2.75
• Shartlesville, 2.73
• Topton, 2.73
• Henningsville, 2.72
• Elverson NE, 2.65
• Shillington, 2.58
• Frystown, 2.53
• Knauers, 2.50
• Boyers Junction, 2.49
• Mertztown, 2.49
• Wernersville, 2.45
• Mohrsville SW, 2.41
• Adamstown, 2.37
• New Morgan, 2.33
• Cornwall Terrace, 2.29
• Bernville, 2.23
• Mohnton, 2.20
• Boyertown, 2.19
• Lobachsville, 2.18
• Morgantown, 2.17
• Hamburg, 2.14
• Womelsdorf, 2.14
• Dryville, 2.10
• Lincoln Park, 2.10
• Wyomissing, 2.06
• Vinemont, 2.03
• Hopewell, 2.01
• Oley Furnace, 2.00
• West Reading, 1.98
• Muhlenberg Park, 1.84
• Amityville, 1.75
• Reading E, 1.75
Source: Berkshire mont