Is it true that prior to the 1871 Chicago Fire, it was very dry and had not rained for two months?

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Dear Tom,

Last week PBS aired a show on the 1871 Chicago Fire. Prior to the fire, it was very dry and it was stated that it had not rained for two months. Is this true?

James Burke,

Dear James,

It was extremely dry in the days and months leading up to the Great Chicago Fire of October 8-10, 1871, but there was some rain. The last significant rain event before the fire was 1.57 inches on July 3. The period from July 4-October 8, 1871, to this day, remains the city’s driest on record, totaling just 3.70 inches. August rainfall totaled just 2.01 inches of rain, and September could only muster a meager 0.74 inches. The last rain before the fire measured 0.11 inches on September 28, which was followed by a 26-day period without measurable rain, finally broken by .01 inches on October 25 and 0.46 inches on October 26.

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