What is the greatest amount of snow Chicago has had in a five-day period?
— Clifford Cholee, Chicago Heights
It’s an interesting question. Chicago has never experienced a single snowstorm of five days’ duration, but there have been many instances of five consecutive days with snow. The city’s snowfall records began on Oct. 1, 1884. In those 134 years of snowfall observations, the greatest amount of snow to fall over a five-day period (with each day recording measurable snow) is 23.4 inches from Jan. 13-17, 1979. Snow totals were 16.5 inches on the 13th, then 2.3 inches, 2.0 inches, 0.3 inch and 2.3 inches on the following four days, respectively. That five-day period with measurable snow was actually part of a seven-day period: on the 11th, 0.3 inch fell and an additional 1.9 inches on the 12th. The seven-day total was 25.6 inches!
Chicago’s largest single snowstorm occurred on Jan. 26-27, 1967, when 23.0 inches blanketed the city. That storm was accompanied by 40-50 mph winds that resulted in 6-7 foot snow drifts. The city’s second largest snow accumulated 20.6 inches on Jan. 1-2, 1999, and a third day of snow (on Jan. 3) brought the three-day total to 21.6 inches.