Dear Tom,
I’ve heard that it was extremely dry before the Chicago Fire. Just how dry was it?

Thanks, Miles S. St. Charles

Dear Miles,
It was exceptionally dry in the days and months leading up to the Great Chicago Fire of Oct. 8-10, 1871, but there was a little bit of rain. The last significant rain event before the fire was 1.57 inches on July 3. The period from July 4-Oct. 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 Sept. 28, which was followed by a 26-day period without measurable rain, finally broken by .01 inches on Oct. 25 and 0.46 inches on Oct. 26. Just to show how wet this same period has been, the July 4-October 8 period in 1961 received more than six times as much rain measuring 23.23 inches, much of it (14.17”) occurring in the month of September when heavy rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Carla inundated the Chicago area.