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Historic Halloween weather could be frightful

A couple of costumed kids out to collect treats in this photo, from 2011, would have encountered afternoon highs of 12 C, although temperatures dropped quickly in the evening, and it was raining by 10 p.m. That still counts as an above-average Halloween, by historic standards.

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A couple of costumed kids out to collect treats in this photo, from 2011, would have encountered afternoon highs of 12 C, although temperatures dropped quickly in the evening, and it was raining by 10 p.m. That still counts as an above-average Halloween, by historic standards.

Kids today have it pretty soft.

Trick-or-treaters tonight should have an above-average Halloween to do their door-knocking — just like last year and the year before.

Brandon’s Halloween weather records

Coldest Halloween:

• 1991 — Cloudy skies with a daytime high of -10.1 C and plenty of snow on the ground would put a real shiver in your bones.

Warmest Halloween:

• 1983 — Clear and sunny skies with just a bit of a breeze made this Halloween a real treat. The high of 21 C didn’t hurt, either. It was still in the mid-teens during prime trick-or-treating hours after supper.

Slushiest Halloween:

• 1959 — There was more than a metre of snow that month, coupled with a Halloween high of 8 C that would have called for a lot of rubber boots added at the last minute to costumes.

Windiest Halloween:

• 1999 — Wind records only go back a couple of decades, but ’99 would have been a tough year for some costumes, with evening gusts up to 78 km/h recorded. It did get up over 19 C that day, though.

Snowiest Halloween:

• 1943 — It snowed 7.6 cm that year, with temperatures hovering a couple of degrees below freezing.

Rainiest Halloween:

• 1940 — With a daytime high of 10 C, this should’ve been a nice year for trick-or-treating. Too bad about the record-setting 7.6 mm of rain. Honourable mention to the year 2000, which set the modern record of 4.4 mm of rain on Halloween, plus added fog.

» Brandon Sun

They should ask their parents how tough things used to be.

A Brandon Sun analysis of nearly 125 years of local weather data shows that trick-or-treaters in 1991 had the worst Halloween ever seen.

Oct. 31, 1991, dawned crisp and cold. The morning low was a record -24.4 C and the weather was recorded as "ice crystals." The Brandon Sun described it understatedly as "chilly."

The most popular costume that year, according to Halloween retailer Spirit, was the killer robot Terminator, but anyone dressing up with metal accessories might have regretted their decision.

It was snowy, too. Snow had fallen in eight days of the previous 11, nearly half a metre of it total. All told, 1991 was the third-snowiest October on record.

If there was a bright side, it was that a bit of a warm front pushed through during the day. Temperatures struggled to improve all afternoon, but they were still as cold as -12 C during prime trick-or-treating hours. The high was just -10 C, and the wind chill was between -15 and -20 all day.

It was mostly cloudy, too, and it snowed again that night.

That’s the trick, what about a treat?

Kids about a decade earlier lucked out, with 1983 the best Halloween on record.

It was bright and sunny all day, with a daytime high of 21 C. That would have been nearly perfect for 1983’s most-popular costume: Princess Leia’s gold bikini from "Return of the Jedi."

There was a bit of a breeze earlier in the afternoon, but by the time trick-or-treating started, it had begun to die down, and temperatures lingered in the teens for about an hour after sunset.

With weather records going back to 1890, only 1999 comes close for a warm-weather Halloween. It hit 19.3 C in the early afternoon that year, but it was a freezing morning, and the day overall was cloudier, very windy, and it got colder faster than 1983.

Of course, as any child knows, Halloween comes every year. Some are warm, some are cold.

We could assume that the best years for trick-or-treating are the five years from when you are eight (old enough to go out without your parents holding your hand) and when you turn 12 (the last year before suspicious adults start to question how tall you are and get a little stingy at the door).

Some of those five years are going to be better, others are going to be worse.

Crunching the data from the last century-plus shows that, from a strictly trick-or-treating perspective, the best years to be born were 1956 or ’57. There were a string of great Halloweens in the mid- to late 1960s that saw regular daytime highs of 10 C to 17 C with only 1966 being a chilly one.

A close second would be kids born in 1971. Kids born that year were 12 for the best Halloween ever, and never had to trudge through any snow on the ground. The coldest it ever got for them was a daytime high of 4 C.

Other good years to be born would have been anywhere between 1891-94 or in 1938, setting aside the fact that modern-style trick-or-treating wasn’t really around back then.

The worst-off kids were those born in 1924. Not only would their peak Halloween years have fallen during the height of the Depression, it was downright cold those years, too. Between 1933-36, the warmest it ever got on an Oct. 31 was -1.1 C, although at least there wasn’t any snow.

In more modern times, the worst year to be born in would have been 1983. That year may have been the best ever, but kids born in it would have been just eight years old for the coldest Halloween ever, in 1991, which was one of the snowiest, too. The next year wasn’t all that great, either, with their best-possible Halloweens being a couple of middle-of-the-road years in 1993-94.

Overall, Environment Canada says that the average Halloween in Brandon sees a high of between 5 C and 6 C, with a average low of around -6 C. Based on historical records, there’s about a one-in-four chance of precipitation on Halloween.

» ghamilton@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 31, 2013

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