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Weather History: December 12: Record temps, storms, snow, wind & ice

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Meteorological events that happened on December 12th:


Portland, OR was drenched with 7.66 inches of rain, a record 24 hour total for that location.


A rare tornado damaged buildings on the island of Bermuda.


The latest tornado ever experienced in Ontario, Canada touched down in the southwestern community of Exeter.


The first of three big snowstorms during the 1960-61 winter season struck the Mid-Atlantic in to New England bringing 10 to 20 inches of snow with strong gusty winds. Newark, NJ reported 20 inches, 16 inches fells at Nantucket, MA. 14.6 inches at Philadelphia, PA and a foot fell at Baltimore, MD. This was the greatest snow in New Jersey for so early in the season. Winds gusted to 94 mph at Block Island, RI and 85 mph at Nantucket. MA. 108 people lost their lives with 52 in New Jersey and 14 in Pennsylvania.


New Mexico was bombarded by 11 days of heavy snow beginning on this date. Food had to be airlifted in to some areas. The Reservations of the Native Americans were especially hard hit. Flagstaff, AZ was buried under 86 inches of snow.


The worst tornado on record for western Washington State tracked south of Seattle, traveling 5 miles from Des Moines to Kent. The tornado, 50 to 200 yards wide, began as a waterspout over Puget Sound. One person was injured and the tornado caused half a million dollars damage.


The New England Patriots defeated the Miami Dolphins in driving snow at Foxboro, MA. With snow covering the field and New England in position to kick a game winning field goal, New England Head Coach Ron Meyer ordered the path to be cleared for the field goal attempt. The move was against the rules, but no one stopped him. Place kicker John Smith made the kick and the Patriots won the game 3-0.

Ste. St. Marie, MI and Wilmington, DE set record low temperatures for the date with -17° and 10° respectively.


While a developing winter storm began to spread snow across New Mexico into Colorado, high winds ushered unseasonably cold air into the southwestern states. Winds in California gusted to 60 mph in the Sacramento River Delta and in the San Bernardino Valley.


Arctic high pressure brought widespread record lows across the East. Many cities reported record low temperatures for the date. The low of -12° at Albany, NY was their coldest reading on record for so early in the season. Saranac Lake, NY was the cold spot in the nation with a low of -28°. Other daily record lows for the date included: Houghton Lake, MI: -12°, Alpena, MI: -11°, Binghamton, NY: -11° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Elkins, WV: -10°, Syracuse, NY: -10°, Buffalo, NY: -9° (broke previous record by 13 degrees), Rochester, NY: -8°, Avoca, PA: -5°, Worcester, MA: -4°, Hartford, CT: -3°, Milton, MA: -3°, Detroit, MI: -2°, Allentown, PA: 2°, Providence, RI: 2°, Boston, MA: 2°, Bridgeport, CT: 3°, Atlantic City, NJ: 5°, New York (Central Park), NY: 5°, Newark, NJ: 6°, Harrisburg, PA: 6°, Islip, NY: 7°, New York (Kennedy Airport), NY: 7°, Wilmington, DE: 8°, Philadelphia, PA: 8°, New York (LaGuardia), NY: 8°, Sterling (Dulles Airport), VA: 9°, Jackson, KY: 10°, Baltimore, MD: 10°-Tied, Washington, D.C.: 13°-Tied and Wallops Island, VA: 14°.


A winter storm produced snow from northern Mississippi to the Middle Atlantic Coast, with 10.5 inches reported at Powhatan, VA.

Heavy snow whitened the Black Hills of South Dakota, with 36 inches reported at Deer Mountain.

Several cities in the north central U.S., from Minnesota to Texas, reported record low temperatures for the date, including Yankton SD with morning lows of -22°. Other record lows included: Marquette, MI: -10°, Moline, IL: -9°, Kansas City, MO: -5°, El Paso, TX: 8°, Midland-Odessa, TX: 10°, Wichita Falls, TX: 10°, Abilene, TX: 12°, Dallas (DFW), TX: 18°-Tied, Waco, TX: 20°-Tied and Houston, TX: 25°-Tied.


Super Typhoon Gay traveled across thousands of miles in the Pacific Ocean with wind gusts over 200 mph in late November. Its remnants then formed into a massive storm off the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. After reforming again in British Columbia and crossing California, it gave birth to another low in Texas. Then on this date, the storm traveled east and became one of the worst "nor'easters" this century along the U.S. East Coast. A 985 millibar (29.09 inHg) low stalled over the Delmarva Peninsula. This combined with a 1035 millibar (30.56 inHg) high pressure over Quebec set up an enormous easterly pressure gradient which resulted in winds exceeding hurricane force in many locations and record high tides. Ambrose Light Station just southeast of New York City recorded sustained winds of 80 mph with gusts to 93 mph. The wind was sustained at over 60 mph for several hours at Boston, MA. Wildwood Crest, NJ reported gusts to 90 mph, Monmouth County, NJ gusts of 89 mph and New Holland, PA measured a gust to 82 mph. At Philadelphia, PA, the high winds broke a church steeple which fell onto and closed the Ben Franklin Bridge to New Jersey. Some of the worst coastal flooding ever occurred as tides were pushed 3 to 6 feet above normal, resulting in widespread damage and beach erosion. LaGuardia Airport was closed due to flooding. The East River flooded Manhattan's FDR Drive, stranding dozens of motorists. Flooding at a Con Edison station shut down New York City's entire subway system for more than three hours. Tremendous snowfalls occurred at inland locations as the storm was a very slow mover. Worcester, MA received 32.1 inches, which at that time was a record for a single storm at that location. Other snowfall totals: Piney Grove in Garrett County, MD: 42 inches, Stanford, NY: 37 inches, Ogletown, PA: 36 inches, Berne, NY: 34 inches, Otis, MA: 33 inches, Mount Storm, WV received 32 inches, Hopkinton, MA: 28 inches, Union, CT: 27 inches and 24 inches at Jerimoth Hill, RI. An enormous amount of precipitation (rain and melted snow) for a winter storm fell at some places. Woonsocket, RI checked in with 7.14 inches (20 inches of snow) from the 11th through the 13th.


An intense ocean storm at 952 millibars (28.11 inHg) battered the West Coast. In Oregon, wind gusts hit 119 mph at Florence, 112 mph at Cannon Beach and 107 mph at Newport. Northern and central California was hit very hard. Wind gusts reached 103 mph at Angel Island, 85 mph at Redding and 74 mph at San Francisco. Three people were killed by falling trees. The San Francisco Conservatory sustained $10 million dollars in damages due to structural failure, broken windows and destroyed plants. Three Peaks was deluged with 21.22 inches of rain. Other heavy totals included 12.27 inches at the Marin Civic Center, 10.64 inches at Blue Canyon and 5.01 inches at San Francisco. Oakland was soaked with 2.66 inches in just 45 minutes. Nearly 2 million people were without power at one time. Seattle, WA and Astoria, OR recorded their lowest pressures on record with 970.2 (28.65 inHg) and 966.1 millibars (28.53 inHg) respectively. This storm was the worst to strike the region in 16 years. Six people lost their lives.

A 5-day lake effect snowstorm came to an end at Sault Ste Marie, MI over which time 61.7 inches of snow fell, by far the city's biggest snowstorm on record. 27.8 inches fell in 24 hours on the 9th and 10th establishing their all-time 24 hour snowfall record. The snow depth reached 50 inches at one point, tying the record. The storm brought the monthly total to 82.5 inches, the city's greatest monthly snowfall ever.

International Falls, MN set a record low with -39°.


Two major publicly traded ski companies reported larger than expected losses for the quarter as a result of lower bookings because of warm weather and the 9/11 attacks. Eastern resorts were plagued by warm temperatures and no snow. Many Western resorts delayed their openings because temperatures were too warm to make snow. After Thanksgiving, western resorts enjoyed a bountiful snowfall, and operators were concerned that Western resorts would begin to take business away from Eastern resorts.


Check out my colleague Weather Examiners:

Baltimore, MD area weather with Tony Pann at

Orlando, FL area weather with Dr. Steve Oliver at

Houston, TX area weather & the weekly Weather America Newsletter with Larry Cosgrove at

NOAA Headlines Examiner with Dr. Steve Oliver and IPR at



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