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Weather History: December 16: Record temps, storms, snow, wind & tropics

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Meteorological events that happened on December 16th:


The area around New Madrid, MO was rocked by a powerful earthquake estimated at a magnitude 8.0 or greater on the Richter Scale. It was the first in a series of tremors during the winter of 1811-1812 that would become known as the worst series of earthquakes in U.S. history. For a time the Mississippi River actually ran backwards. Church bells as far away as Charleston, S.C. and Washington, D.C. were rung by the tremors, which were felt over a land area of almost one million square miles.


New England experienced one of their coldest days on record. At noon the temperature at Boston, MA was -4°, -15° at Norfolk, CT and -17° at Hanover, NH. The temperature at Boston was -12° by sunset. Gale force winds accompanied the severe cold, and that night a great New York City fire destroyed much of the financial district.


A big snowstorm began over Pittsburgh, PA on this day and continued into the 17th. 23.9 inches of snow fell in 24 hours, their greatest 24 hour snowfall on record for the city.


An ice jam closed the Ohio River between Warsaw, KY and Rising Sun, IN. The 30 foot high ice jam held for 58 days, and backed up the river a distance of 100 miles.


A violent Pacific storm blew gale-force winds across the British Columbia coast in Canada. Accompanied by rain and snow, the storm knocked out electrical and telephone service to much of the region. In Vancouver, the storm tore down the trolley lines, temporarily disrupting service.


The U.S. Weather Bureau suspended nationwide weather reports as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor.


Lake effect snow squalls buried Buffalo, NY under 24.3 inches of snow in 24 hours.


Central Connecticut was crippled by a major ice storm, which knocked out power for days and downed more trees than the New England Hurricane of 1938. Boston, MA had their latest seasonal recorded trace of snow.


A southwesterly flow ahead of a cold front brought record high temperatures for the date from the Great Lakes south to the Tennessee Valley including: Nashville, TN: 74°, Lexington, KY: 70°, Paducah, KY: 70°, Louisville, KY: 70°-Tied, Evansville, IN: 69°, Cincinnati, OH: 67°, Beckley, WV: 67°, Huntington, WV: 67°, Oak Ridge, TN: 67°, Jackson, KY: 66°, South Bend, IN: 65°, Detroit, MI: 65° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), Elkins, WV: 65°, Indianapolis, IN: 65°-Tied, Cleveland, OH: 64°, Columbus, OH: 64°-Tied, Fort Wayne, IN: 63°, Peoria, IL: 62°, Flint, MI: 62°, Akron, OH 62°, Mansfield, OH: 62°, Toledo, OH: 62°, Grand Rapids, MI: 61°, Lansing, MI: 61°, Youngstown, OH: 61°, Chicago, IL: 60°, Rockford, IL: 58°, Milwaukee, WI: 58°, Muskegon, MI: 58°, Alpena, MI: 57°, Houghton Lake, MI: 55°, Green Bay, WI: 54°, Kodiak, AK: 50-Tied, Ste. St. Marie, MI: 49°, Marquette, MI: 47 and Barrow, AK: 24.


A Pacific storm battered the coast of California with rain and high winds, and dumped heavy snow on the mountains of California. Winds along the coast gusted to 70 mph at Point Arguello, and winds in the Tehachapi Mountains of southern California gusted to 100 mph at Wheeler Ridge. Snowfall totals ranged up to 24 inches at Mammoth Mountain. Snow fell for 2 minutes at Malibu Beach, and Disneyland was closed due to the weather for only the 2nd time in 24 years. Other theme parks were closed. I-5 and I-15 were closed on stretches through the mountains stranding motorists in the Southland. Numerous accidents killed a few people. Heavy rain hit San Diego County on this day through the 17th. 2.01 inches fell at Oceanside, 2 inches at El Cajon and La Mesa, 1.97 inches at National City, 1.85 inches at Poway, and 1.73 inches at Montgomery Field. Across the higher elevations, 24 inches of snow fell in Julian from the 16th through this day and 9 inches of snow fell at Mt. Laguna. All schools were cancelled in the mountains of San Diego County. It was described as the worst storm to hit Kern County since December 1977. Up to 3 feet of snow fell at Tehachapi and 28 inches fell at Frazier Park. Even the deserts were not spared from the snow as up to 1.5 feet fell at Mojave and 11 inches was measured at Randsburg. 60 people were stranded in vehicles in the Tehachapis. Wheeler Ridge had a gust of 100 mph from the southeast. Waves 5 to 6 feet were reported on Lake Isabella. One person was killed by a fallen tree knocked down by gusty winds. Crops were damaged due to wind stripping. Over 45,000 customers lost power in Bakersfield.

A winter storm which began in the Southern Rockies four days earlier finished its course producing snow and high winds in New England. Snowfall totals ranged up to 19 inches at Blanchard, ME.


Fairbanks, AK reported freezing rain and record warm temperatures. The afternoon high of 41° was 43 degrees above normal. Other locations in Alaska reporting record high temperatures for the date included: Gulkana, AK: 37°-Tied, Kotzebue, AK: 34°-Tied and Bettles, AK: 32°.

Snow and high winds continued to plague the mountains of southern California. Mount Wilson, CA reported 2 inches of rain in 6 hours during the early morning and a storm total of more than 3.50 inches of rain.


Squalls in the Great Lakes Region produced 30 inches of snow at New Carlisle, IN and 18 inches at Syracuse, NY. Low pressure brought heavy snow to northern New England, with 18 inches reported at Derby and Saint Johnsbury, VT. Thunderstorms with heavy snow were reported at Portland, ME.

Many locations from the Southern and Central Plains to the Appalachians reported record low temperatures for the date, including: Lincoln, NE: -16°, Topeka, KS: -15°, Sioux City, IA: -15°, Kansas City, MO: -14°, Grand Island, NE: -12°: Tied, Omaha, NE: -11°, Columbia, MO: -11°, Concordia, KS: -10°, Springfield, MO: -9° (broke previous record by 12 degrees), St. Louis, MO: -8°, Cincinnati, OH: -7°, Wichita, KS: -6°, Evansville, IN: -6°, Lexington, KY: -6°, Jackson, KY: -4° (broke previous record by 23 degrees), Louisville, KY: -4°, Paducah, KY: -4° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), Dodge City, KS: -1°, Nashville, TN: 2°, Tulsa, OK: 3°, Bristol, TN: 3°, Oak Ridge, TN: 3°, Fort Smith, AR: 5°, Huntsville, AL: 6°, Oklahoma City, OK: 7°, Little Rock, AR: 7°, Chattanooga, TN: 8°, Abilene, TX: 9°, Waco, TX: 11°, Wichita Falls, TX: 11°, Dallas (DFW), TX: 12°, Midland-Odessa, TX: 12°, Dallas, TX: 13°, Shreveport, LA: 15°, Meridian, MS: 15°, Austin, TX: 16°, San Antonio, TX: 17°, Austin (Bergstrom), TX: 18°, Houston, TX: 19°, Victoria, TX: 20°, Corpus Christi, TX: 24°, Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX: 24°-Tied, Galveston, TX: 29° and Brownsville, TX: 30°.

A record tying low of -2° was recorded at Grand Rapids, MI while another 5 inches of snow piles up at Muskegon, MI contributed to a monthly total of 77 inches there.


Super-Typhoon Paka deluged Guam with nearly 21 inches of rain at Tiyan before instruments failed two hours before Paka's eye passed to the south. Unofficial sources at Andersen Air Force Base believe that wind gusts may have reached 237 mph during the height of the storm.


Detroit, MI finally picked up a trace of snow, smashing the previous record for latest measurable snowfall, which formerly was November 30th.


The television audience of ABC affiliate 3340 from Birmingham, AL watched in amazement as a camera mounted on the station's broadcast tower clearly showed an F4 tornado passing between the JVC plant and the Hampton Inn at the Cottondale Exit off I-59 near Tuscaloosa, AL. The station's storm chase team took cover in the Hampton Inn as the twister struck, spinning the van several times and blowing out the windows. The unit measured a wind speed of 170 mph on its van-mounted wind equipment. At least 400 homes and businesses were heavily damaged or destroyed by the tornado.


3.68 inches of rain fell in 24 hours at Little Rock, AR, the wettest 24 hour period there since 8/18/1997.


A winter storm brought severe weather, gusty winds, heavy rains and higher elevation snow as it impacted central California. Two separate tornadoes touched down near Merced. One had a path of one and a quarter miles and was rated a F1. In the southern San Joaquin Valley, strong gusty winds of up to 105 mph blew three trucks off the Grapevine near Lebec. Power was lost in nearly all of Taft. In the higher elevations, heavy snow occurred as Aspendell, CA picked up 13 inches.


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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