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Weather History: December 25: Record temps, storms, wind, snow & tropics

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Meteorological events that happened on December 25th:


A heavy snowstorm began to lash the East Coast from North Carolina to New York. The storm dumped about 2 feet of snow from Central Virginia to Central Maryland in a 24-hour period. This storm is well known because it was the storm General George Washington had to cross the Delaware River en route to Trenton, NJ to attack the Hessian forces. In northeast New Jersey much less snow fell due to a change over to sleet and freezing rain. At the time of the crossing of the Delaware River the snow was in the process of changing over to sleet.


The United Kingdom's heaviest Christmas snowstorm on record left drifts more than 23 feet high in some places and many were killed.


A period of very cold weather started on the 23rd and ended on the 30th in southern California. San Diego pools had ice a half inch thick on the surface and ice one inch thick formed on oranges on trees in Mission Valley.


A major severe snowstorm affected areas from the Mid-Atlantic to New England. Snow totals averaged 20 inches across eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware with 21 inches at Philadelphia, PA. 8.5 inches fell, the most ever to fall on Christmas Day. Winds gusted as high as 72 mph. Widespread damage to power poles with downed lines was reported into New England. 20 people died in New York City, NY and Massachusetts. .


The biggest snowstorm in December for Oklahoma City, OK came to an end as 9 inches of snow was recorded.


A succession of heavy storms from the 17th to the 27th produced a total of 29.38 inches at Mt. Wilson, CA (only 1.48 inches had fallen there since 5/23). From the 24th to the 26th, 6.76 inches fell at Los Angeles, CA. Widespread flooding resulted. Flooded areas along the Santa Ana and San Gabriel Rivers were easily seen from atop Mt. Wilson from the coast to 20 to 30 miles inland.


On this date through the 26th, the worst Christmas blizzard in a century buried the United Kingdom. While most of the country experienced snow, the south suffered from the brunt of the storm with drifts up to 15 feet. Many roads were blocked with stranded vehicles.


Residents from North Carolina to New England enjoyed a white Christmas in the wake of a major snowstorm. Even coastal Virginia was white. Beginning the previous day ending on this date, Philadelphia, PA reported 12.7 inches of snow.


A major snowstorm struck the Mid-Atlantic into the northeast. Montpelier, VT recorded 39 inches of snow. 29.8 inches of snow fell in Burlington, VT, which was a single storm record for the state. Across the mid-Atlantic, Roanoke, VA reported 14.6 inches, Dulles Airport northwest of Washington, D.C. had 6 inches and National Airport reported 4.3 inches.

In the warm sector, severe storms struck parts of the deep south. Twelve tornadoes struck Louisiana, Georgia and Florida: two in the early morning in Louisiana, with the remainder occurring from midday through the afternoon across Florida (9) and Georgia (1). This was the deadliest Christmas outbreak as one person was killed in Louisiana by an F3 tornado and 17 others were injured across the three states.


Cyclone Tracy slammed into Darwin on Australia’s north coast killing 71 people. Despite the cyclone being very compact just 40 miles across (cyclone or hurricane force winds 10 miles out from the center and gale or tropical storm force winds out just 30 miles away from the center), sustained winds reached 135 mph at the airport in Darwin before the instrument blew away. Gusts were estimated as high as 185 mph. 70% of the buildings in Darwin and 80% of the homes were completely destroyed. Roughly 40% of the cities residents were left homeless. Damaged totaled just over $1 billion 1974 U.S. Dollars. This was the smallest tropical storm on record until Tropical Storm Marco (2008) in the Atlantic which only had tropical storm force winds out 12 miles away from the center. Technically, this is still the smallest tropical cyclone with winds above 74 mph.


The northeastern U.S. reported their coldest Christmas on record courtesy of a strong upper level trough. The temperature at Boston, MA plunged from 34° to -7° as the sharp cold front swept southeastward. Temperatures during the day in parts of New England hovered in the -20° range all day long. It was a cold Christmas with a low temperature of -38° at Old Forge, NY and -1° at New York City.

Locations reporting all-time December record lows included: Binghamton, NY: -18° (broke previous daily record by 10 degrees), Buffalo, NY: -10° and New York (LaGuardia), NY: -1°.

Locations that reported daily record lows for the date from the Plains to the East Coast included: Ste. St. Marie, MI: -25°, Burlington, VT: -25°, Syracuse, NY: -22° (broke previous record by 19 degrees), Portland, ME: -16°, Hartford, CT: -13°, Williamsport, PA: -13°, Rochester, NY: -12°, Toledo, OH: -12°, Milton MA: -11°, Worcester, MA: -11°, Providence, RI: -10°, Detroit, MI: -8°-Tied, Flint, MI: -7°-Tied, Avoca, PA: -7°-Tied, Elkins, WV: -7°-Tied, Columbus, OH: -5°, Dayton, OH: -5°, Bridgeport, CT: -4°, Youngstown, OH: -4°, Atlantic City, NJ: -2°, New York (Central Park), NY: -1°, Allentown, PA: -1°, Newark, NJ: 0° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Erie, PA: 1°, Harrisburg, PA: 1°, Philadelphia, PA: 1°, Wilmington, DE: 2°, New York (Kennedy Airport), NY: 3°, Charleston, WV: 4°, Sterling (Dulles Airport), VA: 5°, Roanoke, VA: 7°, Wallops Island, VA: 10°, Norfolk, VA: 16°-Tied and Dallas (DFW), TX: 17°-Tied.

A ridge of high pressure across the Great Basin produced an offshore flow across the West bringing record high temperatures for the data including: Downtown Los Angeles, CA: 85°, Santa Maria, CA: 85°, Riverside, CA: 83°, Phoenix, AZ: 78°, Idyllwild, CA: 72°, Eureka, CA: 68°, Flagstaff, AZ: 67°, Big Bear Lake, CA: 66°, Bishop, CA: 66°-Tied, Portland, OR: 64°, Astoria, OR: 63°, Salem, OR: 62°, Eugene, OR: 62°-Tied, Olympia, WA: 61°, Pendleton, OR: 61°, Seattle, WA: 60°, Medford, OR: 60°-Tied, Lewiston, ID: 59°-Tied, Casper, WY: 56°, Quillayute, WA: 55° and Spokane, WA: 53°.


High pressure off the Carolina Coast brought a southerly flow of warm air ahead of a cold front from Texas to the Ohio Valley and the East Coast. Many locations reported record high temperatures for the date including: Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX: 80°, Tallahassee, FL: 80°-Tied, Lake Charles, LA: 79°, Macon, GA: 78°, Montgomery, AL: 78°, Athens, GA: 77°-Tied, Charleston, WV: 76°, Huntington, WV: 76°, Columbus, GA: 76°, Knoxville, TN: 76°, Jackson, KY: 76°, Bristol, TN: 74°, Oak Ridge, TN: 74°, Birmingham, AL: 73°, Galveston, TX: 73°-Tied, Lynchburg, VA: 72°, Sterling (Dulles Airport), VA: 71°, Wilmington, DE: 70°, Atlantic City, NJ: 70°, Lexington, KY: 70°, Paducah, KY: 69°, Elkins, WV: 68°, Evansville, IN: 68°, Roanoke, VA: 68°-Tied, Beckley, WV: 66°, Cleveland, OH: 66°, Youngstown, OH: 66°, Alpena, MI: 65° (broke previous record by 17 degrees), Flint, MI: 65°, Grand Rapids, MI: 65°, Lansing, MI: 65°, South Bend, IN: 65°, Buffalo, NY: 64°, Akron, OH: 64°, Detroit, MI: 64°, Fort Wayne, IN: 64° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Chicago, IL: 64°, New York (Central Park), NY: 64°-Tied, Toledo, OH: 63°, Mansfield, OH: 62°, Springfield, IL: 62°, Muskegon, MI: 61° (broke previous record by 12 degrees), Milwaukee, WI: 61°, Houghton Lake, MI: 59° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Rochester, NY: 58°, Rockford, IL: 58°, Madison, WI: 56° and Ste. St. Marie, MI: 47°-Tied.


It was the coldest Christmas Day of modern record for the central and eastern U.S. Many cities reported record low temperatures for the date, including records for the month of December. Snow covered the ground from the Pacific Northwest through much of the Great Plains Region to the Northern Appalachians.

Across the northern Plains, Winds of 20 to 30 mph, with occasionally higher gusts, combined with very light falling snow and loose surface snow to cause near-blizzard conditions and dangerously low wind chills in most of South Dakota, as well as in southwest and west central Minnesota, from the early evening of the 23rd into Christmas morning. Visibilities were frequently near zero and 4 to 5 foot drifts closed the vast majority of roads, making travel impossible. Hundreds of motorists became stranded during the evenings of the 23rd and 24th. In Minnesota, many holiday travelers heading west from Minneapolis and St. Paul drove to central Minnesota before conditions became too severe to continue. Winds and severe cold in the western part of Minnesota caused several power outages as well as the loss of livestock.
Across South Dakota, at least 70 vehicles were stalled at one point over a 14-mile stretch of Interstate 90 between Kennebec and Reliance. The Pierre Airport was closed twice on the 23rd as visibility was reduced to zero. Most flights were canceled at Sioux Falls Airport, stranding numerous holiday travelers. Sub-zero temperatures, combined with gusts of over 60 mph, produced wind chill indices from -60° to -100°. Several cases of frostbite were reported, propane gas solidified, fuel jelled, and water pipes and tanks froze as a result of the extreme cold. Electrical outages of 12 hours were experienced from power lines snapping as a result of the cold and winds.

When Sioux Falls, SD fell below zero on the morning of the 16th it would be a while before we climbed above that mark again. Sioux Falls did see temperatures above zero until the afternoon on this date. During that 9 day stretch Sioux Falls had eight consecutive days (17th through the 24th) with low temperatures colder than -20°. In one three day stretch from the 22nd through the 24th, the high temperatures were never warmer than -10°.

Across the state of Florida, the unusual cold weather caused broken irrigation and water pipes. Low temperatures were in the teens in north Florida and in the 20s central and south central Florida. Inadequate heating units and residents’ carelessness with heating units caused many fires. Citrus and vegetable crops and plants were damaged and/or destroyed. Ornamental plants were damaged. Several roads in north Florida were damaged. Six people died of exposure, three in Miami, two in Jacksonville and one in Tampa. Crop damage totaled over half a billion dollars.

Record lows were set from parts of the Rockies to the East Coast. The following locations set record lows for the month of December: Youngstown, OH: -12°-Tied, Pittsburgh, PA: -12°-Tied, Asheville NC: -7°, Oak Ridge, TN: 7° (broke previous daily record by 14 degrees), Wilmington, DE: -7°-Tied, Knoxville, TN: -6° (broke previous daily record by 12 degrees), Lynchburg, VA: -4°-Tied, Chattanooga, TN: -2°-Tied (broke previous daily record by 17 degrees), Mobile, AL: 5°-Tied, Jacksonville, FL: 11°, Pensacola, FL: 11°-Tied and Galveston, TX: 14° (broke previous daily record by 14 degrees).

Locations setting daily record lows included: Sheridan, WY: -32°, Great Falls, MT: -29° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), Helena, MT: -26°, Timber Lake, SD: -22°, Valentine, NE: -22°, Billings, MT: -21°, Kalispell, MT: -21°, Rapid City, SD: -21°, Columbia, MO: -19 (broke previous record by 15 degrees), Kennebec, SD: -18, Waterloo, IA: -18°, Chicago, IL: -17°, Omaha, NE: -17°, Elkins, WV: -17° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), Pierre, SD: -16°, Kansas City, MO: -16° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Lincoln, NE: -16°, Norfolk, NE: -16°-Tied, Grand Island, NE: -16°-Tied, Colorado Springs, CO: -15° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Dubuque, IA: -15°, Rockford, IL: -15°, Indianapolis, IN: -15° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), Madison, WI: -15°, Beckley, WV: -15° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), Peoria, IL: -14°, Springfield, IL: -14°, Akron, OH: -14°, Sioux City, IA: -13°, Marquette, MI: -13°, St. Louis, MO: -13° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Dayton, OH: -13°, Toledo, OH: -13°, Jackson, KY: -12°, Cincinnati, OH: -12°, Columbus, OH: -12°, Mansfield, OH: -12°, Milwaukee, WI: -12°, Fort Wayne, IN: -11°, Topeka, KS: -11°, Denver, CO: -10°, Pueblo, CO: -10°, Detroit, MI: -10°, Springfield, MO: -10°, Cleveland, OH: -10°, Charleston, WV: -10° (broke previous record by 14 degrees), Lexington, KY: -9°, Huntington, WV: -9°, Concordia, KS: -8°, Evansville, IN: -7°, Louisville, KY: -7°, Wichita, KS: -6°, Bristol, TN: -6°, Paducah, KY: -5°, Nashville, TN: -5° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Roanoke, VA: -4° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Grand Rapids, MI: -3°, Erie, PA: -3°, Harrisburg, PA: -3°, Tulsa, OK: -2°, Allentown, PA: -2°, Sterling (Dulles Airport), VA: -2°, Atlantic City, NJ: -2°-Tied, Huntsville, AL: -1°, Fort Smith, AR: -1°, Oklahoma City, OK: -1°, Little Rock, AR: 0°, Atlanta, GA: 0° (broke previous record by 16 degrees), Baltimore, MD: 0°, Tupelo, MS: 0°, Memphis, TN: 0°, Greensboro, NC: 1°, Philadelphia, PA: 1°-Tied, Birmingham, AL: 2°, New York (Kennedy Airport), NY: 2°, Amarillo, TX: 2°, Washington, D.C.: 3°, Athens, GA: 3° (broke previous record by 15 degrees), Richmond, VA: 3°-Tied, Muskegon, MI: 4°, Charlotte, NC: 4° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Raleigh, NC: 4°, Dallas, TX: 5° (broke previous record by 12 degrees), San Angelo, TX: 5°, Wichita Falls, TX: 5°, Augusta, GA: 6° (broke previous record by 12 degrees), Shreveport, LA: 6°, Greenville-Spartanburg, SC: 6°, Abilene, TX: 6°, Dallas (DFW), TX: 9° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Macon, GA: 7° (broke previous record by 13 degrees), Jackson, MS: 7°, Columbia, SC: 7° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), Midland-Odessa, TX: 7°, Waco, TX: 7° (broke previous record by 13 degrees), Norfolk, VA: 7°, Meridian, MS: 8°, Mobile, AL: 8°, Columbus, GA: 8° (broke previous record by 12 degrees), Wilmington, NC: 9°, Wallops Island, VA: 9°, Savannah, GA: 10° (broke previous record by 12 degrees), Austin, TX: 10° (broke previous record by 14 degrees), Baton Rouge, LA: 11°, Charleston, SC: 11°, Austin (Bergstrom), TX: 11°, Houston, TX: 11°, San Antonio, TX: 11°, Cape Hatteras, NC: 12°, Lake Charles, LA: 13°, Del Rio, TX: 13°, Tallahassee, FL: 14°, New Orleans, LA: 14° (broke previous record by 12 degrees), Corpus Christi, TX: 14°, Victoria, TX: 14°, Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX: 15° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), Daytona Beach, FL: 20°, Tampa, FL: 20° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), Brownsville, TX: 20°, Orlando, FL: 21°, Vero Beach, FL: 29° and Key West, FL: 47°-Tied.


On this date through the 27th, freezing rain was reported from northwest Texas to southwestern Missouri, with an inch of ice reported at Harrison, AR. Little Rock recorded its wettest Christmas on record as 10.2 inches of rain fell in just 24 hours.

The storm coated a swath of Oklahoma from near Duncan through Norman to Tulsa with up to 2 inches of ice. Many areas were without power for more than a week.

Residents of Tucson, AZ awoke to a white Christmas for the first time in 47 years, as a winter storm blanketed the area with up to 4 inches of snow.

In California, a cold snap descended on the region. It was 9° at Mt. Laguna and 22° in Valley Center on this day. Extensive damage to avocado and citrus crops resulted.

A few locations reported record lows including: Scottsbluff, NE: -14°, Fresno, CA: 20° and Santa Maria, CA: 23°.

Unseasonably mild weather prevailed in the southern U.S. Several cities reported record high temperatures for the date. For the second day in a row McAllen, TX was the hot spot in the nation with an afternoon high of 91°.

Locations reporting record highs for the date included: Daytona Beach, FL: 82°, Montgomery, AL: 81°, Meridian, MS: 80°, Augusta, GA: 79°, New Orleans, LA: 79°-Tied, Tupelo, MS: 78°, Mobile, AL: 77°-Tied, Birmingham, AL: 74°, Huntsville, AL: 73° and Atlanta, GA: 72°-Tied.


A massive winter storm made for a white Christmas in the western U.S. Las Vegas, NV reported snow on the ground for the first time on record. Periods of snow over a 5-day period left several feet of new snow on the ground of ski areas in Colorado, with 68 inches reported at Wolf Creek Pass.

A week of subfreezing temperatures hit Southern California starting the 24th ending on the 30th. Five people died as a result of the cold.

Ahead of a cold front it was a warm Christmas across most of Florida. Ft. Myers and Daytona Beach tied their record highs for the date with 86° and 82° respectively.


An unusual white Christmas occurred across parts of Florida. 1 to 3 inches of snow fell in the Florida Panhandle, with Tallahassee, FL picking up a trace of snow, the first time that had ever occurred on Christmas Day. Northeast Florida experienced their first White Christmas ever. Many fatal traffic accidents occurred on icy roads as snow removal equipment is non-existent. Airports and interstates were closed having to wait for Mother Nature to provide the melting. Snow and sleet fell as far south as Sarasota and Melbourne, FL.

It was also a record cold Christmas Day for parts of the southeastern U.S. Morning lows of -5° at Jacksonville, NC and 0° at Wilmington, NC established all-time records for those locations. Dulles Airport at Sterling, VA set a December record low with -4° while Miami and Miami Beach, FL equaled December records with lows of 30° and 33°.

Locations reporting daily record lows included: Islip, NY: 12°, Gainesville, FL: 19°-Tied, Vero Beach, FL: 26°, Fort Myers, FL: 28°, West Palm Beach, FL: 28°, Redding, CA: 29° and Key West, FL: 46°.

Out west, Borrego Springs, CA set a record high with 81°.

A 2-inch snow cover made 1989 the first year ever in Washington D.C. with snow for both Christmas & Thanksgiving.

Erie, PA set their December snowfall record as the monthly total mounted to 60.3 inches.


Record cold occurred in the upper Midwest and Rockies courtesy of An upper level trough across the northern states brought record low temperatures for the date including: International Falls, MN: -37°, Glasgow, MT: -36°, Williston, ND: -32°, Aberdeen, SD: -25° and St. Cloud, MN: -25°-Tied.

Missoula, MT received 14.6 inches of snow, the second highest one-day snowfall in the area in 60 years. The snowfall was memorable as it broke the record for the most snow ever in any December with a week to go.

A Christmas Day tropical storm left over 100 people dead in Eastern Malaysia, with 3,000 people left homeless. The storm was one of the worst in history in the state of Sabah on the South China Sea. About 500 homes in 9 villages were swept away. 40 people were killed in Papua, New Guinea when a small mountainside village was swept away by a mudslide without warning.


The temperature in Edmonton, Alberta Canada rose to 44° by noon local time, leaving area residents with their first brown Christmas in 100 years.

Across the U.S., Eureka, CA tied their record low with 30° while Vero Beach, FL tied their record high for the date with 85°.


Buffalo, NY was buried under 25.2 inches of snow in 24 the city's third greatest 24 hour snowfall on record. This record was exceeded only two days later.


More than two feet of snow fell in parts of New York, as a powerful storm moved out of the Plains then reformed off the New Jersey coast as a Nor'easter. The Mohawk Valley of New York was blanketed with over three feet of snow, which came down at an incredible rate of 5 inches per hour at times, creating "white-out" conditions. More than 100 miles of the New York State Thruway was shut down because plows couldn't keep up with the storm. Parts of three interstates in Pennsylvania were also closed, when up to 20 inches of snow came down. It was the first snowy Christmas Day in Albany, NY since 1985 as they picked up 19.2 inches. Cleveland, OH also broke their 1944 Christmas record of 5.8 inches, as more than 10 inches accumulated. Other snowfall totals included: Cherry Valley, NY: 39 inches, Cedarville, NY: 34 inches, Woodstock, VT: 27 inches, Westbrook, ME: 22 inches, Albany, NY: 21 inches, Tobyhanna, PA: 21 inches and Middlefield, MA with 18 inches.

With maximum sustained winds 180 mph, Tropical Cyclone Zoe slammed the island nation of Tuvalu in the South Pacific Ocean, striking the Temotu Province, with widespread damage reported on the islands of Tikopia, Anuta and Fataka. The storm then moved on to the southeastern Solomon Islands from the 28th -30th.


Flash floods generated a mudslide that swept down Waterman Canyon in San Bernardino, CA. The flood sent boulders, trees and 12-foot waves of mud crashing into a Greek Orthodox Church, killing 30 people. 15 people died in mudslides and debris flows in areas burned by wildfires during the previous October: 13 in a church camp in Waterman Canyon north of San Bernardino and two in a campground in Devore.

Rainfall totals included: 8.58 inches at Lytle Creek, 5.79 inches at Devore, 5.59 inches at Santiago Peak, 5.40 inches at Forest Falls, and 3.94 inches at Volcano Mountain. Up to 2.5 inches fell at lower elevations.

Las Vegas, NV reported a thunderstorm; one of only four times this has happened since 1950.

No white Christmas in Nova Scotia as temperatures across the province rose well in to the 50s. Greenwood lead the daily record highs with 59°.


A historic snowfall occurred over South Texas starting on Christmas Eve and ending during the morning on Christmas Day. Some snowfall amounts included 13 inches at Brazoria, 12.5 inches at Victoria, 12 inches at Goliad, 10 inches at Beeville, 8 inches at Port Lavaca, 4 inches at Galveston, 3.5 inches at McAllen and 2.5 inches on South Padre Island. Corpus Christi recorded 4.4 inches of snow for it greatest single storm snowfall ever. Brownsville had 1.5 inches to set a record for its greatest December snowfall and first measurable snowfall since 1895. Temperatures rebounded to the 70s and low 80s in time for New Years.

Residents in New Orleans, LA were astonished to see snow falling steadily, the first Christmas snow in half a century and the first snowfall in 15 years. The city’s transit system halted all buses, trains and streetcars due to the sleet and icy streets.

A few locations from the Ohio Valley to the Great Lakes reported record low temperatures for the date including: Marquette, MI: -24° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Fort Wayne, IN: -15°, Mansfield, OH: -15°, Paducah, KY: -8° and Evansville, IN: -7°.


The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station recorded their all-time record high temperature of 9.9°. The previous all-time record high was plus 7.5° on 12/12/1978.


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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