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Weather History: December 31: Record temps, storms, snow, wind, fog & tropics

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Meteorological events that happened on December 31st:


The famous "New Year's Blizzard" swept across the Midwest. Temperatures dropped during the daytime from -8° to -24° in parts of Iowa.


Record cold prevailed from the Plains to the East Coast. Washington, D.C. and El Paso, TX set December record lows with -13° and -5° respectively.

Locations reporting daily record lows included: Boston, MA: -4°, Buffalo, NY: -4°, Cleveland, OH: -4°, Erie, PA: -4°, Pittsburgh, PA: -4°, New York (Central Park), NY: -3°, Columbus, OH: -3°, Detroit, MI: -2°, Baltimore, MD: -1°, Knoxville, TN: -1°, Philadelphia, PA: 0°, Charlotte, NC: 0°, Atlanta, GA: 4°, Norfolk, VA: 12°, Montgomery, AL: 14°, Wilmington, NC: 16°, Mobile, AL: 20°, Brownsville, TX: 21°, Pensacola, FL: 22° and Galveston, TX: 25°.


A storm at San Francisco, CA dumped 3 inches of snow on the city; their second biggest snowfall on record.


No sunshine was reported at Westminster, London England during the entire month.


Only 27 hours of sunshine were observed at Fresno, CA during December 1900. This is just 9 percent of the total possible sunshine available for the month, making it not only the least sunniest December ever, but the least sunniest month ever here.


The year ended on a frigid note at Fort Good Hope, Northwest Territories in Canada as the temperature fell to -79°.


The temperature at Lewisburg, WV plunged to -37° to set a state record. Huntington, WV tied their all-time December record low with -14°.

Locations that reported record lows for the date included: Burlington, VT: -19°, Hartford, CT: -15°, Portland, ME: -15°, Syracuse, NY: -14°, Worcester, MA: -13°, Milton, MA: -12° (broke previous record by 11 degrees), Boston, MA: -8°, Williamsport, PA: -8°, New York (Central Park), NY: -7°, Avoca, PA: -7°, Providence, RI: -7°, Charleston, WV: -7°, Rochester, NY: -5°, Wilmington, DE: -4°, Harrisburg, PA: 0°, Roanoke, VA: 3°, Raleigh, NC: 5°, Wilmington, NC: 6° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), Athens, GA: 9°, Norfolk, VA: 9°, Greenville-Spartanburg, SC: 11°, Columbia, SC: 12°, Augusta, GA: 14°, Savannah, GA: 17°, Baton Rouge, LA: 17°, Gainesville, FL: 18°, Jacksonville, FL: 19°, Waco, TX: 19°, Victoria, TX: 25°, Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX: 29°, Fort Myers, FL: 31°-Tied, Miami, FL: 34° and Key West, FL: 47°.


It was 22° at Santa Ana, CA their lowest temperature on record. This also occurred the next two days on 1/1 and 1/2/1919, and on 1/6/1950. It was 24° at Escondido, CA their lowest temperature on record for December, and the second lowest temperature on record (lowest was 22° on 1/22/1937).

Other locations reporting daily record low temperatures for the date included: Glasgow, MT: -36°, Grand Forks, ND: -30°, Williston, ND: -30°, Winnemucca, NV: -9°, Clayton, NM: -3°, Amarillo, TX: -2°, Roswell, NM: 4°, Victorville, CA: 9°, Medford, OR: 12°, Yuima, AZ: 27°, Santa Maria, CA: 27°, Eureka, CA: 28° and San Diego, CA: 35°.


Greenland Ranch, in Death Valley, CA, went the entire year without measurable precipitation.


7.36 inches of rain fell in 24 hours at Los Angeles, CA producing the worst flooding in the city and Orange County's history. 44 people perished.


Snow which began on New Year's Eve became a major blizzard on New Year's Day, burying Des Moines, IA under 19.8 inches of snow in 24 hours, an all-time record for that location.

This day ended the wettest year ever recorded in Las Vegas and the only year in which more than 10 inches of rain fell. A total of 10.72 inches of rain was recorded.


A late afternoon tornado touched down 10 miles north of Shreveport, LA, and dissipated south of El Dorado, AR. The F4 tornado, as much as 400 yards in width, killed 18 people. It damaged or destroyed two thirds of the structures at Cotton Valley, LA.


A ridge of high pressure across the southern states brought record winter heat. Locations that reported record high temperatures for December included: Fort Smith, AR: 82°, Little Rock, AR: 80°-Tied and Paducah, KY: 77°-Tied.

Locations that reported daily record highs for the date included: Abilene, TX: 85°, Dallas (DFW), TX: 85°, Wichita Falls, TX: 85°, San Angelo TX: 84°, Austin, TX: 83°, Dallas, TX: 83°, Waco, TX: 83°, Key West, FL: 83°, Austin (Bergstrom), TX: 82°, Corpus Christi, TX: 82°, Del Rio, TX: 81°, Shreveport, LA: 81°, Montgomery, AL: 81°, Houston, TX: 80°, Jackson, MS: 80°, Tupelo, MS: 80°, Meridian, MS: 79°, Oklahoma City, OK: 79°, Charleston, WV: 79°, Memphis, TN: 79°, Birmingham, AL: 79°, Tulsa, OK: 78°, Huntington, WV: 77°, Mobile, AL: 77°, Springfield, MO: 76°, Nashville, TN: 76°, Huntsville, AL: 76°, Evansville, IN: 75°, Midland-Odessa, TX: 75°-Tied, Bristol, TN: 74°, St. Louis, MO: 74°-Tied, Columbia, MO: 72°, Lexington, KY: 72°, Beckley, WV: 71°, Chattanooga, TN: 71°, Wichita, KS: 70°, Knoxville, TN: 70°-Tied, Elkins, WV: 69°, Columbus, OH: 68°, Oak Ridge, TN: 68°, Indianapolis, IN: 68°-Tied, Dodge City, KS: 67°, Dayton, OH: 67°, Kansas City, MO: 66°, Springfield, IL: 63°, Fort Wayne, IN: 61° and Mansfield, OH: 61°.


Maine's worst blizzard on record was coming to an end. The storm produced 46 inches of snow at Ripogenus Dam. 40 inches fell in just 24 hours at Orono, ME. Winds to gale force drifted the snow to heights of 20 feet around Bangor, ME. Wind chills reached extremely dangerous levels. Meanwhile, Georgia and South Carolina were suffering through a disastrous ice storm. More than $7 million dollars in damage resulted.


University of Alabama Head Football Coach "Bear" Bryant said that the only thing that could have messed up his team's chances in the Sugar Bowl against Ole Miss in New Orleans, LA was a freak snow. Well, much to his chagrin, 4.5 inches of snow fell the night before the big game. Alabama won the game 12-7.

Elsewhere in the south, Meridian, MS received 15 inches of snow and 10.5 inches blanketed Bay St Louis, MS. Freezing temperatures then prevailed for New Year's Day.


The fabled Ice Bowl NFL Playoff game was held in -13° temperatures at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI after a record morning low of -19°. Bart Starr carried the ball into the end zone in the final seconds to pull out a victory for the Packers.

Bismarck, ND and Aberdeen, SD set December record lows with -43° and -39° respectively.

Locations that reported daily record lows included: International Falls, MN: -39°, Watertown, SD: -33°, Fargo, ND: -32°, Grand Forks, ND: -32°, Williston, ND: -31°, Timber Lake, SD: -30°, Valentine, NE: -27°, Kennebec, SD: -27°, Mobridge, SD: -27°, Sisseton, SD: -27°, Wheaton, SD: -27°, North Platte, NE: -25°, Sheridan, WY: -25°, Pierre, SD: -24°, Huron, SD: -23°, Norfolk, NE: -22°, Minneapolis, MN: -22°-Tied, Sioux Falls, SD: -20°, Rapid City, SD: -19°, Dubuque, IA: -18°, Moline, IL: -17°, Grand Island, NE: -17°, Waterloo, IA: -16°-Tied, Peoria, IL: -14°, Houghton Lake, MI: -12°, Grand Rapids, MI: -11°-Tied, Chicago, IL: -10°, Marquette, MI: -10°, Springfield, IL: -9°, Fort Wayne, IN: -9°, Indianapolis, IN: -9°, Detroit, MI: -5°, St. Louis, MO: -5°, Evansville, IN: 0° and Paducah, KY: 4°.


The sea-level corrected atmospheric pressure rose to a new world's record at that time of 1083.8 millibars or 32.01 inHg at 1200z at Agata, Siberia Russia. At the time, Agata Lake (66° 53' N, 93° 28' E) recorded a temperature at -51°. This record was broken in 2004.


A winter system from the 29th through the 31st brought precipitation beginning as rain in South Dakota and snow in Minnesota during the early morning hours of the 29th. A period of freezing rain occurred across South Dakota before the precipitation there changed to all snow, while in west central Minnesota, snow in the morning changed to a period of freezing rain and sleet in the afternoon. Damages from the 40-mile wide ice storm from the Wheaton-Morris-Appleton area east-northeast through St. Cloud and Pine City, MN were some of the largest known to date across the area. Thousands of farms and homes across the ice storm strip were without power and telephone service as the result of thousands of broken lines and/or broken poles. Many were without utilities from one to three days, and a few without utilities for nearly a week. Utility damages were estimated to be $1.5 million dollars. In South Dakota, snowfall of 2 to 6 inches was common. Strong winds of over 40 mph accompanied the snow, causing drifting and blowing snow and occasionally reducing visibility to zero. Some of the roads were blocked. The most severe conditions occurred on the 30th when the highway department advised no traveling.


Bird International Airport on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean recorded their all-time record low temperature of 61° (16.1°C). This would be tied on 1/28/1976.


An unusually large tornado struck a mobile home park 7 miles southwest of Ocala, FL destroying 20 mobile homes and heavily damaging 50 more. One person died three

weeks after the tornado, and of the 26 injuries, eight required extended hospitalization. Witnesses reported ping pong ball size hail before the tornado.


Record cold prevailed from the Plains to the Great Lakes. Muskegon, MI set their December record low with -15°.

Locations that reported daily record lows included: St. Cloud, MN: -34°, Waterloo, IA: -23°, La Crosse, WI: -20°, Houghton Lake, MI: -18°, Dubuque, IA: -18°-Tied, Madison, WI: -16°, Lansing, MI: -15°, Fort Wayne, IN: -14°, Grand Rapids, MI: -14°, Columbia, MO: -12°, Kansas City, MO: -11°, Cleveland, OH: -11°, Topeka, KS: -10°, St. Louis, MO: -10°, Mansfield, OH: -10°, Toledo, OH: -9°, Indianapolis, IN: -9°-Tied, Akron, OH: -7°, Springfield, MO: -6°, Dayton, OH: -6°, Youngstown, OH: -6°, Columbus, OH: -5°, Detroit, MI: -5°-Tied, Evansville, IN: -3°, Cincinnati, OH: -2°, Paducah, KY: -1°, Fort Smith, AR: 6°-Tied, Huntsville, AL: 9°, Memphis, TN: 9°, Wichita Falls, TX: 9°, Little Rock, AR: 10°, Tupelo, MS: 11°, Oak Ridge, TN: 11°, Bristol, TN: 12°, Dallas, TX: 12°, Dallas (DFW), TX: 13°, Birmingham, AL: 14°, New York (Kennedy Airport), NY: 14°, Chattanooga, TN: 14°, Midland-Odessa, TX: 14°, Waco, TX: 14°, Meridian, MS: 20°, Austin, TX: 20° and Victoria, TX: 25°-Tied.


The month went down as the coldest ever recorded in some southern cities, including Little Rock, AR and San Antonio, TX. On Christmas day alone during this month, record low temperatures were set in about 125 cities across the country.

Locations that reported record low temperatures for the date included: Flint, MI: -11°, Elkins, WV: -5°, Jackson, KY: 4°, Bristol, TN: 5°, Oak Ridge, TN: 5°, Lynchburg, VA: 5°, Asheville, NC: 6°, Little Rock, AR: 7°, Birmingham, AL: 9°, Tupelo, MS: 9°, Huntsville, AL: 9°-Tied, Jackson, MS: 10°, Chattanooga, TN: 10°, Greenville-Spartanburg, SC: 11°-Tied, Shreveport, LA: 12°, Meridian, MS: 13°, San Antonio, TX: 13° (broke previous record by 12 degrees), Mobile, AL: 14°, Macon, GA: 14°, Baton Rouge, LA: 14°, Augusta, GA: 14°-Tied, Wallops Island, VA: 15°, Pensacola, FL: 17°, Columbus, GA: 18°, Austin (Bergstrom), TX: 18°, Houston, TX: 18°, Lake Charles, LA: 19°, Austin, TX: 19°, Victoria, TX: 20°, Tallahassee, FL: 20°-Tied, Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX: 21°, Charleston, SC: 21°-Tied, Del Rio, TX: 22°, New Orleans, LA: 23°, Corpus Christi, TX: 28°-Tied and Orlando, FL: 36°-Tied


Torrential rains caused extensive flash flooding over eastern sections of the island of Oahu in Hawaii, resulting in many rock and mudslides. Rainfall totals ranged up to 22.89 inches in a 24 hour period, and property damage was estimated at $35 million dollars. 2,800 people were evacuated and fortunately there were no deaths or injuries.

Strong winds continued to usher arctic cold into the north central U.S. The temperature at Alexandria, MN remained below zero through the day, and Jamestown, ND reported a wind chill reading of -58°. Gales lashed the Great Lakes, with wind gusts to 54 mph reported at Lansing, MI.


Warm and wet weather prevailed in the southeastern U.S. A few cities across Alabama and Florida reported record high temperatures for the date including: Fort Myers, FL: 86°, Gainesville, FL: 82°, Daytona Beach, FL: 82°-Tied, Jacksonville, FL: 82°-Tied and Mobile, AL: 78°.

Meanwhile, thunderstorms produced locally heavy rains from the Lower Mississippi Valley to the Southern Atlantic Coast.


The year and decade ended on a soggy note in the eastern U.S. Rains from thunderstorms pushed precipitation totals for the year to 88.32 inches at Baton Rouge, LA and to 75.37 inches at Huntsville, AL, establishing all-time records for those two locations.

Dry weather continued in California. Sacramento and San Francisco finished the month without any rain or snow, and Santa Maria reported their driest year on record with just 3.30 inches.

Northway, AK reported the highest pressure ever recorded in the Unites States of 31.85 inches or 1079 millibars.

This December will go down as one of the coldest if not the coldest month since records were kept for much of the eastern U.S. The average temperature at Rochester, NY for the month was 17.1°. Bridgeport, CT averaged 23.3°, Boston, MA averaged 21.7° for the month, Brownsville, TX averaged 51.8°, and Lexington, KY averaged 23.0°. These were only a few locations where records were broken.

While Caribou, ME set a record low with -21°, Vero Beach and Gainesville, FL set record highs for the date with 83° and 82° respectively.


1,133 tornadoes touched down in the U.S. during the past year to set a new all-time yearly record for number of tornadoes at that time.

Several locations from the southern Plains to the West Coast reported record low temperatures for the date including: Salt Lake City, UT: -7°, Bishop, CA: 5°, Wichita Falls, TX: 7°, Dallas (DFW), TX: 13°-Tied, Redding, CA: 18°, Las Vegas, NV: 18°, Sacramento, CA: 24° and Borrego Springs, CA: 29°.

Meanwhile a few locations in Florida reported record highs for the date including: Daytona Beach: 88°, Fort Myers: 87°, Orlando: 84° and Tampa, FL: 83°-Tied.


This year was by far the wettest year on record for Shreveport, LA. 81.99 inches of rain was recorded at the National Weather Service Office at the Regional Airport. The old record was 67.23 inches set in 1957.

Valdez, AK recorded 137.1 inches of snow for the month. This set a new all-time record for snowfall in December. The old record was 123.3 inches set back in 1989. Also, the 137.1 inches was 72.9 inches above normal.


Wenatchee, WA received 6 inches of snow to bring the snow depth to 26 inches, to set a record for the location. The previous record was 24 inches on 2/11/1969.

At that time, 1992 set a new record for the number of tornadoes for any year with 1,297.


A late afternoon tornado touched down 10 miles north of Shreveport, LA, and dissipated south of El Dorado, AR. The tornado, as much as 400 yards in width, killed 18 persons. It damaged or destroyed two thirds of the structures at Cotton Valley, LA.


Storms that battered the Pacific Northwest between Christmas and New Years boosted Eureka, CA, to its wettest December on record, with 21.26 inches of rainfall. Portland, OR, wound up its second wettest year on record with 63.56 inches. The record was 67.24 inches in 1871. Many other reporting stations in the Pacific Northwest also recorded their wettest years on record.

Fog caused a 70 car pileup on I-10 between New Orleans and Slidell, LA. One person was killed and 30 others were injured.


The Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, MA recorded 71.00 inches of rain for the year. This set a new record for yearly rainfall, breaking the previous record set only two years prior in 1996.


This year marked the first year since record keeping began in 1872 that Cheyenne, WY did not record a temperature reading at or below 0°. The lowest temperature recorded was 1° on 11/24.

Boston, MA officially recorded no snow for the month of December, the first time this has ever occurred. Both Concord, NH and Portland, ME recorded only a trace of snow for the month, unprecedented since records began.


New Orleans, LA finished its driest year since 1899 with only 38.88 inches of rain

Marquette, MI recorded 89.5 inches of snow for the month. This established an all-time December record for the city.

Moline, IL had its coldest and snowiest December ever. The average temperature was a bitter 13.1° and the total snowfall was 32 inches. The 32 inches of snow was also a record for its most snowfall in any month. Dubuque, IA also had it snowiest month on record recording 37.6 inches.

Louisville and Paducah, KY had its coldest December on record. Louisville had an average temperature of 25.1° and Paducah an average of 25.9°.

South Bend, IN had its snowiest and coldest December on record with a total snowfall of 44.6 inches and an average temperature of 17.1°.

Downtown Los Angeles, CA concluded it first rainless November- December ever dating back to 1877.


Grand Rapids, MI was buried under 51.7 inches of snow over a 9-day period ending on this date, their greatest amount of snow for such a short period of time.

Firefighters battled brush fires around Sydney, Australia as high winds and hot temperatures once again fanned the flames that had been burning since Christmas Day. The Black Christmas fires burned over 625,000 acres, destroyed over 150 homes and killed thousands of sheep. The wildfires, mostly the work of arsonists, were the worst in Australia since 1994. New Years Eve celebrations in the smoke shrouded city of Sydney were still held.

In the waning hours of the year Vava and Niuatoputapu, Tonga in the South Pacific were hit by Tropical Storm Waka cutting communication lines for several hours. Buildings, trees, and crops sustained damage but no injuries were reported.


Denver, CO recorded its driest year on record with only 7.48 inches of precipitation. Yuma, AZ also recorded its driest year on record with a meager 0.03 of an inch. Goodland, KS and Des Moines, IA had their driest months ever with zero and a trace of precipitation falling, respectively.

A mountain wave generated an 84 mph wind gust at Inyokern, CA causing a tree to fall over killing one person.


The Tri-Cities Regional Airport in eastern Tennessee had its wettest year by far with 65.65 inches. The old record was 54.50 inches set in 1950.


1,819 tornadoes occurred in the U.S. This was, by far the most ever recorded in a year since reliable records began.

Louisville, KY concluded its wettest year on record with 65.52 inches. The old record was 63.76 inches set in 1996.


Developing a day earlier, Tropical Storm Zeta, the final storm in the record breaking 2005 Atlantic Hurricane season was churning in the central Atlantic. The cyclone would peak on January 3, 2006 with sustained winds of 65 mph before gradually weakening and dissipating on January 6th, 2006.


This was one of the snowiest months on record in southwest Lower Michigan. Some of the impressive monthly snow totals are: 88.7 inches at Hart, 68.6 inches at Muskegon and 54.6 inches at Grand Rapids. 2008 was also the snowiest calendar year on record at Hart, with over 200 inches and at Grand Rapids with 140.7 inches for the year.


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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