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Weather History: January 19: Record temps, storms, tornadoes, wind & floods

Meteorological events that happened on January 19th:


The reading of -24° at Hartford, CT was the coldest temperature ever seen on a thermometer up to that time.


The famous "cold day" in New England occurred as gale force winds wrecked homes, and accompanied a sudden overnight drop in temperature of 50°. Tragedy struck Sanbornton, NH where three children froze to death.


A major winter storm plagued areas from the Mid-Atlantic in to New England. New York City recorded 12 inches of snow as the Cold Winter continued. It was the coldest month in the 19th century in New York City. Long Island Sound was completely covered by ice for 30 days.

More than a foot of snow fell with temperatures below 20° across Virginia. Strong winds caused structural damage on land, wrecked ships at sea and great drifts that blocked transportation through the state. One report states that Norfolk was buried under 20 foot snow drifts. Washington, D.C. was buried under 14 to 24 inches, with drifts four feet deep; Portsmouth, VA reported 16 inches; Halifax, VA about 16 inches with drifts to five feet; Brunswick County reported 18 inches; Prince George County 15 inches; Christiansburg, VA measured 14 inches; and Winchester 8 inches. Transportation from Richmond, VA to Washington, D.C. was cut off for seven days. The Richmond Enquirer's editor remarked, "Sunday last we had one of the severest snowstorms which has occurred in this area for many years. Snow commenced falling about 7 pm Saturday night and by Sunday morning the wind had increased to a perfect gale - all day Sunday and Sunday night the snow fell rapidly accompanied by high winds which banked up the snow in some places as high as 8 feet. On average we would think the snow about two feet deep." Temperatures fell below zero after the storm: Christiansburg reported -8°; a Petersburg newspaper reported the temperature in the city dropped from -15° to -22°; temperatures fell to between -10° to -17° at Halifax; at Portsmouth, it was -5°. The cold was so extreme that all Virginia Rivers were frozen over. The Chesapeake Bay was solid ice a mile and a half out from its coast. At Cape Henry, VA one could walk out 100 yards from the lighthouse on the frozen ocean.


The temperature rose 42 degrees in 15 minutes; from -5° to 37° at Fort Assiniboine near Havre, MT.


Maine recorded its coldest temperature ever as Van Buren dropped to -48°. This record was broken on 1/16/2009.


Giant Forest, CA received 60 inches of snow in just 24 hours, a state record, and the 2nd highest 24 hour total on record for the U.S.


One of the city's worst winter storms dumped 15.7 inches of snow on Vancouver, British Columbia Canada. Strong winds blow the snow into drifts over 6 feet high. The snow was followed over the next 4 days with 10.5 inches of rain and freezing rain.


A combination of hail, heavy rain, and a tornado caused significant damage at Corvallis, OR. The tornado, the first to ever hit Corvallis, dissipated as it crossed the Willamette River.


The "Kennedy Inaugural Snowstorm:" moved up the east coast. The storm began as low pressure centered in northern Tennessee during the morning on this date. It was starved for moisture and only produced light snows to the north of the track but by the afternoon the storm center moved to Virginia and then bombed out near the coast and snow quickly developed over the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area. By evening, snowfall rates intensified and winds increased from the northeast to 25 mph at National Airport reducing visibility to near zero with whiteout conditions. The snow tapered off by midnight leaving 7.7 inches at National Airport and BWI Airport. The liquid equivalent was 1.14 inches, more than typical of an 11 inch storm. Snowfall amounts ranged from only an inch at Richmond, VA to as much as 16 inches in parts of northern Maryland. The temperature did not rise above freezing for 11 days until the 31st when the high temperature reached 33°. Parts of Virginia saw up to 12 inches. It caused a great traffic jam in northern and central Virginia and D.C. Elsewhere, up to 11 inches fell in parts of Delaware, 4 to 19 inches in Pennsylvania and 10 to 30 inches in New Jersey. Many cities were paralyzed following the storm. Across the Northeast, as much as 28 inches of snow fell at Warwick, RI and 12.3 inches at Boston, MA. 37 people perished.


High pressure across the Great Basin brought record heat to parts of the Southwest. It was 90° at Borrego Springs, CA their highest temperature on record for January.

Other daily record highs for the date included: Downtown Los Angeles, CA: 92°, Palm Springs, CA: 91°, Riverside, CA: 88°, Phoenix, AZ: 88°, Yuma, AZ 88°, Tucson, AZ: 85°, Victorville, CA: 77°, Palomar Mountain, CA: 75°, Las Vegas, NV: 74°, Idyllwild, CA: 74°, Bishop, CA: 72°, Big Bear Lake, CA: 68°, Winnemucca, NV: 67° and Flagstaff, AZ: 59°.


Snow fell at Miami Beach, FL for the first time. The trace of snow that fell at Homestead, FL, 22 miles south of Miami is the southernmost snow ever recorded in the United States. Snow flurries even fell across the northern Bahamas. The snow was accompanied by freezing temperatures over the entire Florida Peninsula, which resulted in one of the states worst freezes. Temperatures dropped to 27° at Homestead, FL with some farmers recorded temperatures as low as 20°. Temperatures were below freezing for 10 to 14 hours, and 28 degrees or colder for 4 to 8 hours. An unusually heavy frost accompanied these freezing temperatures and extended to the immediate coast. Both West Palm Beach and Miami Beach recorded all-time lows of 27° and 32°, respectively. A U. S. Department of Agriculture report said the following crop loss: Citrus: 35%, Vegetables: 95-100%, Commercial Flowers: 50-75%, Permanent Pasture Land: 50%, Sugar Cane: 40%. In addition, there was a severe loss to the tropical fish industry. The freeze cost the Florida economy an estimated $2 billion (1977) dollars.


On this date through the 20th, a strong Nor'easter developed off the Southeast Coast. It was the third snow in a week for Virginia. Charlottesville got a foot of snow, with up to 30 inches in the west central mountains of Virginia. East of the mountains saw 4 to 8 inches on snow until you got to Richmond, VA. Richmond received a devastating ice storm causing major power disruptions and tree damage. Many small buildings and roofs collapsed from the weight of the snow across the west. One person died while shoveling snow.

A severe weather outbreak occurred across parts of Florida. Five tornadoes and 17 severe thunderstorms were reported from Jacksonville to Orlando and Tampa to Miami. Widespread minor property damage, but no serious injuries.


A storm tracking across the Ohio Valley and towards the northeastern U.S. produced up to 14 inches of snow across northern Indiana. Peru, IN reported a foot of snow.

Several cities across Florida reported record high temperatures for the date. The afternoon high of 88° at Miami equaled their record for the month of January.


A powerful storm hit the central U.S. producing blizzard conditions over the Central Plains, and severe thunderstorms in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Snowfall totals ranged up to 36 inches at Wolf Creek Pass, CO, with 31 inches at Elsmere, NE.

A swarm of 14 tornadoes across the South affected parts of Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. The most violent tornado was an F4 that occurred near Kosciusko, MS, but an F3 tornado in Fayette County, TN was the most deadly, causing 3 fatalities. A tornado at Cullman AL injured 34 people.


The high temperature for the day at Fairbanks, AK was a frigid -41°, and the morning low of -24° at Anchorage, AK was their coldest reading in 14 years.


Heavy snow spread from the Southern and Central Rockies into the Great Plains. Storm totals in New Mexico reached 36 inches at Gascon. Totals in the Central Plains ranged up to 15 inches near McCook, NE and Garden City, KS. Amounts across the metro Denver, CO area ranged from 7 to 10 inches. Strong, winds caused blowing and drifting snow with poor visibility caused I-70 from Denver east to the Kansas border to close.

Further north, a narrow band of heavy, wet snow buried portions of southeast South Dakota. Snowfall amounts of 8 to 12 inches extended from Bon Homme County through Yankton and Clay Counties. The greatest amount was 12 inches at Vermillion. The band of snow also extended across northwest Iowa with totals of 6 to 12 inches common. The heavy, wet snow broke many tree branches and power lines across the area resulting in a messy cleanup.

Thunderstorms produced large hail and damaging winds in eastern Texas and Louisiana. Tornadoes at Garland, TX and Apple Springs, TX each injured one person.


This day marked the end of 14 consecutive days (the most on record) of measurable precipitation in Santa Ana, Escondido and Big Bear Lake, CA which started on the 6th. This day marked the end of seven consecutive days (the most on record) of measurable precipitation at Victorville, CA.


An arctic outbreak settled in with widespread record low temperatures set from Minnesota to Virginia. Many cities recorded their lowest temperature ever. Some of the all time record lows included: St. Cloud, MN: -50°, Flat Gap, KY: -41°, Bethel, OH: -40°, Greenbank, WV: -35°, Indianapolis IN: -27°, Pittsburgh, PA: -22°, Louisville, KY: -22° and Cleveland, OH: -20°. Champaign, IL tied their all-time record low with -25°. A low of -52° was reported at Amasa, Michigan, the state's coldest temperature on record. Indiana recorded its coldest temperature ever when the mercury fell to -37° at New Whiteland.

National Airport at Washington, D.C. reported an afternoon high of just 8°, one degree from the lowest maximum during the 20th century. The minimum temperature was -4°. That made this date one of only five days in the official climate history of Washington, D.C. to have a maximum temperature less than 10° (12/30/1888: 9°, 2/10/1899: 4°, 1/13/1912: 8°, 12/30/1917: 9°. The cold temperatures led to a rolling power brownouts and closed schools and businesses. This was a year of repetitive ice storms and cold weather, ice cover on the ground was that enough to support ice-skating on lawns. At the Penderbrook Golf Course in Fairfax, VA down hill ice-skating occurred for several days on the long, slopping fair way. Baltimore, MD set an all-time January record low maximum of 5° following a record low of -5°.

Further north, heavy snow fell in New England. Parish, NY picked up several hours of snow accompanied by thunder and lightning with 42 inches of new snow falling as lake effect snows continued off of Lake Ontario. Lake Superior froze over for the first time in 16 years.

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in Canada shivered through their last of a record 20 consecutive days when the minimum temperature was less than or equal to -34.6°.


Columbia, MO was buried under 19.7 inches of snow in 24 hours for its greatest 24 hour snowfall and snowstorm ever. Wind gusts up to 45 mph produced blizzard conditions and thunderstorms occurred several times during the heavy snow. Interstates 70, U.S. 63 and U.S. 54 were closed down. The same storm produced 15 inches of snow at Moline, IL and 14 inches at Blue Jacket, OK.


Just one week after 2 to 4 feet of snow fell over western Virginia, temperatures warmed into the 60°s ahead of a front which brought thunderstorms and heavy rain. The sudden warm-up caused a rapid snowmelt. The melted snow was the equivalent of 2 to 4 inches of rain. Some areas saw another 2 to 5 inches of rainfall on top of the melted snow. The saturated ground meant that all the rain and snow became run off into the streams and rivers, which could not handle it. Major flooding resulted. This sort of event had not happened since March 1936. Rapid snowmelt triggered serious flooding along the Delaware, Susquehanna, upper Ohio, Potomac and James River basins, with crests as much as 20 feet above flood stage. In some areas a foot of snow melted in about 8 hours during the overnight. Daytime temperatures approached 60° with high dew points causing snow piles to steam. The Potomac River approached levels not seen since flooding caused by Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972. The flooding killed 33 people and forced over 200,000 from their homes, and destroyed or damaged hundreds of roads and bridges.

An arctic cold front moved through the upper Midwest. Prior to the cold front, temperatures were in the 50s across southern Wisconsin. However, by the end of the day, the temperatures had fallen below zero. The temperature fell 58 degrees at Platteville, WI from 51° to -7° and 57 degrees at Richland Center, WI from 52° to -5°. It was the greatest diurnal temperature change at both locations.


Severe thunderstorms produced tornadoes and hail in portions of central Mississippi and extreme southeast Arkansas. An F1 tornado moved through Lauderdale County, injuring 10 people. F2 tornadoes moved through Ashley County, injuring 13 and Desoto County, injuring one person. F3 tornadoes struck Clay and Chickasaw Counties and an F4 tornado struck Attalla County, injuring one person. Total property damages were over $3 million dollars.


A Pineapple Express brought balmy weather to southwestern British Columbia, Canada. Abbotsford soared to 64.6°, their highest January temperature recorded anywhere in the province since 1899. Victoria shattered their warmest-ever January reading with 61°.

Three days of heavy rain trigger a mudslide that killed one person and forced the evacuation of many residents. Rainfall at Vancouver International Airport over the preceding three days exceeded 5.2 inches.


Extremely mild temperatures, 10 to 20 degrees above normal dominated over much of Europe. Paris, France hit 57°, London, England hit 56°, Berlin, Germany hit 45° and Warsaw, Poland hit 43°.


A rare Mississippi snow event brought snowfall accumulations to many locations. The heaviest snow occurred across Covington, Jefferson Davis, and western Jones Counties, where amounts ranging from 2 to 5 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

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