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Weather History: January 20: Record temps, storms, wind, tornadoes & flooding

Meteorological events that happened on January 20th:


Streets were blocked by snow and strong winds as a blizzard struck Florence, Italy.


2,000 people died around the Severn Estuary as the result of severe flooding along the Severn River in England.


A large tornado at Brandon and Mount Vernon, OH killed three people along its 10 mile path.


The greatest snowfall officially fell at Phoenix, AZ reaching one inch. Four years to the day later, another snowfall of one inch fell.


FDR's second inauguration was the wettest Inaugural Day on record. 1.77 inches of rain fell at Washington, D.C. with temperatures in the 30s.

California recorded their coldest temperature ever as the town of Boca located northeast of Truckee dropped to -45°.


Strange vertical antics took place in the Black Hills of South Dakota. While the temperature at Deadwood was -16°, the town of Lead, just a mile and a half away, but 600 feet higher in elevation, reported a balmy 52°.

South Bend, IN reported their coldest temperature ever dropping to -22°.


The Mount Lamington volcano in New Guinea had not erupted in recorded memory, but in January 1951, it began to belch smoke from its cone. On the 20th, rocks spewed from the mountain, followed by huge cloud of steam and dust that rolled down the mountain at great speed, killing 6,000 people, nearly the entire population of the North Coast.


The lowest temperature ever recorded in the continental 48 states, -69.7°, occurred at Rogers Pass, in Lewis and Clark County, Montana. Rogers Pass is in mountainous and heavily forested terrain about a half mile east of and 140 feet below the summit of the Continental Divide. This broke the previous record of -66° at Yellowstone National Parkway on 2/9/1933. After this record low, Rogers Pass “enjoyed an afternoon high of -22°.


The "Kennedy Inaugural snowstorm" belted the mid-Atlantic and New England states. Up to 29 inches of snow fell in northern New Jersey and southeastern New York. Areas north and west of Boston, MA received over two feet. This was the 2nd of three major snowstorms during the 1960-61 winter season across the northeastern U.S.


The high temperature at Billings, MT was -3°. This was the first of a record 10 consecutive days with a high temp below zero; the temperature would not rise above freezing until February 3rd.


By this date Smith and Tangier Island in the lower Chesapeake Bay could no longer be reached by boat, and food and other key supplies had to be airlifted to residents. Ice cover on the Potomac River by this time was up to 11 inches thick.

The barometer at St. Anthony in Newfoundland Canada dropped to 940.2 millibars or 27.76 inHg, the lowest sea level pressure ever recorded in Canada.


A paralyzing "Nor'easter" blasted New England and the Mid-Atlantic States. Boston, MA recorded 21 inches in 24 hours to set a new record 24-hour snowfall amount; only to have it broken two weeks later. Snowfall was under-forecasted since a predicted changeover from snow to rain never occurred. Elsewhere, 15 to 20 inches of snow fell across Rhode Island, and 1 to 2 feet of snow across parts of Pennsylvania. Winds along the coast of Connecticut gusted to 70 mph.


An Arctic cold wave in the east through the 22nd claimed 42 lives across 14 states. One of the coldest readings was -40° at Minong, WI. Subzero readings were measured from the Rockies to New England.


A major Arctic outbreak brought extreme cold to much of the central and eastern U.S. Many all time record lows were set, including: Chicago, IL -27° (daytime high of -4 with a wind chill as low as -77°), Nashville, TN -16° (broken the next day), Asheville, NC -13° (broken the next day) and Raleigh/Durham, NC -3° (broken the next day). Even New Orleans was in the deep freeze with a low of 15°. Fort Wayne, IN recorded their coldest overall day, with a high of -11° and a low of -22°. South Bend, IN set their coldest January high temperature, at -6°. Quincy, IL set their January record low with -21°. St. Louis & Columbia, MO recorded their all-time coldest wind chill readings of -48° & -44°.

Residents in Birmingham, AL woke up to an inch of snow on the ground and temperatures in the deep freeze. Readings remained in the single digits all day. The high temperature at Muscle Shoals in the northern part of Alabama never got above 0° that day. The extreme cold actually caused television cable wires to shrink, resulting in service disruptions across the state of Virginia.


Gale force winds lingered along the northern Atlantic coast in the wake of a holiday weekend storm.

High winds along the eastern slopes of the Northern Rockies gusted to 67 mph at Livingston, MT. Santa Ana wind gusts reached 80 mph below Cajon Pass, 70 mph at San Bernardino, 60 mph at Mt. Laguna and 40 mph at El Toro, CA. Trucks were blown over, thick dust clouds developed, and trees were downed. A hundred power poles went down in the Inland Empire causing numerous power outages. Schools closed in Fontana as a result of power outages. A mobile classroom was knocked over. Brush fires were started.


A storm in the Upper Midwest produced heavy snow and gale force winds. Up to 27.5 inches of snow was reported along the Lake Superior shoreline of Michigan, with 22 inches at Marquette. Snowfall totals across parts of Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin ranged from 6 to 12 inches.

Out west, Borrego Springs, CA set a record low of 33°.


The temperature in the Washington D.C. area warmed into the lower 50s for the Presidential Inauguration during the late morning hours, before gusty northwest winds ushered in colder air that afternoon.


While heavy thunderstorm rains drenched the Central Gulf Coast States, with 4.23 inches reported at Centreville, AL in 24 hours.

Unseasonably warm weather continued across Florida. A few locations in Florida reported record high temperatures for the date including: Fort Myers, FL: 87°, Tampa, FL: 85° and Jacksonville, FL: 83°-Tied.


A fast moving 980-millibar storm (28.94 inHg) produced high winds across the Pacific Northwest. A wind gust to 64 mph occurred at the Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle, WA; their 2nd highest wind gust ever recorded at that location. Winds gusted to near 100 mph at the mouth of the Columbia River. Over 750,000 people in the vicinity of Puget Sound lost power. Damage was severe, with 79 homes destroyed and 581 suffering major damage. In Oregon, wind gusts hit 89 mph at Netarts and 86 mph at Cape Blanco. The storm caused $130 million dollars in damage.

In the southern U.S., train echo thunderstorms drenched Lafayette and Baton Rouge, LA with 10.83 and 9.02 inches of rain in 24 hours, respectively


Relentless lake effect snow squalls dumped nearly 60 inches of snow at Adams, NY in only 17 hours. The three day snowfall total in the town exceeded 100 inches, one of the greatest lake effect snowfall totals ever recorded.

Frigid conditions persisted over the northeastern U.S. Rangeley, ME was the cold spot in the nation with a temperature of -45°. First Connecticut Lake, NH dropped to -44°. South Bend, IN completed its longest stretch of sub-zero weather at 64 hours. Both Pittsburgh, PA and Cleveland, OH also completed their longest stretch of subzero readings on record, with 52 and 56 consecutive hours, respectively.


A winter storm moved across northern Illinois during the afternoon and evening hours, continuing into early the next morning. A band of very heavy snow fell across northeast Illinois across Kane County, southeast McHenry County, northwest Cook County, and most of Lake County. Snowfall amounts in this band ranged from 10 to 12 inches. Outside of this heavy band, snow amounts ranged from 6 to 9 inches, but snowfall amounts tapered off quickly across south central DuPage and south central Cook Counties, with those areas receiving 3 to 5 inches. Some of the largest snowfall amounts included 12 inches at Elgin, 11.7 inches at Grayslake, 11.5 inches at Shabbona, 11 inches atn Barrington, and 9 inches at Paw Paw. Northwest parts of the state saw ice accumulations around a quarter inch, enhanced by thunderstorms.


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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