Meteorological events that happened on January 22nd:
A harsh blizzard brought extreme hardship and many deaths across the Great Plains from Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa southward to Texas. Death estimates ranged from several hundred to nearly a thousand. Although there have been colder cold waves, snow storms with more snow and higher winds, the combination of these in this blizzard makes it one of the worse in history. What made this storm especially severe was that extremely mild air dominated the region before it hit. School children walked to school in the morning with no coats on, only to be caught in a raging blizzard on the way home in the afternoon. Weather forecasts of 100 years ago were either non-existent or very inaccurate.
An unusual F4 tornado leveled the northern part of Moundville, AL just after midnight, killing 37 people. The tornado reportedly had a phosphorescent glow. An engineer on a northbound Great Southern train saw the destruction right after it occurred, and backed his train 12 miles in reverse to the town of Akron, where he sent a telegram for help.
The high temperature in Las Vegas was 31°. This was one of only 10 times that the temperature did not climb above the freezing mark. This also tied for the coldest day ever in Las Vegas with a daily average temperature of 20°.
All-time record lows were set at: Flagstaff, AZ: -30°, Winslow, AZ: -18°-Tied, Palm Springs, CA: 19° and Escondido, CA: 22°. Riverside, CA set a January record of 21°. This was also their second lowest temperature of all time.
Locations that reported daily record lows for the date included: Winnemucca, NV: -19°, Denver, CO: -9°, Salt Lake City, UT: -9°, Las Vegas, NV: 9°, Tucson, AZ: 15°, Bakersfield, CA: 19°, Phoenix, AZ: 21°, Santa Ana, CA: 23°, Fresno, CA: 26°, Santa Maria, CA: 27°, San Diego, CA: 30°, Yuma, AZ: 31° and Downtown Los Angeles, CA: 34°.
Daytona, Beach, FL tied a daily record high with 83°.
Four days of lake effect snow squalls came to an end at Watertown, NY where 69 inches fell.
Chinook winds caused wild temperatures fluctuations at Spearfish, SD. The temperature rose 49° between 7:30 and 7:32am from -4° to 45°. Around 9am, the temperature plunged 58 degrees in 27 minutes from 54° to -4°. Plate glass windows cracked as a result of the quick thermal expansion and contraction. Motorists found it difficult to drive as their windshields would instantly frost over as they drove from a warm pocket into a cold one.
The wild temperature fluctuations were likely due to cold air and warm air sloshing back and forth along the plains at the base of the Black Hills. A similar effect would be to pour warm water into a shallow bowl of cold water. The water would slosh back and forth a few times before settling down. This is likely what happened with the warm and cold air along the Black Hills.
On this date through the 26th, the longest period of snowfall on record occurred in downtown Denver, CO at 92 hours and 3 minutes as 13.6 inches fell. At the former Stapleton Airport, 19 inches of snow fell making it the heaviest snow in January.
The heaviest snow since 1930 occurred at Fresno, CA as 2.2 inches fell. The snow closed schools and caused a rush of people to stores seeking to buy film to photograph this unusual event. Many roads were slippery and some were closed altogether. Five people died on Valley roads due to the slick conditions. Other amounts in the Valley included 4 inches at Madera, 3 inches at Wasco, 2 inches at Hanford, Avenal, Buttonwillow and 1.5 inches at Los Banos. The higher elevations were buried under as much as 33 inches of snow at Badger Pass in Yosemite National Park.
TIROS-9 becomes the first meteorological satellite launched into a polar orbit.
A winter storm of long duration lasting 3 days through the 24th virtually paralyzed South Dakota with snowfall of 6 to 20 inches. Minneapolis, MN broke their 2-day old 24-hour snowfall record with 18 inches. Rochester, MN reported 15.4 inches, their greatest one-day snowfall. Austin, MN reported 13 inches, their greatest one-day snowfall and Preston, MN recorded 14 inches, tied with 11/18/1957 for the greatest one-day snowfall. Subzero temperatures statewide coupled with strong winds of 30 to 50 mph brought wind chills of -50° to -70°. Snow drifted as high as 15 feet. Blowing snow reduced visibilities to near zero for most of the duration of the storm. Hundreds of motorists were stranded. Numerous traffic accidents occurred due to near zero visibilities. Some power outages occurred. Major highways, interstates, and airports were closed. Numerous businesses and schools were closed for several days.
Significant freezing rain glazed northern Illinois. Compounding the problem, thunderstorms and high winds accompanied the freezing rain. Ice covered affected 70% of the state.
Wondervu, CO recorded a wind gust of 101 mph. Wind gusts of 60 to 80 mph were common along the Front Range Foothills from Boulder northward.
A series of storms produced surf up to 16 feet through the 29th along the California coast. Several piers collapsed. Damage was done to numerous businesses and homes. Several injuries occurred as people were swept off rocks.
Arctic high pressure over the Mid-Atlantic brought extreme cold. All-Time record lows were tied or set at: Sterling (Dulles Airport), VA: -18°, Baltimore, MD: -7°-Tied (2/9/1924 & 2/10/1899), Islip, NY: -7°-Tied and Bridgeport, CT: -7°-Tied.
Locations that reported January record lows included: Concord, NH: -33°, Wilmington, DE: -14°-Tied and Philadelphia, PA: -7°-Tied.
Locations that reported daily record lows included: Caribou, ME: -27°, Elkins, WV: -23°, Albany, NY: -20°, Portland, ME: -19°, Syracuse, NY: -19°, Williamsport, PA: -13°-Tied, Avoca, PA: -11°, Charleston, WV: -10°, Harrisburg, PA: -9°, Huntington, WV: -9°, Newark, NJ: -1°, Paducah, KY: 0°, Roanoke, VA: 2°, Jackson, KY: 4°, New York (LaGuardia), NY: 6°-Tied, New York (Kennedy Airport), NY: 7°-Tied, Meridian, MS: 9°, Huntsville, AL: 9°, Wallops Island, VA: 9°, Tupelo, MS: 10°, Birmingham,. AL: 11°, Jackson, MS: 12° and Mobile, AL: 18°.
A strong upper level trough across the East brought extreme cold across the Southeast. Virginia recorded its coldest temperature ever as Mountain Lake near Blacksburg dropped to -30°. Vero Beach, FL set their all-time record low with 21°.
Locations that set daily record lows included: Greensboro, NC: 4°, Chattanooga, TN: 5°, Huntsville, AL: 5°, Columbia, SC: 7°, Birmingham,. AL: 10°, Tallahassee, FL: 10°, Montgomery, AL: 12°, Macon, GA: 13°, Charleston, SC: 14°, Mobile, AL: 16°, Jacksonville, FL: 16°, Gainesville, FL: 17°, Savannah, GA: 17°-Tied, Daytona Beach, FL: 18°, Orlando, FL: 20°, New Orleans, LA: 22°-Tied, Tampa, FL: 25°, West Palm Beach, FL: 28°, Fort Myers, FL: 30°, Miami, FL: 30° and Key West, FL: 49°.
In late January 1987 two back-to-back snowstorms dropped 20 to 28 inches of snow across the Washington D.C. area. On the morning on this date, a low-pressure system was located along the South Carolina coast. It quickly moved to the north-northeast while developing into a major winter storm. During the afternoon, the storms central pressure dropped to 982 millibars or 29.00 inHg as past to the Virginia coast. The storm later peaked at 968 millibars or 28.58 inHg. Snow became heavy in the Baltimore/Washington area during the morning and continued at a relentless rate of 1 to 3 inches per hour until mid-afternoon. Between 10 to 15 inches of snow fell through the entire metro area. National Airport received 10.8 inches and BWI received 12.3 inches and Dulles received 11.1 inches. The snow had an unusually high water content of 1.49 inches of water equivalent at National Airport, which made the snow removal difficult.
North Carolina experienced their worst snowstorm in 50 years as up to 20 inches of snow fell across the state. Dushmore, PA received 21 inches. Traffic tie-ups nearly paralyzed the Washington D.C. and Boston, MA areas. Williamsport, PA recorded 5 inches of snow in just one hour and winds gusted to 76 mph at Chatham, MA.
Across Florida, Canal Point set a record high with 87° and Miami tied a record high with 84°.
The nation was free of winter storms for a day, however, winds in southern California gusted to 80 mph in the Grapevine area of the Tehachapi Mountains, and winds along the eastern slopes of the Rockies reached 100 mph in the Upper Yellowstone Valley of Montana.
Low pressure brought heavy rain and gale force winds to parts of Florida. Daytona Beach was drenched with 5.48 inches of rain in 24 hours to establish a January record for that location, and winds at Titusville, FL gusted to 63 mph.
A frigid Siberian Air Mass engulfed most of Alaska. A few locations reported record low temperatures for the date including: Bettles, AK: -65°, McGrath, AK: -61°, Kotzebue, AK: -48°, Nome, AK: -44° and Anchorage, AK: -25°.
Chandalar Lake recorded an afternoon high of -66°. Other record low maximums for date included: Bettles, AK: -55°, McGrath, AK: -43°-Tied, Kotzebue, AK: -42°, Nome, AK: -36°, Bethel, AK: -32° and Gulkana, AK: -29°.
It was a very tame and peaceful mid winter day. Mild weather prevailed across the nation, with rain and snow primarily confined to the northeastern U.S. and the Pacific Northwest.
Many locations across Florida reported record high temperatures for the date including: Clewiston, FL: 88°, Devils Garden, FL: 88°, La Belle, FL: 88°, Moore Haven, FL: 88°, Miami, FL: 86° and Hollywood, FL: 83°.
The 24-hour period ending on this date became the wettest such period on record in New Zealand when Colliers Creek recorded 26.87 inches of rain. Of that total, 18.74 inches fell in just 12 hours making it also the wettest 12 hour period on record in New Zealand.
A major snowstorm hit northern California, dumping snow at the rate of two inches per hour on the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A 6 foot snowdrift trapped Amtrak’s California Zephyr on Donner Pass, much like a similar storm had done in January 1952, when the City of San Francisco was trapped in the pass for three days. Fortunately for the Amtrak passengers, the train was freed within a few hours and the train was just 14 hours late into Salt Lake City, UT.
North winds of 25 to 40 mph along with the existing snow cover resulted in blizzard conditions and extreme wind chills across far northeast South Dakota and west central Minnesota. The low visibilities and drifting snow made travel almost impossible resulting in some road and school closures.
As a line of thunderstorms moved across northeast Illinois, a bolt of lightning struck a tree at Mount Prospect. The tree exploded into thousands of pieces, some of which were 3 to 5 feet long. One of these large pieces struck a woman walking her dog. Although she was critically injured, she recovered from her injuries. The flying pieces of the tree broke 3 windows and damaged garage doors and siding.
Residents of Rochester, NY watched measurable snow fall on 19 consecutive days beginning January 4th. The string tied the previous mark set in 1985.
Snow accumulated at a rate of at least two inches an hour leaving more than 20 inches at Logan International Airport at Boston, MA by noon. The snowstorm became the 6th worst to hit Boston in the past 100 years. Just north of Boston, the town of Peabody reported 29 inches.
A potent winter storm moved out of southern Canada and across the upper Midwest. It brought heavy snow and blizzard-like conditions to the region, beginning late the previous day and continuing during the early morning. Snowfall totals of 6 to10 inches were common across the area, with wind gusts that exceeded 50 mph over parts of southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa. The highest wind gust was 52 mph at Oelwein, IA. Blizzard conditions developed early Saturday morning when a passing cold front quickly increased northwest winds. Combined with the fresh snow, visibilities dropped quickly, especially in the open and flat terrain areas of southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa. Whiteout conditions were reported and many roads were impassable.
The run of consecutive rainy days finally ended at 35 at Olympia, WA.
A Santa Ana wind event brought peak winds from this day through the 24th. During these days, wind gusts exceeded 60 mph on 19 observations across southern California. Seven big rigs overturned at Fontana. Downed power lines and trees caused power outages and property damage. A roof of a carport was torn off in Hemet. A dust storm closed Ramona Expressway.
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