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Weather History: January 31: Record temps, storms, wind, ice, snow & flooding

Meteorological events that happened on January 31st:


A snowy January left 54 inches of snow on the ground in the lower elevations of Northfield, VT.


The highest atmospheric pressure in the British Isles was recorded when Aberdeen, Scotland rose to 1054.7 millibars or 31.15 inHg.


The warmest temperature ever felt in the month of January in Oklahoma occurred as temperatures soared into the 80s at many locations. Oklahoma City set their all time January high with a reading of 83°. Temperatures were even warmer in western Oklahoma, where Weatherford and Cloud Chief topped out at 89°.

Other locations that reported record highs for January included: Dallas (DFW), TX: 93°, Del Rio, TX: 92°, Abilene, TX: 90° and Albuquerque, NM: 72°-Tied.

Locations that reported daily record highs included: Waco, TX: 89°, Victoria, TX: 86°, San Antonio, TX: 85°, Lubbock, TX: 84°, Tucson, AZ: 83°, Austin, TX: 83°, Amarillo, TX: 82°, Houston, TX: 82°, Jackson, MS: 82°, Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX: 81°, Dodge City, KS: 76°, Tulsa, OK: 76°, Little Rock, AR: 75°, Pueblo, CO: 73°, Concordia, KS: 72°, Huntsville, AL: 70°, North Platte, NE: 69°, Wichita, KS: 68°, Springfield, MO: 67°, Kansas City, MO: 64°, Columbia, MO: 64°-Tied, Grand Junction, CO: 62°, Salt Lake City, UT: 60°, Sioux Falls, SD: 57° and Huron, SD: 54°.

Tamarack, CA was without snow the first 8 days of the month, but by the end of the month had been buried under 390 inches of snow, a record monthly total for the U.S.


Northfield, VT recorded the highest barometric pressure ever observed in the lower 48 with a reading of 31.14 inHg. The cold high pressure would be followed by a major winter storm just three days later that paralyzed the region.


The village of Amenia, ND registered a maximum temperature of only 10° for the entire month of January, perhaps the lowest monthly maximum temperature ever measured in the lower 48 states.


A major Oregon snowstorm dumped 25 inches of snow at Salem, OR and 16 inches at Portland, OR.

The Ohio River at Evansville, IN, crested 19 feet above flood stage. Two-thirds of Evansville was completely inundated and Jeffersonville, IN was 90% flooded. 90,000 people evacuated their homes. Leavenworth, IN was abandoned and moved to a new town site on higher ground.


The temperature fell to a frigid -74° at Smith Falls, British Columbia, Canada, an all-time low for the province.


A cold arctic air mass brought record cold from parts of the southern Plains to the Southwest. Locations that reported all-time record lows included: Waco, TX: -5°, Austin (Bergstrom), TX: -5°, Austin (Camp Mabry), TX: -2°, Dallas (DFW), TX: -2° and San Antonio, TX: 0°.

Locations that reported daily record lows included: Reno, NV: -7°, Roswell, NM: 2°, Dallas, TX: 2°, Winslow, AZ: 3°, San Angelo, TX: 7°, Shreveport, LA: 8°, Fort Smith, AR: 8°-Tied, Bishop, CA: 10°, Midland-Odessa, TX: 10°, Victoria, TX: 12°, Houston, TX: 14°, Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX: 15°, El Paso, TX: 15°, Del Rio, TX: 17°, Lake Charles, LA: 19°, Las Vegas, NV: 19°-Tied, Corpus Christi, TX: 20°, Tucson, AZ: 22°, Brownsville, TX: 23°, Galveston, TX: 24°, Stockton, CA: 26°, Fresno, CA: 26°-Tied, New Orleans, LA: 29° and Yuma, AZ: 30°.


A major North Sea storm sent a record storm surge over the dikes of the Netherlands, causing the country's worst flood disaster. Over one million acres of land went underwater as the sea surged up to 37 miles inland. 40,000 homes were destroyed in 133 villages. 2,100 people perished in the flooding. Damage totaled over $500 million dollars. Vowing to never let such a disaster happen again, the Dutch government created a massive system of dams, dikes and floodgates


The first United States satellite was launched.


Nevada registered its record maximum 24-hour precipitation total as 7.14 inches of rain fell at the Mount Rose Highway Station.

Strong Chinook winds struck parts of the Colorado Rockies and Foothills. Littleton reported a wind gust of 101 mph, Rocky Flats with 90 mph and Denver at 80 mph. Boulder was particularly hard hit with major structure damage and downed poer lines were reported. In other areas, utility poles were damaged; signs, road markers and antennas were blown down.

A few locations reported record high temperatures for the date including: San Angelo, TX: 85°, Midland-Odessa, TX: 80°, Clayton, NM: 73°, Winslow, AZ: 68° and Colorado Spring, CO: 66°.


A blizzard struck the northeastern U.S. When the storm came to an end, 20 inches of snow covered the ground at Washington D.C.

Behind the storm and cold front, arctic high pressure brought extreme record cold from the Tennessee Valley, Mid-Atlantic to Florida. Chattanooga, TN tied their all-time record low with -10°.

Locations that reported daily record lows included: Bristol, TN: -15°, Knoxville, TN: -7°, Oak Ridge, TN: -7°, Nashville, TN: -2°, Asheville, NC: 1°, Greenville-Spartanburg, SC: 3°, Greensboro, NC: 3°, Raleigh, NC: 3°, Charlotte, NC: 4°, Roanoke, VA: 4°, Baltimore, MD: 4°-Tied, Birmingham, AL: 5°, Lynchburg, VA: 5°-Tied, Columbia, SC: 10°, Norfolk, VA: 10°, Augusta, GA: 11°, Columbus, GA: 11°, Macon, GA: 11°, Meridian, MS: 13°, Montgomery, AL: 13°, Tallahassee, FL: 14°, Charleston, SC: 15°, Savannah, GA: 16°, Gainesville, FL: 17°, Wilmington, NC: 17°-Tied, Mobile, AL: 20°, Jacksonville, FL: 20°, Cape Hatteras, NC: 20°, Pensacola, FL: 22°-Tied, New Orleans, LA: 24°, Daytona Beach, FL: 24°, Tampa, FL: 24°, Orlando, FL: 24° (broke previous record by 12 degrees), Vero Beach, FL: 26°, Fort Myers, FL: 28° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), West Palm Beach, FL: 32°, Miami, FL: 35° and Key West, FL: 47°.


High winds struck parts of the Colorado Rockies and Foothills. The National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder reported a 115 mph wind gust and downtown Boulder topped out at 83 mph. Schools were closed and some minor injuries reported.


The Bicentennial Winter was the coldest seen on the East Coast since before the founding of the Republic. In Northern Virginia, the snow began on January 4, just as the Carter Administration was moving into town. New storms dropped a few more inches every few days to put a fresh coating on the streets that were just clearing from the previous storm and give a clean look to the piles of dirty snow that were accumulating along roadways and in parking lots. The Tidal Potomac froze solid enough that people could skate across it near the Memorial Bridge. The average temperature for the month of January in Washington was 25.4°, which was the coldest since 1856 when the temperature averaged 21.4°. The normal January average temperature for Washington is 34.6°. Roanoke averaged only 23.6°, Richmond 25.3°, and Norfolk 29.2° (all 12° below normal). The prolonged cold wave caused oil and natural gas shortages. President Carter asked people to turn thermostats down to conserve energy. Washington, D.C. did not see heavy snow like the Great Lake region did that winter. The cold winds blowing across the warm lakes brought 68 inches of snow to Buffalo, NY. Washington, D.C. recorded 10 inches of snow in January, Richmond 11 inches, and Roanoke only 9 inches. Little to no additional snow fell the rest of the winter ending it well below normal. The cold wave penetrated into the South and on January 19, snowflakes were seen in Homestead, FL; 22 miles south of Miami


South Bend, IN was buried under 86.1 inches of snow for the month, by far the city's snowiest month ever.


A winter storm that started on the previous day and ended on this day spread 2 to 4 inches of rainfall in 24 hours over much of coastal Southern California, and two inches of snow in Palm Springs. Snow fell heavily in Palm Springs and 8 inches fell at Lancaster. All major interstates into Los Angeles were closed. Snow drifts shut down Interstate 10 on both sides of Palm Springs, isolating the city. Schools were closed and hundreds of cars were abandoned. A snow and rain mix was reported in Borrego Springs. Mt. Laguna received two feet of snow and Julian one foot. Winds up to 60 mph blew in the San Diego Mountains. A tornado touched down in Santa Ana, and possibly occurred elsewhere. Golf ball size hail and widespread snow were also reported during the storm. 4.82 inches of rain fell in National City, 4.25 inches in La Mesa, 3.30 inches at San Diego State University, and 3.78 inches in El Cajon. Flooding occurred along Silver Strand highway, in Fashion Valley, also in Spring Valley, Lemon Grove, Lakeside and Carlsbad. Lake Hodges overflowed. Numerous power outages resulted. 2.57 inches of rain fell in San Diego, the seventh wettest calendar day on record and the wettest January day. 56 inches of snow fell in Big Bear Lake from this day through 2/2, the greatest storm snowfall on record. 26 inches fell on this day, the greatest daily snowfall on record for January and the second greatest daily amount on record. This snowfall also occurred on 2/17/1990.

Significant snow fell in the Kern County desert. Total accumulations included 9 inches at China Lake Naval Air Station and Mojave with 8 inches at Randsburg and 4.5 inches at Inyokern.

Many locations from the Rockies in to the Plains reported record low temperatures for the date including: Alamosa, CO: -39°, Lander, WY: -31°, Valentine, NE: -24°-Tied, Pocatello, ID: -23°, Scottsbluff, NE: -22°, Lincoln, NE: -20°, North Platte, NE: -20°, Grand Island, NE: -18°, Topeka, KS: -14°, Dodge City, KS: -11°, Grand Junction, CO: -10°, Wichita, KS: -9°, Salt Lake City, UT: -8°, Tulsa, OK: -5°, Oklahoma City, OK: -1°, Fort Smith, AR: 3°, Winslow, AZ: 3°-Tied, Wichita Falls, TX: 6° and Quillayute, WA: 17°.


A snowstorm struck from Missouri to Indiana. 25 inches of snow fell at Greenville, IL, and St. Louis reported 18 inches. The storm left 4,000 motorists stranded for two days.

11 inches of snow fell on Fort Wayne, IN and Indianapolis, IN reported 8.1 inches.


January 1986 marked the driest January in the recorded weather history of Oklahoma City, OK. Not even a trace of precipitation fell during the entire month. The dry spell lasted longer than just the one month, as no measurable precipitation fell in Oklahoma City from 12/13/1985 through 2/2/1986. There was only one other month on record at Oklahoma City where not even a trace of precipitation fell, August 2000.


A storm in the Pacific Northwest produced wind gusts to 85 mph in parts of Oregon, and nearly two inches of rain in 12 hours in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. 10 inches of snow fell at Stampede Pass, WA bringing their total snow cover to 84 inches.


A southwesterly flow ahead of a cold front brought record high temperatures across the central and northeastern U.S., with many occurring during the early morning hours. Temperatures in western New York State reached the 60s early in the day. Locations that reported record highs for the date included: Wallops Island, VA: 65°, Atlantic City, NJ: 63°, Rochester, NY: 63°, Syracuse, NY: 63°, Buffalo, NY: 62°, Providence, RI: 62°-Tied, Akron, OH: 58°, Youngstown, OH: 58°, Worcester, MA: 57°-Tied, Mansfield, OH: 56°, Burlington, VT: 56°, Moline, IL: 55°, Springfield, IL: 55°-Tied, South Bend, IN: 54°, Portland, ME: 54°, Milwaukee, WI: 54°, Toledo, OH: 54°-Tied, Peoria, IL: 53°, Fort Wayne, IN: 53°, Rockford, IL: 52°, Grand Rapids, MI: 52°, Lansing, MI: 52°, Flint, MI: 51°, Islip, NY: 51°, Dubuque, IA: 48°, Muskegon, MI: 48°, Alpena, MI: 47°, Houghton Lake, MI: 47°, Madison, WI: 46° and Ste. St. Marie, MI: 40°-Tied.

Behind the cold front, strong northerly winds in the north central U.S. produced wind chill readings as cold as -60° in parts of North Dakota.


The barometric pressure at Northway, AK reached 1078.4 millibars or 31.85 inHg establishing an all-time record for the North American Continent. The temperature at the time of the record was about -46°. When pressures this high occur, commercial aircraft often have to be grounded because their altimeters cannot be set that high.

Severe arctic cold began to invade the north central U.S. The temperature at Great Falls, MT plunged 85 degrees in 36 hours. Valentine, NE plummeted from a record high of 70° to 0° in just 9 hours. Northwest winds gusted to 86 mph at Lander, WY, and wind chill readings of -80° were reported in parts of Montana. Many cities across the central U.S. reported record highs for the date as readings reached the 60s in parts of Michigan and the 80s in parts of Kansas.

Locations that reported January record high temperatures included: Dodge City, KS: 80°, Moline, IL: 69° (broke previous daily record by 14 degrees) and Rockford, IL: 63°-Tied (broke previous daily record by 11 degrees).

Locations that set daily record highs for the date included: Clayton, NM: 79°, Wichita Falls, TX: 78°, Fort Smith, AR: 77°, Tulsa, OK: 76°-Tied, Pueblo, CO: 75°, Goodland, KS: 75°, Concordia, KS: 74°, Columbia, MO: 74° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), St. Louis, MO: 74°, Springfield, MO: 73°, Grand Island, NE: 72°, Lincoln, NE: 72°, Topeka, KS: 71°, Colorado Spring, CO: 70°, Peoria, IL: 70° (broke previous daily record by 17 degrees), Springfield, IL: 69° (broke previous record by 14 degrees), Kansas City, MO: 69°, Evansville, IN: 68°, Louisville, KY: 67°, Paducah, KY: 67°, Scottsbluff, NE: 66°, Rapid City, SD: 66°, Des Moines, IA: 65°, Chicago, IL: 65°, Norfolk, NE: 65°, Omaha, NE: 65°, South Bend, IN: 64°, Jackson, KY: 64°, Redding, CA: 63°, Cleveland, OH: 62°, Toledo, OH: 62°, Fort Wayne, IN: 61°, Lansing, MI: 61°, Dubuque, IA: 60° (broke previous record by 12 degrees), Detroit, MI: 60°, Flint, MI: 59°, Mansfield, OH: 58°, Milwaukee, WI: 58°, Waterloo, IA: 57° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), Grand Rapids, MI: 57°, Sioux City, IA: 57°-Tied, Madison, WI: 56° (broke previous record by 10 degrees), La Crosse, WI: 52°, Alpena, MI: 50°, Rochester, MN: 48°, Green Bay, WI: 48°, Muskegon, MI: 48°-Tied, Minneapolis, MN: 45°, St. Cloud, MN: 43° and Ste. St. Marie, MI: 40°-Tied.


High winds in Montana on the 28th, gusting to 77 mph at Judith Gap, were followed by three days of snow. Heavy snow fell over northwest Montana, with up to 24 inches reported in the mountains. An avalanche covered the road near Essex with 6 feet of snow. Snow and high winds also plagued parts of the southwestern U.S. Winds gusted to 54 mph at Show Low, AZ and Flagstaff, AZ was blanketed with 8 inches of snow.


The month wrapped up as the wettest ever at Apalachicola, FL and Lake Charles LA with 20.80 (582% or normal) and 14.29 inches of rain respectively.


Hundreds of people were buried and killed in the worst avalanche in recent times in eastern Turkey. The village of Gomec was one of the hardest hit when over half of its population was killed along with 132 Turkish soldiers.

An upper level ridge brought record high temperatures from parts of the Rockies to the Pacific Northwest. Miles City, MT soared to 72°, a record high for January and their 8th straight day warmer than 50°. This is their longest such streak in January.

Other January record highs were set at: Havre, MT: 68 and Great Falls, MT: 67-Tied.

Locations that reported daily record highs included: Rapid City, SD: 68°, Billings, MT: 67°, Sheridan, WY: 66°, Helena, MT: 62°, Boise, ID: 61°, Salem, OR: 61°-Tied, Portland, OR: 58°-Tied, Ely, NV: 57°, Pocatello, ID: 56° and Glasgow, MT: 53°.


It was the coldest month ever in Caribou, ME with an average temperature of -0.7°, breaking the old record of 1.3° set in 1857.


Several California locations reported their wettest January ever. All-time monthly rain records included Gibraltar Reservoir with 34.80 inches, Santa Barbara at 21.9 inches, Red Bluff with 20.9 inches and Santa Maria with 11.8 inches.

Fresno, CA recorded 0.01 of an inch of precipitation. This marked their 21st day of the month of measurable precipitation, a record for any month of the year.


Marquette, MI measured 91.7 inches of snow for the month, the city's greatest monthly snowfall on record.


High pressure across Quebec provided the cold air while an approaching warm front brought 3 to 5 inches of snow during the overnight the previous day then turned to freezing rain during the morning hours on this date across parts of western New York. Ice accumulations of one-half to three-quarters inch occurred. Hundreds of thousands were left without power as the heavy ice build-up downed trees and power lines. Some areas were without power for up to 72 hours. Winds picked up and gusted to 55 mph. Trees and tree limbs fell blocking roads and damaging homes and automobiles. Tree damage included large and small limb breakage and bark damage as well as the uprooting of trees. States of Emergency were declared across the Niagara Frontier counties. East of Lake Ontario snowfall amounts of 6 to 8 inches were followed by one-quarter to one-half inch of ice.

South of the warm front and ahead of the cold front many locations from the Ohio Valley to the Deep South reported record warmth. Locations that tied or broke January record high temperatures included: Tampa, FL: 86°-Tied, Jackson, MS: 83°-Tied, Memphis, TN: 79°-Tied and Jackson, KY: 78° (broke previous daily record by 14 degrees).

Locations that reported daily record highs for the date included: Corpus Christi, TX: 85°, Baton Rouge, LA: 84°, Augusta, GA: 82°, Lake Charles, LA: 80°-Tied, Atlanta, GA: 78°, Columbus, GA: 78°, Charleston, WV: 78°, Huntington, WV: 78°, Tupelo, MS: 77°, Huntsville, AL: 76°, Bristol, TN: 76°, Elkins, WV: 76°, Knoxville, TN: 75°, Chattanooga, TN: 73°, Nashville, TN: 73°, Oak Ridge, TN: 73°, Beckley, WY: 73°, Pittsburgh, PA: 72°, Lexington, KY: 71°, Paducah, KY: 67°-Tied, Columbus, OH: 66°, Akron, OH: 62°, Mansfield, OH: 61° and Youngstown, OH: 61°.

A trough across the west brought unsettled conditions with a few record low temperatures across parts of California including: Shelter Valley, CA: 13°, Campo, CA: 17°, Ramona, CA: 22°, Santa Maria, CA: 26°, Redding, CA: 26°-Tied, Escondido, CA: 28° and Long Beach, CA: 34°. Crops were damaged in northern San Diego County.

Astronomers were treated to a show as two major storms on Jupiter were interacting. One of the storms was a gigantic "white oval" the size of the Earth and over 70 years old. The other storm was the Great Red Spot, a centuries old storm twice as large as Earth.


Upper level high pressure off the California coast and surface high pressure across the Great Basin combined to bring a very warm offshore flow and record heat from parts of the Rockies to the West Coast. Riverside, CA soared to a January record high of 97°, one degree shy of the all-time U.S. January record. Other record highs for January included:

Santa Ana, CA: 96°, Thermal, CA: 94°, Long Beach, CA: 93°, Escondido, CA: 92°, Los Angeles (LAX), CA: 91, Needles, CA: 85, on top of Mount Wilson, CA: 77°, Reno, NV: 71° and Elko, NV: 65°.

Locations that reported daily record highs included: Downtown Los Angeles, CA: 91°, Yuma, AZ: 87°, Phoenix, AZ: 86°, Santa Maria, CA: 85°, Tucson, AZ: 84°, San Diego, CA: 83°, Las Vegas, NV: 75°, Winnemucca, NV: 67°, Ely, NV: 63°, Salt Lake City, UT: 63° and Pocatello, ID: 60°.

The month ended with a trace or more of snow falling on 17 days at Philadelphia, PA, setting a new monthly record. The old record was 16 days in 1948.


A four day snow-squall siege came to an end off of Lake Ontario, burying sections of Oswego County, New York with as much as 7 feet of snow. Some specific totals included 86 inches at Parish, 67 inches at Minetto, and 57 inches at Redfield.

Recent heavy snows set records at Glasgow, MT. The 32.2 inches for the past month set a new snowfall record for January, and the seasonal snowfall total of 61.1 inches, broke the previous seasonal snowfall record of 60.9 inches set in 1951-52.

11 months of severe drought forced Koala Bears in parts of Australia to abandon their young and enter residential areas in search of water. One of the worst droughts in the last century set off massive brushfires and caused problems for agriculture. Over 87% of New South Wales was affected by the severe drought and over 70% of the nation suffered a severe rainfall shortage.


Temperatures at Bismarck, ND, remain above 0° for the entire month, a mild period not seen since 1875.

Vancouver, British Columbia Canada suffered through their 29th day of rain during the month, all but continuous since December 19th, 2005 breaking the record for the wettest month by two days.


A strong westerly flow regenerated the lake effect snow machine off both Lakes Erie and Ontario. The activity was very intense off Lake Ontario, focusing near the Oswego-Jefferson County line and extending right across the Tug Hill. Snow fell at 2 to 4 inches per hour and piled up to 1 to 3 feet on the southwestern portion of the plateau. The activity broke up a bit and lifted north during the evening. Off Lake Erie, a broader area of disorganized lake snow prevailed through most of the morning before it consolidated into an intense west to east band over Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties by midday. This band lifted north across Buffalo's south towns by late afternoon, but dissipated right as it reached Buffalo due to increasing southerly shear. The movement of the band precluded heavy accumulations with most areas only seeing heavy snow for an hour or two, with totals generally 4 to 6 inches with a few outliers of up to 8 inches on the Chautauqua ridge and over to Ellicottville. Off Lake Ontario, specific snowfall reports included: 35 inches at Redfield, 16 inches at Mannsville, 15 inches as North Osceola, 13 inches as Hooker and 12 inches at Highmarket.


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