Monday, December 26, 2011

Top Ten Stories of 2011

2011 may have outdone 2010 in terms of extreme events and in terms of headlines.   While it did not produce the epic dumping of snow that three storms last year produced, the year certainly made up for things with record rains, record heat, and a thundersnowstorm that was the big snow for many in the region during the prior winter.  Over sixty inches of rain fell, temperatures hit 100 again this year, and January was the third snowiest on record in Philadelphia.  So many stories, so little time it seems as we're already just days away from turning the calendar to 2012.

That all said, here are our thoughts on the ten biggest weather stories of 2011, in chronological order.

1) Thundersnow!   January 26th brought us a 15.1" dumping of snow in two waves -- the early morning wave that brought a snarled morning commute, followed by the evening dumping of snow, accompanied by thunder and lightning in one of the more impressive thumpings of snow the Delaware Valley has seen, even putting the 2010 snowstorms in for comparison's sake.

2) Just a week after Thundersnow, the Delaware Valley was encased in an icy Groundhog Day grip where over 100,000 lost power at the height of the storm.  While the city fared relatively well thanks to temperatures just above freezing, the suburbs were not so lucky and the result was a slip-and-slide commute for many.

3) April Fools' Snow.  For the first time since 1997, it snowed on April Fools' Day in Philadelphia.  While it was just a trace, some spots north/west of the city picked up a coating to two inches of snow.   It closed out a pretty cold and snowy winter for the region, one that brought another pair of one foot snowstorms to the Delaware Valley for the second straight year.

4) We've been told to beware the Ides of March...this year, the Ides of April brought three inches of rain to Philadelphia and mudslides that closed portions of the Schuylkill Expressway.   This storm was a rainy precursor to what we had to deal with later on this year.

5) Heat, heat, and more heat.   June started an eight week run of rather hot temperatures with back-to-back record highs on June 8th and 9th, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees on the 9th in the city and hitting a record high (and earliest 100 in the season) of 102 in Atlantic City on that date.  

6) While 2011 did not have as many 90 degree days as 2010 ("just" 33 this year, compared to 55 last year), we had back-to-back 100 degree days again this year.  Unlike last year, the first of the 100 degree days featured a heat index that rivaled those we saw in July 1995.  The worst of the heat index values was at 118 degrees, just a few degrees shy of the record for the region.  21 died in the late July heat wave in the Delaware Valley and Berks County.

7) Flip of the Switch.   We went from near drought conditions in June and July to soggy in August...and this was before the arrival of Irene and Lee.  The pattern slowly shifted in July with a severe weather event a few days after the 4th but it took until August for much of the region to get in on the change from dry to wet.

8) Irene.  While not officially a hurricane, Irene brought us a Floyd-like impact on scale and in terms of sogginess.  Irene helped push the Delaware Valley to record rainfall in August, with nineteen inches of rain falling just in the month of August in Philadelphia, nearly six of which came from the storm.  Irene brought wind gusts to near hurricane force in the Delaware Bay and to over 50 miles per hour in the city.

9) Lee's remnants.  Arguably not as big a story at the Shore than it was along and west of I-95, but the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee brought floods to much of Central and Eastern Pennsylvania, as well as more epic rainfall that pushed Philadelphia to over ten inches of rain in the month of September.   Harrisburg picked up nearly fifteen inches of rain from Lee's remnants, with the Susquehanna River reaching record flood stage in many spots.

10) Snowtober.  Power outages to hundreds of thousands in the Lehigh Valley and in Northern New Jersey, a sloppy rain and snow mess in the city itself, and just a downright plastering of wet concrete from the sky in the Poconos and higher elevations to our north and west.  The city picked up "just" 0.3" from the storm but higher elevations received quite a bit more.

Feel free to vote on your choice -- the poll is on the left-hand column of the site!