Christmas weather records

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Tuesday is Christmas Day and there’s a good chance we’ll have a fourth year in a row with snow on the ground in North Idaho. As I mentioned last week, according to Cliff’s records, there has never been a white Christmas in Coeur d’Alene for five consecutive years. Based upon the warming of sea-surface temperatures in the south-central Pacific Ocean, it certainly looks like this could be the case for the Christmas of 2019.

Since we’re in this pattern of wide weather “extremes,” I decided to look for previous cases of wild weather on Christmas Day across the U.S. On Dec. 25, there has been snow reported in some of the warmest parts of the country. Frigid air masses sent temperatures well below zero in the northern regions. Even severe conditions were seen in the southern U.S.

Looking back at Christmases past, the snowiest Christmas Day in Cd’A occurred back in 1923 when 4.8 inches fell. In terms of precipitation, rain and melted snow, 0.78 inches was measured in 1996. The coldest Dec. 25 happened in 1924 with a low of minus 4 degrees. The mildest Christmas in Coeur d’Alene happened in 1980 with a high of 52 degrees. Last year, we had 2.9 inches of snow on Christmas and the snow depth was over 5 inches. December’s snow total for 2017 was a whopping 32.9 inches.

Across the U.S., many areas have seen a wide variety of weather on Christmas Day. But frigid has been frequent in the Northeast. Readings dipped to below the zero mark in New York. Buffalo dropped to 10 degrees below zero on Dec. 25, 1980 and New York City went down to minus 1 degrees.

In the South, record cold was felt in 1983 as Atlanta, went to 0 degrees on that Christmas Day. The high that afternoon was only 17 degrees. That year also had many cold temperatures records in the Midwest. Low temperatures ranged from 35 degrees below zero in Bismarck, N.D., to minus 10 degrees in Detroit, Mich.

According to the National Climatic Data Center, on Dec. 25, 2010, blizzard conditions swept across the eastern U.S. from North Carolina to Maine. Up to 32 inches of snow fell across some of these areas. New York City piled up over 2 feet of snow, 24.5 inches, which shut down all major forms of transportation.

When we think of places that receive a white Christmas, they are usually in the northern portions of the country. But in 2004, 4.4 inches of snow fell in Corpus Christi, Texas, which was their second white Christmas in history. In 1988, Las Vegas reported snow on the ground for the first time in history. Even in warm Arizona, there were reports of snow on the ground on Christmas Day. This happened in 1987 when residents in Tucson were surprised to see up to 4 inches of new snow.

Data from the National Weather Service says the storm on Dec. 25, 1987 that brought snow to Arizona also produced heavy rain and an inch of ice in Arkansas. Freezing rain fell from northwestern Texas to southwestern Missouri. Record warmth was reported across the southeastern U.S. on that date. The mercury went over the 90-degree mark as McAllen, Texas, hit 91 degrees. Some of the warmest weather on Christmas Day was in the southwestern portion of the country. Phoenix, Ariz., went to 78 degrees in 1980. However, Los Angeles was warmer with a high of 85 degrees on that date.

By the way, the coldest temperature on Christmas Day was in Fairbanks, Alaska, with a low temperature of minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest I could find was in Honolulu, Hawaii, as the mercury hit 86 degrees in 1995.

It was not a good Christmas for residents in southern California in 2003. El Nino-enhanced heavy rainfall led to widespread flash floods that resulted in numerous mudslides. Many of those areas were recently hit with wildfires in October.

Severe thunderstorms with tornadoes are not very common in December. But, in 2006, a strong storm produced four tornadoes in Florida. Considerable damage was reported near the Daytona Beach area.

In terms of our local weather, more snow showers are expected across the Inland Northwest this week. As we enter 2019, Cliff and I see more rain than snow falling across the region. We see a storm right after New Year’s Day that should produce mostly rain and high snow levels in the Northwest.

January looks to be wetter and milder than normal, especially for the first half of the month. Then, conditions should turn a little drier in February and March as most of the moisture is expected to go south of our region. It’s still possible that we could see close to 50 inches of snow for the 2018-19 season in Coeur d’Alene, but, thanks to the warmer ocean temperatures, as Cliff often says during this time, “We’re going to have to work for the snow.”

Have a Merry Christmas! Randy Mann and Cliff Harris.

•••

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com

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