From January to December, here’s a look at the Top 10 U.S. Weather Headlines for 2014 in chronological order:
1. Arctic Chill Grips Half of U.S.: In January, record-breaking cold Arctic outbreaks swooped across the U.S. east of the Rockies. Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia all had among the coldest Januarys on record. The cold weather helped push the Great Lakes’ ice coverage to 92.2 percent by March 6 — the most since 1979.
[The words “polar vortex” became a thing.]
2. Winter Storm Paralyzes East: In February, a powerful Nor’easter swept up the East Coast before Valentine’s Day. One to 3 feet of snow covered the Mid-Atlantic to eastern New England. Farther south, ice coated roads from central Alabama to eastern North Carolina. At least nine people died across the Atlanta area and more than 70 percent of flights were canceled in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, N.C.
3. Spring Snow Wallops Upper Midwest: In April, two snow storms within two weeks helped the Twin Cities and Duluth, Minn., enter the record books. On April 3-4, a storm dumped 6.5 inches on the Twin Cities, while other areas got more than a foot. Less than two weeks later, a second storm brought more than 6 inches of snow to Duluth – bringing the city’s total to 125.3 inches for the season and making it the fifth snowiest season on record.
4. Slow but Fierce Tornado Season: On April 25, nine tornadoes hit eastern North Carolina. A baby died and more than 300 homes were damaged or destroyed. A rash of tornadoes two days later from the Mid-South to the Plains and Upper Midwest killed 22. On April 27, the deadliest tornado of 2014 tore through Mayflower and Vilonia, Ark., causing 16 of these deaths. Rare twin tornadoes hit Pilger, Neb., June 16, leveling much of the town and killing two.
5. Hurricane Arthur Clips East Coast: As the July 4th holiday weekend approached, Hurricane Arthur became the earliest known land-falling hurricane to hit North Carolina. Its peak wind gust hit 101 mph at Cape Lookout as Arthur made landfall as a Category 2 storm on July 3. Arthur accelerated on July 4, dampening Independence Day festivities across the Northeast. Total damage from the Bahamas to Nova Scotia was estimated at more than $50 million.
6. Wildfires Gut Western U.S.: Spurred by prolonged drought and Santa Ana winds, wildfires burned more than 3.5-million acres, causing $640 million in damages. In northern California, the Happy Camp Complex fire burned more than 134,000 acres. Washington’s Carlton Complex Fire burned more than 250,000 acres, becoming the largest in the state’s history. Oregon’s Buzzard Complex Fire was the largest in 2014, burning almost 400,000 acres.
7. Relentless Drought Plagues California: A relentless three-year long drought continued to plague California. In the wake of the driest-ever year in 2013, 2014 (through November) ranks as the state’s twenty-third driest year in 119 years. As of December 17, California’s major reservoirs held just 57 percent of their average storage and 78 percent of California is in an “extreme” drought.
8. Tropical Systems Soak Southwest: In early September, the sixth major hurricane of the eastern Pacific season pumped record rain into the Southwest. The storm washed out a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 15 north of Las Vegas. On September 8, a record-setting 3.30 inches of rain fell in Phoenix. The next day, Yuma, Ariz., got 1.44 inches, breaking the daily record. Overall, Phoenix got 5.11 inches — its second wettest September on record.
9. Lake-Effect Snow Buries Buffalo: Two weeks before Thanksgiving, snow fell at an astonishing 4 inches per hour on the eastern Great Lakes and the Buffalo, N.Y. area, which received total snowfall up to 6 feet. Snow shut down a swath of Interstate 90 and the New York State Thruway. A second system brought 1-2 feet of additional snow. The lake-effect snow forced the typically weather-resistant NFL to reschedule the Buffalo Bills’ home game from November 23 to the following night in Detroit.
10. Much-Needed Rain for California: On the Way: Mired in a multi-year drought, many Californians recently saw a glimmer of hope. A series of Pacific storms dumped more than a foot of rain across the state in December. Whiskeytown measured an astonishing 14.48 inches, while Lakeshore Shasta County, Hawkeye, and Boggs Mountain each soared past 10 inches in under 72 hours. San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Rosa, Calif., all boasted records on December 11.
The top 10 weather events of 2014 were chosen based on the impact they had in each part of the U.S., said WeatherBug Meteorologist Chad Merrill.
“There was no single, outstanding storm — like a Hurricane Sandy or Katrina — that gripped the nation. Despite that, a plethora of events unfolded, starting with the major cold outbreak that kicked off the year in the Central and Eastern U.S. to drought, wildfires and flooding that plagued the West,” Merrill said.
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