The beginning of December, Somalia's central region of Mudug was entrenched in a severe drought. According to a local elder, there were very little Gu rains (long rains from April-June) and a total failure of the Deyr rains (October-December)in 2010. At least 5,000 families were affected in the region about 435 miles (700 km) north of Mogadishu. The hardest-hit areas were those bordering northeastern Kenya and southeastern Ethiopia, including settlements in Towfiq, Eil Dhanane, Dhinowda, and Afbarwaqo areas.
A forest fire (thought to be the largest in Israel's history) broke out in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa in the northern part of the country on December 2nd. Fueled by high winds and dry conditions, at least 41 people were killed after a bus burst into flames and 17,000 were evacuated as the fire destroyed more than 12,300 acres (5,000 hectares) of land, including an estimated five million trees and 74 buildings. The fire was declared to be "under control" on December 5th, after 24 aircraft, including the world's largest firefighting aircraftâ (a Boeing
747 Evergreen SuperTanker) were brought in to help battle the blaze.
A week of copious rainfall brought flooding to the Balkans during the first week in December. More than 12,000 people were evacuated in northern Albania and 35,000 acres (14,000 hectares) of farmland was destroyed. Locally, the River Drina rose to its highest level in more than a century. Authorities were forced to open emergency dam gates and release the water into the Shkodra lake, which, along with the rainfall, caused the flooding. Streets in the town of Shkodra were inundated with six and a half feet (two meters) of water. The only ways into or out of town were by boat or helicoptor. Bosnia, Serbia, and Montenegro declared a state of emergency the River Drina runs along the borders of all three countries. In northern Bosnia, heavy rains triggered a landslide in the city of Tuzla that killed three people. In southern Croatia, the River Neretva reached its highest level in 50 years, flooding 700 homes in the town of Metkovic.
Weeks of torrential rainfall in Central America heavily impacted Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama. The heavy rains caused flooding and landslides that killed at least 34 people in Venezuela and caused more than 100,000 to flee their homes. The country's Caribbean coast was particularly hard hit. In Colombia, a landslide on December 5^th killed at least 47 people and left an estimated 80 others missing in the city of Medellin in Antioquia province. The landslide was a product of Colombia's heaviest rains since record keeping began in 1969. Heavy rainfall and flooding in Panama killed 10 people and damaged over 2,500 homes. The downpours forced the Panama Canal to close on December 8th and 9th, the first time the canal closed due to weather conditions since its opening in 1914. The rainy season was particularly severe this year. The extreme conditions were attributed to the La Nina.
The "Pineapple Express" meteorological event where southwest winds bring warm, moist air to the U.S. West Coast produced record rainfall to the Pacific Northwest during December 11thh-12th. Seattle experienced record rainfall two days in a row. The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport recorded 1.42 inches (36 mm) of rain on the 11th, breaking the old daily record of 1.32 inches (34 mm) set in 1955. The next day, 2.19 inches (56 mm) fell, breaking the daily record of 1.70 inches (43 mm) set in 1966. The Stillaguamish River in western Washington state reached 21.06 feet (6.42 meters) at Arlington, tying the record set in November 2006. Flood stage for the river is 14 feet (4.3 meters). The storm system also brought record warmth to the area. On December 14th, the temperature at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport reached 57F (13.9C), breaking the old daily record of 5F (12.8C) set in 2004.
More storms “courtesy of the Pineapple Express” inundated California with rain, snow, and high winds on December 17th-22nd. Los Angeles International Airport (among several other locations) broke its daily precipitation record on both the 19th (2.23 inches [57 mm], surpassing the old record of 1.62 inches [41 mm] set in 1984) and the 20th (0.98 inches [25 mm], surpassing the previous record of 0.7 inches [18 mm] set in 1952). In addition to breaking its daily precipitation record of 2.80 inches (71 mm) on the 19^th , besting the old record of 2.12 inches (54mm) set in 1921, downtown Los Angeles recorded a total of 6.72 inches
(171 mm) of rain during from the 17th through 4:45 AM PST on the 22nd, equivalent to more than one-third of its annual average precipitation.
More than 21 inches (530 mm) of rain was reported at Tanbark in Los
Angeles County and many surrounding areas had more than 12 inches (300
mm) of rain. As of December 20th, up to 13.5 feet (4 meters) of snow
was reported at Mammoth Mountain ski resort, becoming the snowiest December on record at the resort since 1969. Nearly 21,000 customers lost power in Southern California on the 20th. As of this report update, more immediate rainfall was expected in the region.
A strong storm system tore across the northeastern U.S. at the beginning of December. The storm, which spawned 11 tornadoes in the southeastern U.S. states of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina on November 30th, according to preliminary data from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, barreled toward the Northeast. On December 1st, wind gusts as high as 70 mph (113 km/hr) toppled trees and caused tens of thousands of customers to lose power in the mid-Atlantic region, New York, Vermont, and
Connecticut. At least three people were killed.
A winter storm swept across parts of the Southeast U.S. on December
15th, bringing a mixed bag of snow, sleet, and freezing rain, making for treacherous travel conditions. At least eight people were killed in Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina in weather-related traffic fatalities. Schools were forced to close and thousands of residents lost power in North Carolina and Virginia. The winter storm also impacted Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Deleware, Maryland, and Washington D.C.
A large snow storm and frigid temperatures affected much of the Midwest United States on December 10th-13th. The storm brought 17.1 inches (43.1 cm) of snow to the Minneapolis/St. Paul region on the 10th-11th. According to the Minnesota State Climatology Office, this was the largest December snow storm for the area on record, the largest since 1991, and the fifth largest since records began in 1891. The snow proved to be too much for the Minneapolis Metrodome's inflatable roof; it collapsed under the heavy weight of the frozen precipitation on the 12th. Eau Claire, Wisconsin received 22.0 inches (55.9 cm) of snow on the 11th, its highest single calendar day snowfall total in history. In the U.S., the storm also wreaked havoc across Indiana and Michigan. At least 16 people were killed in weather-related accidents. The storm moved east into southern
Ontario, Canada, where two days of blizzard conditions stranded hundreds of vehicles on highways and secondary roads. One of the motorists reportedly died of hypothermia.
After weeks of heavy rainfall, Australia's attorney general declared 45 communities in eastern Australia disaster areas on December 9th. Four people were killed and thousands were forced to evacuate their homes as rivers overflowed their banks and caused major flooding. The worst weather, however, was reported to be in South Australia, where Adelaide had its wettest December day on record on the 7th. Almost two weeks later, on the 20th , 9.65 inches (245 mm) of rain fell over Carnarvon, a town located about 560 miles (900 km) north of Perth in Western Australia. Local media reported that the area experienced its worst flooding in 50 years. The Gascoyne River reached its highest levels ever recorded, breaking the previous record set in 1960.
A powerful cyclone brought torrential rains and strong winds to the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East on December 11th-12th. At least five people were killed, shipping was disrupted in the Suez Canal, and a Moldovan cargo ship sank off the coast of Israel. Fortunately, the vessel's crew were rescued by a nearby Taiwanese ship. Waves up to 33 feet (10 meters) high were reported along the coast in Lebanon. In Israel, the winds knocked out power to hundreds of people and downed trees. Major highways in Jordan were closed as 55 mph (90 km/hr) winds kicked up sand, severly limiting visibility. On a positive note, the storm ended a lengthy drought in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel.
Cold Arctic air gripped western Europe during most of the first three weeks of December. Two major snowstorms, icy conditions, and frigid temperatures wreaked havoc across much of the region. Over the course of the period, airports in the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland were forced to cancel or delay thousands of flights, stranding tens of thousands of passengers. Further, railways and bus services were disrupted, stranding thousands more, and thousands of schools were closed. The first storm that occurred at the beginning of the month was reported to be Britain's heaviest and most widespread snow since 1993. Denmark mobilized its army to assist emergency vehicles in the southeastern portion of the country. On the 3rd, severe frost left
150,000 people without heat in the southern Polish city of Czestochowa.
Paris (a city that typically sees rain) received 4 inches (10 cm) of snow on December 8th. Bus services were halted and the Eiffel Tower was closed for a day. That same day, Scotland saw its heaviest snowfall since 1963 and subsequently called on its army to help clear snow and ice. Thirty inches (75 cm) of snow fell in parts of the capital city of Edinburgh. Another round of heavy snow fell across Europe on the 1th-18th, forcing thousands more flight cancellations. According to its website, Heathrow Airport in London (the world's busiest international airport) was forced to close on the 18^th as five inches of snow reportedly fell in one hour. Train and bus cancellations and delays in the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands compounded woes for holiday travelers. Italy's island of Capri recorded its first snowfall in 25 years. Snow and icy conditions along with cold temperatures continued to wreak havoc across northern Europe on the 19th-20th as thousands more flights were cancelled, rail services were disrupted, and schools were closed. Media reports said that Northern Ireland was experiencing its worst weather in 25 years. On the 18th, the temperature dropped to -18C at Castlederg, County Tyrone, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Northern Ireland. The previous record low was -17.5C, set on January 1st, 1979 in Magherally. Within the past month, 114 people have died in Poland due to
the frigid temperatures and dozens of others were killed in weather-related accidents across Europe, according to multiple media reports. The harsh winter weather was attributed to a negative Arctic Oscillation, which is a climate pattern that influences weather in the Northern Hemisphere. A very persistent, strong ridge of high pressure, or 'blocking system', near Greenland allowed cold Arctic air to slide south into Europe.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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