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1st-8th…Rain fell across the West coast. By the time precipitation finally ended in northern California around mid-week, late-November and early-December rainfall totals topped 20 inches in locations such as Honeydew (Humboldt County) and Brandy Creek (Shasta County). On December 2, daily-record rainfall totals in California included 1.23 inches in Stockton and 1.18 inches in Alturas. November 28 - December 5 multi-storm totals in those two locations reached 3.58 inches in Stockton and 1.89 inches in Alturas. During the same 8-day period, totals in northwestern California reached 9.80 inches in Crescent City and 9.27 inches in Ukiah. Farther inland, 1.82 inches of precipitation fell in Stanley, ID, during the first 5 days of the month, aided by daily-record totals on December 2 and 5 (0.89 and 0.47 inch, respectively). Toward week’s end, heavy rain erupted in the Ohio Valley, while snow overspread northern portions of the Rockies and Plains. On December 7, Louisville, KY, netted a daily-record precipitation total of 1.80 inches. Farther west,
Missoula, MT (7.7 inches on December 7), experienced its earliest 7-inch, calendar-day snowfall on record, previously set with a 9.5-inch total on December 16, 1955. Elsewhere in Montana, Great Falls (5.7 inches on December 8) received a daily-record snowfall. In South Dakota, Huron received a daily-record snowfall (6.5 inches) on December 8 en route to a 3-day (December 7-9) storm total of 9.9 inches. With most of the upper Midwestern snow falling on December 9, the remainder of this event will be covered in next week’s summary. For Midwestern areas not affected by the snow storm, near record to record-setting streaks without measurable snow continued. For example, Chicago, IL, reported its 280th consecutive day (March 5 - December 9) without measurable snow, tying a record originally set from March 1 - December 5, 1994.
Widespread precipitation fell across southern Alaska. During the first 8 days of December, precipitation in Juneau totaled 0.95 inch—in the form of 18.1 inches of snow. Farther south, dry weather covered Hawaii, except for some brief downpours on the western islands. Some of the heaviest rain fell across Kauai on December 4, when Lihue netted 2.85 inches. Lihue’s weekly rainfall reached 3.62 inches. In contrast, no measurable rain fell during the first 8 days of December in Kahului, Maui.
9th-15th…An active weather pattern led to widespread precipitation and limited drought relief in several regions, including the central and southern Plains, Midwest, Southeast, and Southwest. Some of the heaviest rain, locally 2 to 4 inches, fell early in the week across the interior Southeast. Parts of Florida’s peninsula also received substantial rainfall, slowing fieldwork but reducing irrigation demands for citrus and winter crops. Farther north, widespread precipitation fell across the Midwest early in the week and again at week’s end. The first round of precipitation included heavy snow (locally more than a foot) in the upper Midwest, while the majority of the latter event fell as rain.
Early in the week, the first significant snow storm of the season blanketed the upper Midwest. December 9-10 snowfall totals ranged from 10 to 16 inches in several locations, including Eau Claire, WI (14.7 inches), and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN (10.6 inches). Snow started earlier on the northern Plains, where December 7-10 amounts in South Dakota reached 10.8 inches in Aberdeen and 9.9 inches in Huron. The vast majority of the upper Midwestern snow fell on December 9, when daily-record totals included 12.5 inches in Eau Claire and 10.5 inches in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Meanwhile, heavy rain and locally severe thunderstorms swept across the South. Record-setting rainfall amounts for December 9 reached 1.85 inches in College Station, TX; 1.83 inches in Hot Springs, AR; and 1.49 inches in Jackson, KY. The following day, record-setting totals for December 10 climbed to 3.56 inches in Gainesville, FL, and 2.65 inches in Vicksburg, MS. By mid-week, a second round of rain overspread the lower Southeast, where Melbourne, FL (0.91 inch on
December 12) received a daily-record amount. During the second half of the week, heavy precipitation developed in the Southwest. San Diego, CA (1.56 inches), collected a record-setting rainfall total for December 13. In Nevada, Las Vegas netted consecutive daily record amounts on December 13-14, totaling 0.49 inch. On December 13, Las Vegas experienced its 25th day with thunder in 2012, just a day shy of its all-time record (26 days in 1938). Elsewhere, record-setting snowfall totals for December 14 included 3.0 inches in Alamosa, CO, and 2.8 inches in Ely, NV. Flagstaff, AZ, was buried by 20.3 inches of snow on December 14-15, including a daily-record total of 11.7 inches on the latter date.
Stormy weather across roughly the southern half of Alaska contrasted with increasingly frigid conditions across northern parts of the state. Weekly snowfall totaled 28.9 inches in Valdez, aided by a daily-record amount of 13.8 inches on December 9. Other Alaskan daily-record snowfall amounts included 8.6 inches (on December 12) in Anchorage and 4.8 inches (on December 11) in Bethel. Fairbanks collected 18.2 inches of snow from December 9-14, but also reported a 73-degree temperature plunge—from 31F on the morning of December 13 to -42°F during the evening of December 15. Elsewhere on the 15th, Bettles (-50F) posted a daily-record low.
16th-22nd…The major winter storm system of the West began to move from the Rockies into the Plains on Wednesday with significant snow and strong winds. Heavy snow showers continued to blanket parts of eastern Colorado as the system trekked eastward across the state during the morning, while a mix of rain and heavy snow with strong winds developed ahead of an associated cold front extending from the low southwestward through New Mexico. Snow accumulations of up to 10 inches were anticipated across the Central and Southern Rockies, while up to 20 inches were possible in the eastern Sawatch Range above 9,000 feet, the western Mosquito Ranges above 11,000 feet, and the eastern San Juan and La Garita mountains above 10,000 feet. As the cold front progressed eastward, blizzard conditions became likely across northeastern Colorado and northwestern Kansas with snow accumulations of 2 to 6 inches possible through the afternoon along with northerly winds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts to 40 to 55 mph. These conditions created periods of wind driven snow and caused visibilities reduced down to below one-quarter of a mile at times. Meanwhile, the fast moving cold front also continued the threat for high south to southwest winds of 35 to 45 mph with gusts near 70 mph and widespread blowing dust across the Southern High Plains into the Rolling Plains and Panhandle of Texas. This translated into reduced visibilities of one quarter mile or less at times with possible downed power lines and power outages. As this storm headed off to the east this afternoon, cold northwest winds filling in behind this system allowed snow showers to continue across western Colorado, where snow totals from this storm have already reached up to 21 inches in various locations. As of this afternoon, some of the highest snow totals from this storm were reported near Oak Creek, CO with 21.0 inches of snow, Craig, CO with 19.0 inches, and Yampa, CO with 18.5 inches. Meanwhile, another shot of wintry weather hit the Pacific Northwest this morning as yet another Pacific storm approached the Pacific Northwest coast with strong winds and plenty of moisture. Snow amounts of 3 to 6 inches were expected in the coastal mountain ranges withe wind gusts of 50 to 65 mph sweeping across coastal areas. Snow amounts in the inland lowlands were expected to range between 1 to 3 inch by this evening, while 10 to 18 inches were possible in the Cascades. Finally in the East, snow showers continued across Maine today as a low pressure system became positioned off the Northeast coast.
23rd-31st…A storm that has dumped more than a foot of snow in the Rocky Mountains was causing problems for travelers as it spread across the Plains on Wednesday. The main east-west route across Colorado, Interstate 70, was closed from east of Denver to the Kansas line because of poor visibility due to blowing snow. Smaller highways were also closed in eastern Colorado. Drivers in Iowa and Nebraska are being warned to be careful or stop driving altogether starting Wednesday evening as the Plains gets its first major winter storm of the season. The snow moved out of Denver by midday Wednesday. At the height of the storm, Denver's airport, the nation's fifth-busiest, reported delays averaging 30 minutes because of snow and ice, but operations have since returned to normal. The snow is a gift for ski resorts in Colorado, Utah and Arizona right before the busy holiday week. The snow might also tempt backcountry skiers, but it prompted some avalanche warnings in Colorado and Utah. The moisture is also a relief after an extended wildfire season in Colorado. Drought conditions persist especially in the mainly agricultural eastern half of the state. Farmer Fred Midcap welcomed the snow even though 25 mph winds were blowing some of it away from his land near Hudson in northeastern Colorado. In Arizona, two recent storms had combined to blanket the mountains north of Flagstaff with 2 feet of snow, and about 20 inches in Flagstaff and along the Mogollon Rim.
23rd-31st…Active weather continued in the West, as well as the South, East, and lower Midwest. However, significant storminess bypassed the nation’s mid-section, including the drought-stricken hard red winter wheat belt. A rapid-fire series of three storms delivered wintry precipitation from the mid-South into the Northeast. The strongest winter storm, the middle of the three weather systems, resulted in significant travel disruptions from December 25-27. Of particular note were historic, Christmas Day snow accumulations across the mid-South and a severe weather outbreak on the same date that spawned several dozen tornadoes from eastern Texas to Alabama. Elsewhere, drought-easing rainfall soaked much of the Southeast, although Florida’s peninsula remained mostly dry. Farther west, patchy, light precipitation on the Plains provided a few areas with beneficial moisture. However, the precipitation had little effect on the region’s long-running drought. Elsewhere, cold but generally unsettled weather prevailed in the West. The heaviest precipitation fell across the northern Intermountain West and the Pacific Coast States. In addition to the cold weather in the West, some of the coldest air of the season across the Plains. Multiple storms maintained unsettled conditions across a broad swath of the nation. Early in the week, snow developed across the Intermountain West and spread onto the northern High Plains. Record-setting snowfall totals for December 24 included 4.4 inches in Ely, NV, and 4.0 inches in Havre, MT. Elsewhere in Montana, Billings (3.4 inches) not only measured a record-setting total for Christmas Eve, but also experienced its first measurable snowfall on December 24 since 1996. The following day, a record-setting snow storm developed across the Mid-South. In Little Rock, AR, the December 25 total of 9.0 inches easily surpassed its Christmas Day record of 4.2 inches, established in 1926. Light snow also dusted the southern Plains, where record breaking December 25 totals in Texas included 2.5 inches in Wichita Falls and 1.0 inch in Dalhart. Meanwhile, severe thunderstorms ripped across the Deep South, while wintry precipitation spread from the Ohio Valley into the Northeast. Preliminary reports indicated that there were more than 50 tornadoes on December 25 in the Gulf Coast States, including an EF-3 twister (estimated winds near 140 mph) with a 61-mile path length through five counties in southern Mississippi. A day later, daily-record snowfall totals for December 26 reached 8.5 inches in Rochester, NY; 7.7 inches in Evansville, IN; 7.0 inches in Dayton, OH; and 4.6 inches in Paducah, KY. Closer to the Atlantic Seaboard, record-setting precipitation totals for December 26 included 2.60 inches in Atlantic City, NJ, and 1.83 inches in Wilmington, NC. In northern New England, heavy snow continued through December 27, when daily record totals in Maine reached 11.6 inches in Portland and 6.2 inches in Caribou. By week’s end, the multi-storm (December 24-30) combination resulted in more than 20 inches of snow in several Northeastern locations, including Burlington, VT (26.0 inches), and Syracuse, NY (20.9 inches). During the same period, more than 10 inches blanketed parts of the Ohio Valley, including Columbus, OH (10.8 inches), and Pittsburgh, PA (10.2 inches). Both Columbus (5.9 inches) and Pittsburgh (4.4 inches) received daily-record snowfall totals for December 29. High winds accompanied and trailed the Eastern storms; for example, Nantucket, MA, clocked wind gusts to 61 mph on December 27 and 58 mph on December 29. Snow fell during the second half of the week; up to 2 feet fell in Utah’s Wasatch Range from December 26-28, with 23 inches reported in Alta and 6.2 inches noted in the valley at Salt Lake City. Elsewhere, Elko, NV, received measurable snow on 6 consecutive days from December 22-27, totaling 15.8 inches.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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