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1-6…In California, widespread precipitation boosted topsoil moisture and revived pastures. Weekly totals of 2 to 4 inches were common in northern California, but the Sierra Nevada snowpack received only a slight boost due to warm conditions resulting in much of the precipitation falling as rain. Weekly precipitation—mostly rain—totaled 1 to 2 inches or more from the middle Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee Valleys into the Northeast. Rain also extended westward across portions of the central Plains.

In early December, heavy rain spread ashore along the Pacific Coast. In southern Oregon, North Bend netted a daily record rainfall of 2.83 inches on December 1. The following day, record-setting amounts in southern California climbed to 2.14 inches in Santa Barbara, 1.49 inches in Sandberg, and 1.12 inches in Los Angeles (LAX Airport). By December 3, daily-record totals in California’s Central Valley included 2.20 inches in Sacramento and 1.39 inches in Redding. San Francisco (SFO Airport) collected 3.48 inches on December 2-3. Later, significant, late week precipitation developed across the mid-South and environs. On December 5, daily-record amounts totaled 1.35 inches in St. Louis, MO, and 1.27 inches in Chanute, KS. The week ended on a wet note in parts of the East, with record-setting totals for December 6 in location such as New York’s LaGuardia Airport (1.29 inches) and Dayton, OH (0.71 inch).


7-13: Drought relief came to California in the form of heavy rain and high-elevation snow. The heaviest precipitation struck California on December 11, with showers lingering through week’s end. Elsewhere, a slow moving storm led to blustery conditions in the Northeast, along with widespread, locally heavy rain and snow. Some of the heaviest precipitation (2 inches or more) fell in New England, while significant snow (locally in excess of a foot) was primarily confined to the interior Northeast. Periods of heavy precipitation in the Pacific Northwest led to a weekly rainfall total of 7.89 inches in Quillayute, WA. Quillayute also received daily record totals (2.30 and 3.36 inches, respectively) on December 8 and 10. Meanwhile, heavy precipitation developed across the Northeast on December 9, when record-setting totals reached 3.04 inches at JFK Airport, NY; 2.90 inches in Boston, MA; and 2.74 inches in Providence, RI. December 9-11 precipitation totaled 2.58 inches in Albany, NY, including 11.3 inches of snow. Daily record

snowfall amounts for December 10 climbed to 11.8 inches in Syracuse, NY, and 9.4 inches in Burlington, VT. December 9-11 snowfall totaled more than a foot in Syracuse (14.4 inches) and Burlington (15.0 inches). On December 11, the focus for heavy precipitation shifted to northern California, where daily record totals surged to 4.06 inches in Mt. Shasta City, 2.88 inches in Red Bluff, and 2.39 inches in Sacramento. High winds in California preceding and accompanying the December 11 rain gusted to 63 mph in Redding and 55 mph in Red Bluff and Bakersfield. In the central Sierra Nevada, winds above 100 mph were common, with gusts approaching 150 mph. By December 12, heavy rain moved across southern California, where daily record amounts totaled 2.40 inches in Camarillo, 1.57 inches in Paso Robles, 1.12 inches in Bakersfield, and 1.05 inches in San Diego.


14-20…Unsettled, showery weather in California provided additional drought relief, primarily across the northern half of the state. After mid-week, however, heavy precipitation shifted into the Northwest and spread farther inland across the remainder of the West. In many alpine locations, particularly across the Pacific Coast States and the Southwest, a lack of snow accumulation remained a concern with respect to spring runoff prospects. Meanwhile, widespread precipitation occurred in most other areas of the country, although amounts were generally light. ). In mid-December, a respectable snow storm crossed the northern Intermountain West, as well as portions of the Plains and upper Midwest. In Wyoming, December 14-15 snowfall totaled 9.3 inches in Casper and 5.6 inches in Lander. Sioux Falls, SD, received a daily record precipitation total (0.79 inch on December 15), along with 2.0 inches of snow. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, received a 0.8-inch snowfall on December 16, a day after tallying a daily record high of 51F. Meanwhile, portions of the central Plains received rain, followed by snow. Goodland, KS, collected a daily record precipitation total of 0.87 inch on December 14 and received 1.2 inches of snow on December 17-18. Elsewhere, December 17-18 snowfall included 2.7 inches in Wichita, KS, and 2.6 inches in Kansas City, MO. Later, heavy precipitation in northern New England led to a daily record total of 0.83 inch on December 18, along with 8.3 inches of snow, in Caribou, ME. Periods of heavy precipitation also affected northern California, resulting in daily-record rainfall totals in locations such as Stockton (0.93 inch on December 15) and Sacramento (0.99 inch on December 17). Through December 20, month-to-date rainfall surpassed the 10-inch mark in San Francisco (10.60 inches, or

434 percent of normal) and Redding (10.21 inches, or 262 percent). Meanwhile, late-week rainfall in the Gulf Coast region led to daily-record totals for December 19 in Houston, TX (3.06 inches), and Baton Rouge, LA (2.41 inches). Late week precipitation also hammered the Northwest, resulting in record-setting amounts for December 20 in Crescent City, CA

(2.84 inches); Hoquiam, WA (1.88 inches); Burns, OR (0.77 inch); Boise, ID (0.71 inch); and Winnemucca, NV (0.66 inch). In contrast, 23-day (November 27 – December 19) dry spells ended with some light rain on December 20 in Georgia locations such as Alma (0.04 inch) and St. Simons Island (0.01 inch).


21-27: Significant precipitation shifted into the Northwest, ending California’s period of favorably wet weather. Weekly precipitation totaled 4 inches or more in parts of

the Pacific Northwest and ranged from 2 to 4 inches across portions of the northern Rockies and northern  Intermountain West. Elsewhere, heavy rain soaked the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast States. The rain eased concerns about short term dryness and drought development. Rainfall was especially heavy, totaling 4 inches or more, from the central Gulf Coast into parts of the Carolinas. On December 23-24, a late year tornado outbreak accompanied the heavy rain. The week began in the midst of a heavy precipitation event across the northern Intermountain West, where record setting totals for December 21 reached 2.10 inches in Alta, UT, and 0.76 inch in Boise, ID. Early-week rain and snow showers also dotted the central and eastern U.S., resulting in daily-record totals for December 22 in locations such as Elizabeth City, NC (1.15 inches), and Mobridge, SD (0.34 inch, including 2.5 inches of snow). In Sioux City, IA, a 0.69-inch sum on December 22-23 propelled the year-to-date precipitation total to 41.14 inches. Previously, the highest annual precipitation in Sioux City had been 41.10 inches in 1903. Much heavier rain developed across the Southeast on December 23. In fact, the 23rd was the wettest December day on record in Tallahassee, FL, where 7.44 inches fell (previously, 5.34 inches on December 2, 2009). Elsewhere in the Southeast, record setting totals for December 23 reached 3.81 inches in Meridian, MS; 2.54 inches in Alma, GA; and 2.37 inches in Tuscaloosa, AL. Several tornadoes struck the South on December 23, resulting in four fatalities in Mississippi. It was the nation’s deadliest tornado outbreak since July

8, when four people perished in Madison County, NY. Heavy rain continued through December 24 in the Atlantic Coast States, where daily-record amounts included 2.83 inches in Augusta, GA, and 1.78 inches in Florence, SC. During the mid- to late-week period, the focus for heavy precipitation shifted to the northern Plains and the Northwest. In Montana, Great Falls received daily-record snowfall totals (5.0 and 7.5 inches, respectively) on December 24 and 28. December 25 became the snowiest Christmas Day on record in Wyoming locations such as Lander (9.6 inches) and Cheyenne (6.8 inches). On the High Plains, December 25-26 snowfall totals included 10.6 inches in Scottsbluff, NE; 7.7 inches in Cheyenne, WY; and 5.1 inches in Denver, CO. At week’s end, another wave of precipitation spread across the South and East. Daily-record rainfall amounts for

December 27 totaled 1.87 inches in Hattiesburg, MS, and 1.76 inches in Tuscaloosa, AL. Meanwhile on the southern Plains, daily record snowfall amounts for the 27th reached 3.5 inches in Oklahoma City, OK, and 2.0 inches in Wichita Falls, TX.


27th-31: Soaking rains returned across much of the South, erasing most vestiges of dryness but halting off-season fieldwork and triggering lowland flooding. Some of the heaviest rain, generally 2 to 4 inches or more, fell from eastern Texas to the southern Appalachians. In contrast, Florida’s peninsula experienced warm, mostly dry weather. Elsewhere, mostly dry weather in the upper Midwest contrasted with periods of precipitation from the Ohio Valley into the Northeast. Rare snow accompanied the Southwestern chill. In Needles, CA, where 0.3 inch fell on December 31, snow had not fallen since February 2, 1985. Needles had never before received measurable snow in

December, and had not seen a greater amount since January 25, 1949, when 2.0 inches fell. Similarly, an inch of snow fell on New Year’s Eve in Bullhead City, AZ, marking the first accumulation in that area since January 11, 1949. Laughlin, NV, and Lake Havasu City, AZ,

reported a trace of snow on December 31 and January 1; snow had not been observed in Laughlin since February 26, 1987, or in Lake Havasu City since January 24-25, 1949. Meanwhile, Flagstaff, AZ, reported a 17.3-inch snowfall on December 31 – January 1. Earlier in the week, snow had blanketed the northern and central Plains in advance of an Arctic blast. Daily-record snowfall totals included 7.5 inches (on December 28) in Great Falls, MT, and 2.3 inches (on December 29) in Pueblo, CO. Snow squalls developed in the vicinity of the Great Lakes, where Sault Sainte Marie, MI, received 11.3 inches on December 29-30. Toward week’s end, heavy precipitation spread from the southern High Plains into the Southeast. On January 2, Midland, TX, netted a daily-record total of 1.45 inches—much of which fell in the form of freezing rain, as snowfall totaled a trace and the high temperature peaked at 32°F. By January 3, snow returned to the Plains, resulting in daily record totals in Billings, MT (6.0 inches); Dalhart, TX (4.0 inches); and Wichita, KS (3.9 inches). At least half of the contiguous U.S. was covered by snow from January 2-5, peaking at 54.1 percent on the 4th. Meanwhile, record-setting rainfall totals for January 3 included 4.35 inches in Meridian, MS; 3.19 inches in Cape Girardeau, MO; 2.47 inches in Tuscaloosa, AL; and 2.46 inches in Lake Charles, LA.


Jim G. Munley, jr.

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