Top five D.C. area weather stories of 2013

With an absence of crippling or destructive storms, 2013 was mostly a weather walk in the park in the greater Washington region. That said, we still had our moments.

While reading the list, you’ll note it mainly includes periods of weather rather than specific events. Cold air also gets a lot more attention this go than it did in the scorching years preceding 2013.

March snow following a March no show

Jim Cantore live during Snowquester on what was supposed to be a snowy day in D.C.

Jim Cantore live during Snowquester on what was supposed to be a snowy day in D.C.

Although the 2″ snowstorm drought ended in parts of the region, it blazes onward in the District, now heading for the magical three-year mark (dating back to Jan 26, 2011) in less than a month.

After talking about the snow drought to the point of tears through most of the winter, it appeared our great savior had arrived with Snowquester, the unusually snowy late-season storm set to pound the region on March 6, 2013. Everything closed. Then not a whole lot happened in D.C. and points east.

Snowquester still generally performed off to the north and west, though mostly at the lower end of the forecast ranges except in the mountains. But along the I-95 corridor and to the southeast, it might as well have all fallen as rain (if it didn’t). Arguably the best thing about the storm was that it brought us the Ode to Snowquester.

Mar. 25, 2013 - Cherry blossoms in the snow in NW DC. (Ian Livingston)

Mar. 25, 2013 – Cherry blossoms in the snow in NW DC. (Ian Livingston)

Fast forward two weeks and another snow risk arises. March 25? Eye roll. Alas, a low tracking into the Ohio Valley sent us some moisture before transferring to a coastal low that spun away offshore. Not a huge snow event, but for the first instance in quite some time, lawns were mostly covered throughout the region.

It was the biggest storm of the 2012-13 winter for D.C., officially dropping 1.4 inches in Washington. Totals of one to four inches were common across the area, with a zone of three to six inches well north and west. Baltimore and Dulles both set daily records with 3.2 inches each. It was the latest D.C. snow of such size since March 1990 when 2 inches fell on March 24-25.

The March snow risks were bolstered by cold temperatures. In fact, March 2013 was 13 degrees colder than it’s namesake a year prior!

Wet and sorta stormy June

(NOAA)

(NOAA)

June was a wet month. 9.97 inches of rain was recorded at Reagan National. 4th wettest for June since records began in D.C., and number 18 for any calendar month. Picking up that much rain happens in about 1 percent of months. The I-95 corridor and east cashed in the most, with the city among local winners in the rain department.

Measurable rain fell on 10 days, two of which saw nearly three inches and another coming in with well over two inches in a two-day period.

Tropical storm Andrea was responsible for the first bout of significant June rains, mainly on the 7th, when the weak storm tracked right up the East Coast. The D.C. area and east faced the brunt of the rains, but most of the area saw a good dousing on the order of 1.5-2 inches.

June 13, 2013 - An oddly shaped severe storm moves into the region. It spawned a 21-mile tornado track. (<a href="http://www.americanwx.com/bb/index.php/topic/40485-june-10-14-severeflooding-wx-obs-radar-warnings-dmg-rpts/?p=2328755">AmericanWx</a>)

June 13, 2013 – An oddly shaped severe storm moves into the region. It spawned a 21-mile tornado track. (AmericanWx)

Another big June rain day came with storms that spawned a tornado now among Maryland’s lengthiest on record. A complex of several storms passed through on June 13, dropping six tornadoes across parts of Maryland and Virginia. One which passed from North Potomac to Burtonsville, in Montgomery County, Md. had a final track length of 21 miles, making it the longest tornado track in the immediate D.C. area (within a one county radius) on record.

We then closed June with another heavy rain event centered on the 28th. It was the culmination of five days of severe weather watches in the area. Quite unusual, especially in what was largely a quiet storm season. Several rounds of storms moved through causing sporadic damage, with rainfall rates around one inch per hour or better during the afternoon and evening.

July’s impressive yet wimpy heat wave

(Matt Rogers)

(Matt Rogers)

When it comes to summer heat, 2013 wasn’t all that special around here. 35 days at or above 90 degrees for the warm season was almost dead-on average (36 for the 1981-2010 period). The highest temperature of the year was 97 degrees and it came in July. That’s actually a bit lower than the average of late.

One thing we might have learned over the last few summers is that once heat really gets going around here, it rarely disappoints. That was the case with the period of July 15 through 21, despite a relatively calm summer of heat.

7 p.m. observation on July 18, 2013. Dew point: 80! (Facebook, Wunderground)

7 p.m. observation on July 18, 2013. Dew point: 80! (Facebook, Wunderground)

It was a week of 90s in a month with only four others. All days were 93 or higher, with five days in a row of highs 95 or above. What defined this heat wave was longevity of high-level temperatures encapsulated in extreme humidity, more than peak temperatures.

As far as low temps go, the heat wave was ridiculous. D.C. saw five calendar days in a row of lows 80 degrees or greater — 138 consecutive hours from start to finish. That’s the lengthiest stretch with such warm temperatures of any year on record, even besting extremes we saw in 2011′s super roaster of a July.

Record high minimums were set on the 18th and 19th in D.C., with the highest low of 81 on July 19 besting a record set just two years ago in 2011. Three record high minimums also fell at Dulles.

Historic November cold snap

Highs below 40 degrees in November through recorded history at D.C. (Ian Livingston)

Highs below 40 degrees in November through recorded history at D.C. (Ian Livingston)

There were a number of cold snaps in 2013. January contained an impressive cold wave, but it was a once in several year event. November’s cold wave was more rare.

Back to back Novembers have been colder than normal, by a healthy margin. Compared to 2012, 2013′s version was much more extreme, especially late in the month. (2012 racked up the coldest days early in the month when averages are higher.)

Nov. 24, 2013 - 1 p.m. temperature analysis across the mid-Atlantic. (Weatherbell.com) *select for larger*

Nov. 24, 2013 – 1 p.m. temperature analysis across the mid-Atlantic. (Weatherbell.com) *select for larger*

Three days failed to get to 40 degrees in D.C. in November 2013, for the the first time in several decades. The last year with as many or more occurrences (of days below 40) was 1956, when five such days chilled the region. November 24-25 was the coldest two-day period in November since 1970. Additionally, the high of 34 on November 24 was the coldest November high since 1987.

At the peak of the cold snap on November 24, highs were comparable to some of our warmer winter’s coldest temperatures. Out north and west, the suburbs fell into the mid-teens or even lower on the morning of November 25. Dulles has yet to record a low this winter that is colder than the 16 degree reading that morning.

Manic December

Observed hourly temperatures, normals, and ECMWF projections at six-hour increments to close the month. Note: Hourly obs may miss the high and low temperature, and similar with the projected temperatures to close the month. (Ian Livingston)

Observed hourly temperatures, normals, and ECMWF projections at six-hour increments to close the month. Note: Hourly obs may miss the high and low temperature, and similar with the projected temperatures to close the month. (Ian Livingston)

Despite a mild start, if you asked most people around the middle of the third week of December what type of month it had been, you’d hear a lot of “cold and wintry” replies. Then came tropical pre-Christmas.

Following the frigid late November air mass, we moved into a December warming trend that culminated in two days in the 60s on the 5th and 6th. Then a string of 10 out of 11 days were below normal, some well below. Oh, it snowed too.

The December 8 storm is mostly known as a light snow to largely freezing rain and rain event for those in and around D.C. as well as areas south or east. North and west suburbs were dealt a hefty early-season winter storm. Some places cashed in with as much as 8 inches of snow, with a cake of ice on top.

Just two days later, winter storm warnings were issued for the entire region, with another several inches ultimately falling, mainly north and west of the city. Even the city saw a little, but less than expected. Like Snowquester in March, this storm featured marginal temperatures that kept accumulation to a minimum many places. Still, D.C. finishes Dec within a stone’s throw of normal snowfall while areas north and west are mostly in the 100-200 percent of normal range.

Dec. 8, 2013 - Meridian Hill Park in the snow. (Erin Kelly <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ekelly80/11278579836/in/pool-capitalweather/">via Flickr</a>)

Dec. 8, 2013 – Meridian Hill Park in the snow. (Erin Kelly via Flickr)

Right as things were feeling really wintry, a major winter blowtorch arrived. 50 degrees of warming over three days.

With dual 72 highs, December 21 and 22 came in at 24 and 27 degrees above normal, respectively, in the city. Wow! Lots of records for warmth were smashed across the East Coast on those two days, with all-time warm minimum December temperatures recorded at Dulles and Baltimore.

By Christmas we were back in the freezer. The high of 33 was the coldest since 2004 for the date and the low of 22 was the coldest on Christmas since 2000. Now as the month winds down, we get a bit more of a taste of near-normal temps.

It looked dicey for a while, but our winter outlook is pretty much on target so far as we prepare to close the month between two and three degrees above normal.

Agree or disagree with this list? Let us know!

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