Washington's current frigid temperatures rounded out a topsy-turvy 1976 weather year for the area, with a record warm February, 95-degree heat in April, torrential rains in September and October and near drought conditions in November.
The month of December finished up with an average daily temperature of 36.1 degrees, two full degrees cooler than normal, according to the National Weather Service. November was five degrees below normal, and since Nov. 1, there have been 36, days when the temperature dipped below freezing, providing on some days thick ice for skaters on the C&O Canal, a rarity this early in the winter.
On three days - Nov. 30, and Dec. 3 and 31 - the temperature never got above the freezing point of 32 degrees. The lowest reading for the period was 14 degrees on Dec. 30.
This contrasts with the unseasonably warm weather Washington experienced at the beginning of 1976. After a brief storm in early February that gave the city one of its only two measurable snows of the winter, temperatures climbed into the 70s, causing flowers and shrubs to bloom prematurely.
April was also freakishly warm. The thermometer reached a record-breaking 95 degrees on April 18, the hottest day of the year, exceeding temperatures in the normally hotter months of July and August.
Though temperatures see-sawed from month to month, the average daily temperature for the year as a whole came to 57.8 degrees, only .5 degrees above normal, according to the weather service.
Precipitation for the year totaled 37.51 inches, more than three inches short of the normal annual fall of 40.78 inches.
Monthly totals varied widely from almost eight inches in October to less than one inch the following month.
Only .85 inches of rain fell in November (normal is 2.78 inches), and the area was saved from becoming parched only because nearly 15 inches of rain had fallen in the two previous months, bringing the water table above normal levels.
Forecasters say the current cold weather should relent somewhat in the coming days, and the gusty winds of New Year's Day should diminish.