The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

President Biden sees windiest inauguration since Reagan in 1985

The noon temperature was 42 degrees as winds gusted to 28 mph. Snow flurries were seen before the swearing-in ceremony.

Forecast wind gusts at noon Wednesday from the HRRR model.

Thursday morning: The high temperature on inauguration day for the 46th president was 46 degrees

Noon Wednesday: Windiest inauguration since President Reagan’s in 1985

As Joe Biden was sworn in at 11:50 a.m. as the 46th president, the temperature in Washington was 42 degrees with mostly cloudy skies, based on conditions observed at noon at Reagan National Airport. A brisk wind from the northwest was sustained at 20 mph, gusting to 28 mph, producing a wind chill at 33 degrees. It marked the coldest inauguration since President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, when it was 28 degrees. It was the windiest inauguration since President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985 when winds gusted to 35 mph.

11:45 a.m. Wednesday: Snow flurries fly as President-elect Biden introduced

As President-elect Biden was introduced at his inauguration ceremony at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, he was greeted by swirling snow flurries amid partly sunny skies.

Original story from Tuesday afternoon

As Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris are sworn in Wednesday, a biting wind will whip across the National Mall.

The winds, which could gust to 30 to 40 mph, will come in the wake of a strong cold front sweeping through the Mid-Atlantic on Tuesday night.

The combination of these gusts and temperatures only around 40 degrees will produce subfreezing wind chills when Biden becomes the 46th president and Harris the 49th vice president.

How a surprise snowstorm almost spoiled Kennedy’s inauguration 60 years ago

A few snow flurries can’t even be ruled out amid the turbulent breezes and partly to mostly cloudy skies. Cloud cover, most prevalent in the morning and midday hours, should decrease as the afternoon wears on.

Wind gusts could be strong enough to loft loose objects into the air. About 200,000 flags have been placed on the National Mall in honor of the people unable to attend the ceremony amid the coronavirus pandemic and security threats. It’s not clear how secure they are and whether they could be blown down or lifted into the air.

Generally, though, the winds should remain just below levels typically considered hazardous and capable of damage and power outages.

Considering the cold and wind, visitors attending the swearing-in, set for noon, should dress in layers and wear warm hats, gloves and thick socks. While it won’t be as bitter as Barack Obama’s first presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2009, when the noon temperature was 28 degrees and wind chills hovered in the teens, it will be one of the coldest days so far this month, especially factoring in the wind.

Inauguration Day has a cold but seldom snowy history in Washington

The projected noon temperature of 40 degrees is close to the long-term average for January inaugurations. But the projected wind gusts of 30 to 40 could be the strongest since President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration, which was so cold and windy that the ceremony was moved inside. At noon on Jan. 20, 1985, the temperature was 9 degrees with winds gusting to 35 mph. The wind chill was a frigid minus-11.

Below, find some animated maps to help with Inauguration Day weather planning:


Wind gusts

Wind chills

Cloud cover