Top Ten Weather Stories of 2009

Timelapse of rising floodwater in Fargo, ND

Timelapse of rising floodwater in Fargo, ND

10. Record flooding in Fargo, North Dakota
In early March, rapid snowmelt and torrential rains brought a recipe for disaster to residents in the Northern Plains. Flooding on the Red River of the North kept residents busy sandbagging and preparing for the worst. The river beat out the 1997 flood with a crest in Fargo of 40.82 feet.

9. The Year Without a Summer
For many in the Upper Midwest, 2009 will be remembered as the year without a summer. July was the coolest on record for the city of Rockford, Illinois. Largely because of the cool weather, this year was the first on record that the Green Bay NWS Forecast Office did not receive one report of severe weather!

Satellite view showing snowcover in Colorado

Satellite view showing snowcover in Colorado

8. October Snow Breaks Records in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska
A significant early season snowstorm occurred across portions of the Western U.S. on October 27th through the 30th, affecting the states of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. Several interstates and major highways in the region were closed due to blowing and drifting. This storm led Cheyenne, Wyoming to have its snowiest October on record with 28 inches and North Platte, Nebraska to have its snowiest month on record for any month with 30.3 inches.

Flood causes train derailment, kills one

Flooding to blame for train crash near Rockford, IL

7. Flash Flooding Causes Train Derailment, Explosion
When we were going over national weather stories, we couldn’t help but think about this summer’s fatal train derailment. Because of the unique circumstances that led up to the accident we decided it needed to be a part of our national top-ten list.

On a warm and humid June 29th, Northern Illinois was in the midst of a severe weather outbreak. During the evening hours, the severe threat waned as flash flood warnings continued. Calls from concerned residents poured into the 9-1-1 center in Rockford about several sets of railroad tracks being washed out. Less than a half hour later a westbound Canadian National ethanol train crossed Mulford Road and derailed. The train exploded into a fireball that was seen for 25 miles. Several people were burned seriously and one person was killed in several cars parked behind the crossing barriers.

6. Texas snow: Early & Often This Season
The winter season got off to bang in the Lone Star State! Houston saw its earliest snowfall on record when both local airports registered more than an inch of snow on December 4th. reports “In Houston, the white stuff falls once every 2 to 3 winters. The last measurable snow fell on December 10 of last year, when 1.4 inches fell at Houston Intercontinental, with less than a half-inch downtown. Interestingly, the city has never received measurable snow in consecutive years.” While it rained as far north as Wisconsin on Christmas Eve, it was snowing in Dallas.  They saw their first white Christmas in 83 years, according to WFAA-TV.

EF-4 Damage in Murfreesboro, TN

EF-4 Damage in Murfreesboro, TN

5. Tennessee Tornadoes
Between April 9th and 11th, 86 tornadoes touched down in the Deep South. Five people were killed in Mena, Arkansas and two in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In addition, three people were killed in Texas by wildfires that were fanned by extreme wind. The National Weather Service estimates damage at $464 million.

4. No Landfalling Hurricanes
Forecasters said there would be a higher than normal chance of tropical storms and hurricanes in 2009. However, it was one of the quietest tropical seasons in the Atlantic in recent memory! Nine tropical storms formed (average 10). Only three of those storms reached hurricane status (average 5). Hurricane Bill nearly made landfall along Cape Cod, but scraped by within 50 miles. A stronger than normal El Nino pattern caused wind shear to break apart many disturbances before they could form tropical characteristics.

A firefighter carries a dog to safety

A firefighter near Atlanta carries a dog to safety

3. Atlanta Flooding
After years of extreme drought in the Atlanta area, everyone’s prayers were answered with one extreme deluge in September. CNN reported that areas of the metro received 22 inches of rainfall. The United States Geological Survey said “The epic flooding that hit the Atlanta area in September was so extremely rare that, six weeks later this event has defied attempts to describe it.  Scientists have reviewed the numbers and they are stunning.” The flood was considered a 500 year flood in some areas. Five people were killed including a girl who was swept from her father’s arms.

Snowcovered White House

Snowcover at the White House

2. Record-Breaking Nor’easter
A huge snow storm moved up the Mid-Atlantic into the New England states from December 18-20. It was born in the Gulf of Mexico which allowed copious amounts of moisture to work into the storm as it moved north. Snow accumulations were seen from South Carolina to Massachusetts. Interstates were shut down for days, all major airports suffered major delays or closures, and rail systems were brought to a stand-still. According to Reuters, 7 people were killed as a result of the snow. Over two feet of snow was  reported in portions of North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. At one point, the storm was over 500 miles wide, covering 14 states! The National Weather Service reported this to be the heaviest snow event to ever affect Washington, D.C. during the month of December, with 16 inches of accumulation. It was the 6th greatest snow storm in D.C. history. Philadelphia received 23.2 inches  of snow. In a typical year, Philly receives just 19.3.

Northern Arkansas Ice Storm 1/26-1/29

Northern Arkansas Ice Storm

1. Ohio Valley Ice Storm
In late January, one of the largest ice storms in history wreaked havoc across the Mid-Mississippi River Valley and up the Ohio Valley. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear termed this “the greatest natural disaster in modern Kentucky history.” It caused Kentucky’s largest power outage on record, with 609,000 homes and businesses without power across the state. Property damage was widespread, with the damage due to falling trees, large tree limbs, and power lines weighed down by ice. In the Louisville metropolitan area, 205,000 lost power and it took up to 10 days to get everyone hooked back up. Area school systems were closed for an entire week. Several emergency shelters were set up across the affected region. In Louisville’s local school system, 69 schools lost power. States of emergency were issued in Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. Damage estimates are in the billions!


Posted under cold blast, drought, event, flooding, heat wave, rain, severe weather, snow, tornado, tropical weather, weather, Wind, winter storm

This post was written by qni_it on December 30, 2009

10 Comments so far

  1. tony December 30, 2009 10:07 PM

    And locally here eric, I would say one story was in mid january when temps hit -25 degrees.

  2. Jim H December 30, 2009 11:04 PM

    Great post Eric! Thanks.

  3. WI Weather Buff December 31, 2009 1:26 PM

    Facebook Question: “What do you want to see, weatherwise, in the coming year?”

    Since I don’t “do” Facebook I’ll answer that here.

    Do you mean, in the actual weather? Or do you mean, on the WREX weather broadcasts?

    If you mean “actual weather” — I guess my number one hope is that we have a good growing season that allows area farmers to grow and harvest a bountiful crop, and that doesn’t allow pests or parasites to take a good hold. For many area farmers I think the past couple of years have been a little rough. Yeah, yeah, everybody has crop insurance these days. But crop insurance doesn’t feed the world.

    Beyond that, I hope for a warmer than average winter, a cool summer (dare I hope for 2 in a row?) and that all the exciting severe weather this year stays far away from metropolitan areas — so all the storm chasers can get great videos but nobody gets hurt!

  4. Eric Sorensen December 31, 2009 3:55 PM

    Thanks Buff! I’ll add that to the list. Happy New Year! -ES

  5. Garrett December 31, 2009 4:03 PM

    Great post!

    On another note I had a question about our averages. With us going into a new decade does that now change what our averages are and if so how much will they change? If I recall averages, at least high and low temps, are determined over the past 3 most recent decades.

    I could be wrong but was just curious if this was the case and what the affect would possibly be. Thanks!

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