This final week of January, much of the country has experienced all 4 seasons, with snow immediately followed by a warm spike. A record high temperature in Northern Virginia was accompanied by flood warnings, and a winter tornado watch. A 40 degree overnight temperature plunge should quickly restore the snow that was snarling commutes the day before yesterday. All this meteorological drama reminds me that this is the time of year when I blog about how extreme the weather has been since our return from England.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “2012 was a historic year for extreme weather that included drought, wildfires, hurricanes and storms.” Unlike last year’s record-setting tornado activity, that form of violent weather was below average this year. 2012 did start with some unusual winter tornado activity, but after a severe spring outbreak, the country experienced a record-setting stretch of days without a tornado fatality (a record that came to an end today). It was the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States, with Cleveland, Akron and Columbus (presumably Heiser Hollow), and Washington Dulles all experiencing their hottest years ever.
Elizabeth and I were in Japan when the June 2012 Derecho blew from Chicago to Delaware, taking out my parents’ power at the cabin, and several quick hours and 325 miles downwind, blowing all the furniture off our Northern Virginia deck, making Kirk’s the-parents-are-away party especially memorable. A violent and deadly complex of thunderstorms that knocked out power to millions of homes, most people were not familiar with derechos, although it turns out that the most severe storm in my memory, which caused several fatalities in Cleveland during the 1969 4th of July celebration, was also a derecho. I stayed in Japan during a period that was so hot that the government asked salarymen to leave their neckties at home. Elizabeth returned to a powerless house with a backyard full of branches and a freezer full of garbage.
Although much of America experienced droughts this year, and it was a record setting year for wildfire damage, after last year’s record rainfall, the relatively normal rainfall in Ohio and Virginia was welcome. But it was stinking hot, with both house and cabin experiencing record heat waves. Then the hurricane season started, with 2012 tying 2011 as the third most destructive year.
Hurricane Sandy, nicknamed ‘Frankenstorm’ because it started as a hurricane and then merged with a nor’easter, impacted 29 states. Its $60+ billion in damage made it the #2 most destructive storm after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina (the most costly natural disaster in US history). Although the eye went relatively close to our new Northern Virginia townhouse, encouraging most DC area residents to stay home, the damage here was relatively light. NYC was hit with record-setting storm surges, knocking out power in some areas for weeks. Hunkered down in his college dorm in Long Island, Kirk experienced his 2nd week-long weather-related power outage. (A little poetry in honor of Sandy.) Recovery from Sandy was hampered by an early November Nor’easter that dumped snow on an area where thousands were homeless.
Last year, the weather ran hot & cold, but more of the former than the latter.