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Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 12/31/2009

Top Weather Events of 2009: U.S. edition

By Steve Tracton

* Wintry end to 2009: Full Forecast *

In a previous post, I highlighted my choices for the top 5 D.C. metro region weather events of 2009. Here are my choices for the top 5 continental U.S. weather events (as before, see the end of this post for my criteria for selecting them.)

1) The something for everyone storm: The week of December 7 was one of the most active weeks weather-wise in many years. As reported previously, the storm significantly affected two-thirds of the nation with a menagerie of wild weather including blizzard conditions, hurricane force winds, heavy rains and flooding, and freezing rain.

2) Severe Storms: Tornadoes along with many reports of hail and wind damage occurred over the south-central states on the February 10th. A cluster of tornadoes touched down across parts of central Oklahoma with four tornadoes striking the metro Oklahoma City (here). (Not as notable except that it occurred in New York's central park was a severe thunderstorm with winds up to 80 mph downed hundreds of trees, which in turn crushed several nearby parked cars.)

3) Red River Floods: Snow melt on saturated and largely frozen ground caused the Red River along the North Dakota and Minnesota border to crest at record levels at Fargo. Fortunately river levels were just under the cities highest levees, but flood related incidents proved costly in lives and property (here).

4) Southeast Floods: Several days of heavy rain led to severe flooding on September 21st and 22nd in Georgia, Alabama, eastern Tennessee, and western North Carolina (here). Many areas in northern Georgia are reported to have exceeded the 100-year rainfall total for a 24-hour period. The floods were responsible for several fatalities and damage is estimated to be 250 million dollars. On the plus side, the rains effectively ended the long term drought in the southeast in one fell swoop.

5) Unremarkable hurricane season: The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season experienced the fewest named storms and hurricanes since 1997, probably due in part to El Nino. For the first time in three years, no hurricanes hit the U.S (here)

In selecting entries to the lists, it's worth mentioning that the main considerations are (or should be) whether the event is extreme and/or high impact at some location during some given time period.

Refer to my earlier post on the top 5 D.C. metro region events for an explanation of what I mean by extreme weather.

In the end, as with most top whatever lists, my selections are largely subjective and perhaps unrepresentative with respect to possibly more widely shared judgments. There are certainly more than a handful of possibilities in each category, but I've stuck to just five so there is abundant opportunity to add your suggestions.

Please feel free to comment on my opinions and offer your own choices on the top weather events of 2009.

By Steve Tracton  | December 31, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Tracton, U.S. Weather  
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The Southeast floods...and our wet periods...impacted a lot of us. It totally wiped out the area's long-standing drought.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | December 31, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Didn't we have a day in D.C. over the summer when the dewpoint was extremely low and it was like 70 degrees or something in July? To me, that should have made the list of top 5 weather stories for the D.C. metro area. That was AWESOME!

Posted by: authorofpoetry | December 31, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the #5 choice above, I'd question whether the lack of weather events in a year (hurricanes) can constitute a top weather event. It was really a non-event, right? In my opinion, I'd replace #5 with the historic Mid-Atlantic / I95 snowstorm. The population centers it impacted was huge and it shut down the Federal government. But, of course, I'm biased towards historic East Coast snow events, particularly if they occur in my backyard. :)

Posted by: Kevin-CapitalWeatherGang | December 31, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Some would argue Ida and the impacts it had on the Mid-Atlantic coast might rank up there.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | December 31, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Bombo.

Had it not been for the good amounts of rain, the drought that would have continued might have been the #1 story.

Posted by: jaybird926 | December 31, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Kevin, by way of explanation on choice # 5: The fewest named storms in 12 years with no hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. is rare compared to normal expectations and therefore, in my opinion, worthy of note. I'd say the same if there were only a hand full of funnel clouds with no tornadoes during the height of the spring season over tornado ally.

I included the historic snowstorm in December in the top 5 of DC Metro events, though I realize it affected a much larger region.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | December 31, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

My family in S. Florida felt greatly impacted, positively, by the non eventful, and unusually quiet, hurricane season. It was a pretty big deal.

Posted by: Snowlover2 | December 31, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

My vote for te most significant weather event for 2009 would have to go to the period in July when we had dew points (yes, around here) in the 30s. That is even more rare in this region than thunderstorms in February or a 20-inch snowstorm. The last time I can remember dewpoints in the 40-degree or so range in July was all the way back to 1976....a very cool summer.

Posted by: MMCarhelp | December 31, 2009 6:26 PM | Report abuse

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