As we look back on 2016, there were many weather events that made headlines. From coast to coast, we experienced everything from heavy snows to sweltering heat, damaging floods, and raging wildfires in drought-parched states. The year pretty much ran the gamut of extremes, reminding us of the power of Mother Nature.
We compiled a list of some notable weather events that made news in 2016, Our list may be different from yours (and we’d love to hear what’s on your list), but here are our selections (in order by date):
1. Blizzard of 2016 (January 22-24)
The Blizzard of 2016 (dubbed “Winter Storm Jonas”) brought widespread snowfall totals of 1-3 feet across the mid-Atlantic states from January 22-24. Washington, D.C. and its suburbs, Baltimore, and New York City all received upward of 2 feet of snow. The blizzard, which claimed the lives of at least 48 people, set records like crazy: it was New York City’s heaviest snowstorm of record dating to 1869, where more than an average season’s worth of snow fell in just 2 days (in fact, initial measurements in New York City of 26.8 inches were deemed inaccurate, and snowfall totals were later adjusted to 27.5 inches); Baltimore, MD hit record numbers with 29.2 inches, Allentown, Pennsylvania broke records with 31.9 inches, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania received 30.2 inches. The storm paralyzed road, rail, and airline travel along the East Coast — over 13,000 flights were cancelled in New York City and Newark, New Jersey. The blizzard was rated as a Category 4 “Crippling” winter storm by NOAA, which uses a five-tier scale to categorize storms, ranging from Category 1 “Notable” to Category 5, “Extreme.”
2. The “One in 1,000 Year” Flood, Ellicott City, Maryland (July 30th)
Massive flooding caused by slow-moving thunderstorms in the region caused catastrophic flooding in this suburb of Baltimore. More than 6 inches of rain fell in Ellicott City in just 90 minutes. The Patapsco River rose 13 feet in a few hours time causing flash flooding. The epic flood, meteorologists said, was caused by a mixture of high humidity, unstable air, southerly wind flow, and a nearby warm front, all coming together to create this rare “1-in-1,000-year event.” The small town’s main street turned into raging rapids, as seen in the above video, carrying away cars and debris and forcing dramatic rescues. The flood destroyed the city’s quaint shopping district and turned it into what some described as a war zone.
3. Louisiana Flooding (August 11-15)
Between August 11 and 15th, over 30 inches of rain fell in parts of Louisiana causing catastrophic flooding. At least 13 deaths were reported and tens of thousands of people were evacuated or displaced. It was categorized as the most destructive U.S. flood since Superstorm Sandy. However, this flooding was not caused by a hurricane. During the second week of August, a slow-moving area of tropical low pressure drew moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and unleashed it on Alabama, Louisiana and southern Mississippi, dumping up to 31 inches of rain in just three days. Estimates say this system produced three times as much rain as Hurricane Katrina. More than 50,000 homes, 20,000 businesses, and 100,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed in the floods, totaling $10 billion in damage, according to NOAA/NCEI estimates.
4. Hurricane Matthew (October 8th)
Hurricane Matthew started out as a Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in the Caribbean at the end of September but by October 8th, it made official U.S. landfall as a category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. The storm wreaked havoc on the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The real story here was the heavy rains and flooding due to storm surge. Matthew’s storm surge coupled with high tide led to waist-deep waters in parts of Charleston, South Carolina, and a record-setting storm surge of nearly 8 feet was recorded between Savannah and Tybee Island, Georgia. Water levels topped out at 5 feet above normal near Georgetown and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. North Carolina experienced its worst flooding since Hurricane Floyd in 1999. All told, the destructive path of the storm is estimated to have taken the lives of 49 people in the United States and caused over $5 billion in damage and “Hurricane Matthew has altered the geography of the coastline forever in Florida.” The NASA video shows what a monster the storm was.
5. Year-End New England Nor’easter – Winter Storm Fortis (December 29th)
As we were putting this story together, we got walloped with a Nor’easter that packed quite a punch, so it just made it to our list of memorable weather events for 2016. Named “Winter Storm Fortis,” this Nor’easter dropped 2 feet of snow on us in Lewiston, Maine, with snowfall rates recorded at 4 to 6 inches per hour, with over a foot in other areas of the Northeast. Over 100,000 people woke up without power in Maine Friday morning, December 30th, as the storm also delivered strong winds. The rain/snow line hugged the coast and made road travel treacherous. One death was reported in Vermont. Farther south heavy rains and wind fell in Massachusetts. Thundersnow was also reported in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine. So like bookends — we greeted “Jonas” in January — this storm closed out the year of notable storms. Be sure to check out the photo gallery of this storm on our Facebook page!