CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- These are in no particular order because it’s always hard to compared events against each other. Here are the 10 biggest weather stories of 2012 for our area.
(Click here to see the top 10 local weather events of 2012 in photos)
Summer heat wave late June into July
There was a stretch of weather in late June into the July 4th holiday when we had temperatures around 100° for many days. In Charlotte we hit 104° for three consecutive days, tying our all-time record high. This was also the hottest three-day stretch in Charlotte history. We ending up hitting 100° or higher five times in a 10-day span. South Carolina also broke their state record for the hottest temperatures ever at 113° at USC Columbia on June 29, 2012.
Rare January tornado in Ellenboro, NC
Wednesday evening January 11, 2012 at 5:22 p.m. an EF-2 tornado struck the town of Ellenboro in Rutherford County. This same thunderstorm produced two more tornado touchdowns in Burke and Caldwell counties. Over 80 homes were damaged along all three paths. More information can be found here.
The winter without a winter
The December, January, February and even March of this past winter really wasn't much of a winter. The winter around most of the country was incredibly mild and lacked snow. The combined departures from normal temperatures in Charlotte for the months January-March was an astounding +17.7°. Highlighted by March, which was the second warmest March on record. Even with all of that we did get a trace of snow on February 19, which keeps our streak of at least a trace of snow ever year on record since 1878.
Grandfather Mountain wind gust record
Wind gusts recorded by the anemometer located on the Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain reached 120.7 mph late Friday, December 21. This is a new three-second gust record for the mountain.
Snow fell on Grandfather during the day Friday and the increased wind speeds at night were accompanied by wind chills well below zero degrees. The previous highest three-second gust on Grandfather was 114.7 mph recorded January 26, 2011. At that time, the gust was one of the highest wind speeds ever recorded in North Carolina, according to the State Climatologist Ryan Boyles.
Charlotte and Cabarrus County tornado
Many will not forget the early morning hours of Saturday March 3, 2012 in the Reedy Creek neighborhood. Around 2:34 a.m. a EF-2 tornado with winds of around 135 mph touched down with a path of destruction 200 yards wide and 3.2 miles long. A total of 192 homes were damaged or destroyed in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties. The completed damage survey can be found here.
Sandy had a huge impact on the Carolinas both on the coast and in the mountains. While the Outer Banks were damaged heavily by the tropical side of Sandy, the mountains got a winter storm. Some areas saw over a foot of snow and while snow is not uncommon there, the combination of an early season October snow and high winds with Sandy caused major power outages and tree damage across the western Carolinas.
Drought and developing drought
While we escaped the worst of the nationwide drought this summer, this fall and early winter we are seeing developing drought conditions in the Carolinas. December has been our wettest month since September, which has helped, but we are going into 2012 with a 7-8 inch rainfall deficit that needs to be made up.
With only days left in 2012 we are set to finish with either the fourth or fifth warmest year on record. Most of the southeast will end up with a very warm year thanks to a mild winter and a very hot summer. Things started to cool down quite a bit this autumn but the warm air early and often in the year was too much to overcome. Charlotte will likely finish with the fifth warmest year on record since 1878.
Amazing astronomical events and sky gazing!
OK, so this really isn’t weather really but what a year for sky gazers. We had the transit of Venus, a Blue Moon and Super Moon. Then capped it all off with one of the best meteor showers in years in December with the Geminids. I mean the only thing that could top this year might be next year when several comets make appearances and might be the best viewing of our lifetimes. What can I say? I love looking at the sky.
The year with few tornadoes
With just days left in the year, the U.S. is on pace for one of the smallest amounts of tornadoes on record, which is amazing considering how much better detection is and reporting of tornadoes. The massive drought in the middle of the country was a big player in the lack of severe weather. Even though we had two high-profile tornadoes locally, even in the Carolinas the amount of severe weather was at a minimum this year.
One reason why is the warmth. While people may argue the role of global warming and climate change on severe weather, one thing you need to get severe weather is clashing of warm and cold combined with moisture. This year there was just too much warmth and no moisture or cold to mix up with the warmth for severe weather--like making cake just because you have more flour doesn't mean you get more cake. You still need other ingredients.