Top Weather Events of 2013

Posted: January 16, 2014, 5:34 pm by mmurphy

Another whole year of weather has come and gone, and now that 2013 is officially in the books we thought it would be a good time to look back on some of the more extreme weather events. This past year certainly did have its fair share of active weather, not only here in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, but across the nation and even the world. Below we will highlight some of the most significant weather events of 2013.

The first extreme weather event we dealt with in 2013 was a major blizzard which rolled up the East Coast on February 7th through the 9th. This storm system was very powerful, spreading widespread wind, cold and snow across the region. Areas from northeast New Jersey east into New England were hardest hit from this storm. In fact many locations saw either a record, or top 5 snowfall, with 30-40 inch totals across parts of Long Island and Connecticut. A few of the more impressive totals included; 27.8" in Islip, NY... 34.3" in New Haven, CT and 21.8" at the Boston Logan airport. During this storm, an incredibly intense snow band setup over Long Island and Connecticut, leading to thundersnow and 4 - 6" per hour snowfall rates. The heavy snowfall wasn't the only aspect of this dangerous storm; winds also gusted to 50-70 mph throughout most of New England, especially along the coastline. These intense wind gusts lead to significant blowing and drifting snow, which swallowed up entire cars in some areas!


(Above) Cars buried during the February 2013 blizzard, near Plantville, CT

The next significant weather event to take place was the severe weather and tornado outbreaks during May 2013. On May 20, 2013 an EF-5 tornado with peak winds of 210 mph struck Moore, Oklahoma. This violent tornado caused 24 fatalities and 377 injuries. Total estimated damages were close to two billion dollars. Following this outbreak, yet another significant tornado struck El Reno, Oklahoma on May 31st. After some analysis it was discovered that this tornado was one of the widest ever recorded, at 2.6 miles across. Although not the strongest tornado, it was still rated an EF-3 and caused 8 fatalities along with 151 injuries. Even though we did not see any of these powerful tornadoes in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast there were several smaller tornadoes that struck the area. On July 1st an EF-0 tornado moved through Berkeley Heights, in Union county New Jersey with winds up 85 mph. This tornado was 50 yards wide and stayed on the ground for 4.8 miles. Another weak tornado hit Manahawkin, New Jersey on August 13th with 75-85 mph, it was also rated an EF-0. Finally, a slightly stronger tornado hit Paramus, NJ on October 8th; this tornado was rated an EF-1 with winds up to 100 mph.


(Above) Aerial photo of tornado damage in Moore, OK on May 21, 2013. Photo credit: Maj. Geoff Legler, Oklahoma National Guard

Next on our list is tropical storm Andrea, and the extremely wet June that followed. The remnants of tropical storm Andrea moved into the area on June 7th, bringing some gusty winds to the region; however the real story was the torrential downpours associated with it. The storm generally produced rainfall amounts between 3-5 inches along the east coast from Florida to Maine, with localized amounts up to 5-8 inches. John F. Kennedy airport in Queens saw 4.01" of rain on June 7th, breaking the old daily rainfall record of 1.18" set in 2006. For the entire month of June, New York City's Central Park recorded 10.10" of rainfall, which is more than double the average rainfall of 4.41" for the month of June. The extreme rainfall even affected areas of the Mid-Atlantic, as Reagan National airport near Washington DC recorded 9.97" of rain in June 2013, which is 264% of their average total June rainfall (3.77"). Needless to say it was a wet month!


(Above) Flooding rains in Belvidere, NJ  on June 18, 2013 taken by our own meteorologist Nick Sharr

Expanding our search for extreme weather events leads us to the record breaking Colorado flooding which occurred during the week of September 9th, 2013. How can anyone forget seeing the devastation broadcast on many national media outlets. Boulder county Colorado was the among the worst hit areas, seeing up to 17" of rain during the one week period; keep in mind this is compared to their average annual rainfall of around 20"! The Colorado flood event spread devastation far and wide, with 8 fatalities and over two billion dollars in damage reported. This flood was the worst on record since the Big Thompson Canyon flood in 1976, which killed 144 people after more than 12" of rain fell in just 3 hours.

The final event to make our list occurred nearly half way around the world in the Philippines. From November 3rd through the 11th Super Typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc in the Western Pacific. This storm was the strongest on record to ever make landfall (based on wind speed), with sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts to 235 mph! The minimum pressure which came in at 888 mb, also makes this a top 5 landfalling tropical cyclone in recorded history. To top it all off this system brought extreme devastation to the Philippines; unfortunately causing at least 6,201 deaths, making it the deadliest tropical cyclone on record for that nation. The super typhoon had a storm surge near 17 feet and caused nearly 1.5 billion dollars in damage.


(Above) Image of super typhoon Haiyan as it appeared Friday, November 8th, 2013 just before making landfall

2013 was certainly a year of weather extremes. From the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, to the nation and the world we saw extreme winter weather events, rainfall amounts, tropical systems and tornadoes which all caused extensive damage and devastation. Each year, we as meteorologists strive to perfect the science of forecasting. These extreme events remind us why the meteorological community must continually advance our knowledge of the atmosphere, in order to better protect lives and property. 

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