6 Surprising State Weather Records

Thomas Cooper/Getty Images
Thomas Cooper/Getty Images

Something that truly unites all Americans is the belief that their home town lays claim to some of the worst weather in the country. Residents of nearly every state often repeat the joke that if you don't like the weather there, just wait five minutes and it'll change. Most of our exciting weather is rather ordinary, if not short-lived, but some events really are so extreme that they wind up in the record books. Here are some states where the weather was anything but ordinary.

1. MAINE: A RECORD NUMBER OF TORNADOES

Maine is pretty close to the bottom of the list when you think of states that are prone to tornadoes. Just like every other state, though, Maine's rugged landscape isn't immune to torrents that can produce wicked damage. A powerful outbreak of thunderstorms on July 5, 2017, produced five separate tornadoes across Maine, setting a new record for the most tornadoes to ever touch down in one day in this northeastern state.

While this was a relatively bad day in Maine, it pales in comparison to the most tornadoes to ever touch down in one day. More than 200 tornadoes touched down on April 27, 2011, mainly across Mississippi and Alabama, in what became one of the worst tornado outbreaks in recorded history.

2. NEW HAMPSHIRE: THE TOP WINDS ON A MOUNTAINTOP

New Hampshire's Mount Washington is famous for the extreme weather that tests the resolve of hardy scientists who work at its peak. The observatory at the top of Mount Washington has seen some of the worst weather imaginable, including the strongest wind gust ever directly recorded in the United States. (This was the global record as well until 1996, when a wind gust hit 253 mph in Australia during Typhoon Olivia.)

Scientists measured a 231 mph wind gust on the afternoon of April 12, 1934, as a storm system roared its way across New England. The observatory's intense winds are attributable to the fact that it lies more than 6000 feet above sea level, exposing it to the powerful atmospheric winds that make intense storm systems possible.

3. TEXAS: THE RAINIEST DAY EVER

Hurricanes are a fearsome weather catastrophe, but weaker tropical cyclones—tropical depressions and tropical storms—can cause just as much damage through the sheer amount of water they can bring ashore. No one understands this more than the residents of the small town of Alvin, Texas, which set the record for the most rain ever recorded in a 24-hour period. A weather observer in Alvin measured 42 inches of rain between the mornings of July 25 and July 26, 1979, as Tropical Storm Claudette swirled ashore. Records show that there may have been even more rainfall in Alvin as the rain gauge began overflowing at one point.

4. ALABAMA: THE WETTEST MAJOR CITY

The Pacific Northwest has a deserved reputation when it comes to constant rainfall. Seattle, Washington, sees rain on more than 150 days each year, but when it does rain there, the precipitation is on the lighter side; it's often an annoying drizzle.

But if you want real rainfall in a cityscape, head down to Mobile, Alabama, which is the rainiest major city in the contiguous United States in terms of yearly average rainfall. This city on the northern Gulf Coast typically sees more than five feet of rain every year. There are plenty of places that see more rain annually; Maple Valley, Washington, for instance, gets more than seven feet of rain a year. On the other hand, only 22,000 people live there. For the biggest rainy impact on the largest number of people, Mobile—home to just under 200,000—takes the cake.

5. MISSOURI: THE COSTLIEST HAILSTORM IN HISTORY

A pang of fear strikes through the stomachs of every car- and homeowner when a barrage of hail begins falling from the sky. It doesn't take much hail to cause a lot of damage, and the damage gets exponentially worse as the hailstones tick up in size. Parts of central Missouri and Illinois saw the costliest hailstorm ever recorded [PDF] back in April 2001, when a supercell thunderstorm dropped hail up to the size of baseballs over a path more than 240 miles long.

The hail damaged hundreds of thousands of buildings, tens of thousands of vehicles, and even caused substantial damage to more than two dozen airplanes at the airport in St. Louis. Once the skies cleared and residents tallied the damage, they found that the storm caused more than $1.5 billion in insured losses.

6. COLORADO: THE BIGGEST ONE-DAY SNOWFALL ON RECORD

If you love the cold and just can't get enough snow in the winter, there are few places you want to be more than the Rocky Mountains. The bitter cold, constant stream of storms, and jagged terrain create the perfect conditions for gobs of snow to fall all at once. A weather reporting station at Silver Lake, Colorado, nestled in the mountains west of Boulder, caught the jackpot one day nearly a hundred years ago. The town recorded more than six feet of snow—75.8 inches, to be precise—in the 24-hour period between April 14 and April 15, 1921. That's some deep powder.

12 Powerful Facts About Hurricanes

iStock/shaunl
iStock/shaunl

Hurricanes are a stunning, and dangerous, display of nature’s power. They’re some of the largest and most intense storms nature can produce. Today, we know more about these systems and have an easier time measuring and predicting them than ever before. There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to hurricanes. As the 2019 hurricane season kicks off (it runs from June 1st through November 30th), here are some things you might not know about these dangerous storms.

1. Hurricanes are only "hurricanes" around North America.

A tropical cyclone is a compact, low-pressure system fueled by thunderstorms that draw energy from the heat generated by warm ocean waters. These tropical cyclones acquire different names depending on how strong they are and where in the world they form. A mature tropical cyclone is called a hurricane in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans. What’s known as a hurricane in the Atlantic is called a typhoon near Asia and simply a cyclone everywhere else in the world.

2. Hurricanes come in all shapes and sizes.

Not all hurricanes are picture-perfect. Some storms can look so disorganized that it takes an expert eye and advanced technology to spot them. A full-fledged hurricane can be as small as a few dozen miles across or as large as one-half of the United States, as was the case with Typhoon Tip in the western Pacific Ocean in 1979. The smallest tropical cyclone on record was 2008’s Tropical Storm Marco, a tiny storm in the Gulf of Mexico that almost made it to hurricane strength. Marco’s strong winds only extended 12 miles from the eye of the storm—a distance smaller than the length of Manhattan.

3. The greatest danger in a hurricane is in the eyewall.

The spiraling bands of wind and rain that radiate from the center of a hurricane are what give these storms their distinctive buzzsaw shape. These bands can cause damage, flooding, and even tornadoes, but the worst part of a hurricane is the eyewall, or the tight group of thunderstorms that rage around the center of the storm. The most severe winds in a hurricane usually occupy a small part of the eyewall just to the right of the storm’s forward motion, an area known as the right-front quadrant. The worst damage is usually found where this part of the storm comes ashore.

4. The eye of a hurricane is very warm.

The core of a hurricane is very warm—they are tropical, after all. The eye of a hurricane is formed by air rushing down from the upper levels of the atmosphere to fill the void left by the low air pressure at the surface. Air dries out and warms up as it rapidly descends through the eye toward the surface. This allows temperatures in the eye of a strong hurricane to exceed 80°F thousands of feet above the Earth's surface, where it’s typically much colder.

5. You can tell a lot about a hurricane by its eye.

Like humans, you can tell a lot about a hurricane by looking it in the eye. A ragged, asymmetrical eye means that the storm is struggling to strengthen. A smooth, round eye means that the storm is both stable and quite strong. A tiny eye—sometimes called a pinhole or pinpoint eye—is usually indicative of a very intense storm.

6. Some hurricanes have two eyes.

An eye doesn’t last forever. Storms frequently encounter a process known as an “eyewall replacement cycle,” which is where a storm develops a new eyewall to replace the old one. A storm weakens during one of these cycles, but it can quickly grow even more intense than it originally was once the replacement cycle is completed. When Hurricane Matthew scraped the Florida coast in October 2016, the storm’s impacts were slightly less severe because the storm underwent an eyewall replacement cycle just as it made its closest approach to land.

7. The strong winds that a hurricane creates are only part of the danger.

While strong winds get the most coverage on the news, wind isn’t always the most dangerous part of the storm. More than half of all deaths that result from a landfalling hurricane are due to the storm surge, or the sea water that gets pushed inland by a storm’s strong winds. Most storm surges are relatively small and only impact the immediate coast, but in a larger storm like Katrina or Sandy, the wind can push deep water so far inland that it completely submerges homes many miles from the coast.

8 California rarely sees tropical cyclones.

It can seem odd that California occupies hundreds of miles of coastline but always seems to evade the hurricane threat faced by the East Coast. California almost never sees tropical cyclones because the ocean is simply too cold to sustain a storm. Only a handful of tropical cyclones have ever reached California in recorded history—the worst hit San Diego in 1858. The San Diego Hurricane was an oddity that’s estimated to have reached category 1 intensity as it brushed the southern half of the Golden State.

9. Hurricane hunters fly planes into storms.

Aside from satellite and radar imagery, it’s pretty hard to know exactly what a hurricane is doing unless it passes directly over a buoy or a ship. This is where the Hurricane Hunters come in, a brave group of scientists with the United States Air Force and NOAA who fly specially outfitted airplanes directly into the worst of a storm to measure its winds and report back their findings. This practice began during World War II and has become a mainstay of hurricane forecasting in the decades since.

10. Hurricane hunters drop sensors to measure waves.

The Hurricane Hunters assess the storm with all sorts of tools that measure temperature, pressure, wind, and moisture, and have weather radar onboard to give them a detailed view of the entire storm. They regularly release dropsondes to "read" the inside of the storm. Dropsondes are like weather balloons in reverse: instead of launching weather sensors from the ground into the sky, they drop them down through the sky to the ground. The Hurricane Hunters also have innovative sensors that measure waves and sea foam and use the data to accurately estimate how strong the winds are at the surface.

11. We started naming storms to keep track of them.

Meteorologists in the United States officially started naming tropical storms and hurricanes in the 1950s to make it easier to keep track in forecasts and news reports. Since then, naming tropical cyclones has become a worldwide effort coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations agency responsible for maintaining meteorological standards. Today, the Atlantic Ocean and eastern Pacific Ocean each receive a list of alternating masculine and feminine names that are reused every six years.

12. Names are retired if the storm was especially destructive.

If a storm is particularly destructive or deadly, the WMO will “retire” the name from official lists so it’s never used again out of respect for the families of the storm’s victims and survivors. When a name is retired, another name starting with the same letter takes its place. More than 80 names have been retired from the Atlantic Ocean’s list of names since 1954. Earlier this year, it was announced that the names Florence and Michael were being retired as a result of the damage they caused during the 2018 hurricane season; they will be replaced with Francine and Milton when the list is reused in 2024.

This piece originally ran in 2017; it has been updated for 2019.

Denver is About to Experience Summer and Winter Temperatures Within 24 Hours

iStock.com/mphotoi
iStock.com/mphotoi

In a story tailor-made for exhaustive Weather Channel coverage, Denver, Colorado is about to experience one of the more bizarre weather shifts in recent memory. After an expected Tuesday high of 80°F, residents can anticipate a dramatic shift down to 32°F by midday Wednesday, with an initial half-inch of snow accumulation increasing to up to 7 inches by Wednesday night.

Put another way: Citizens who need to make sure they hydrate in the warm temperatures Tuesday will have to bring out the parkas the following day.

The Denver Post reports that the warm air coming ahead of the cold can result in a clash of air masses, prompting areas of low pressure that can create forceful and damaging weather conditions. The storm could bring winds of up to 60 miles per hour and possibly even cause power outages. Snow accumulation should dissipate by the weekend, when temperatures are expected to climb back into the 60s.

The high temperature record for April 9 in Denver is 81°F, set in 1977.

[h/t The Denver Post]

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