Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 -- a year of no-shows

Want to know what kind of weather year 2012 was for the Charlotte region?

Two of the biggest stories of the year were things that did not happen.

Sure, there were a couple major events in the area, including a tornado inside the Charlotte city limits and a record-setting heat wave.

But for the most part, 2012 lacked major stories -- at least in the immediate region. Nationally, it was the year of a devastating drought in the central United States and a devastating hurricane/superstorm on the East Coast.

Among the biggest stories for Charlotte-area weather in the recently-ended year, though, were the Winter That Wasn't, and the Thunderstorm That Never Arrived.

Here's a look at the big regional stories -- including two national stories that had a local impact:

MARCH TORNADO ... This was a freak, of sorts.  A major outbreak of tornadoes occurred March 2 and 3, but a stationary front had been draped across the Carolinas border for much of March 2. Areas to the north of that front were in cooler, more stable air.  The National Weather Service had issued a tornado watch for areas south of the front.

But in the early-morning hours of March 3, a Saturday, a strong thunderstorm along or just north of the stationary front caused a tornado to form east of the city. The twister touched down near Reedy Creek Elementary School and carved a path into Cabarrus County. Although some meteorologists think the twister might have reached EF3 strength, the National Weather Service classified it as an EF2, with top sustained winds of 130 mph.

JANUARY TORNADO ... This one was really a freak storm. Tornadoes in mid-winter are a rarity, even in the South, although with last winter's mild temperatures, maybe it shouldn't have been surprising. Three tornadoes struck in Rutherford, Burke and Catawba counties, causing about 20 injuries and damaging or destroying about 100 residences.

THE WINTER THAT WASN'T ... It was one of the mildest winters in history, and if not for a brief period of sleet on the evening of Feb. 19, Charlotte might have gone without even a trace of frozen precipitation for the first time since records starting being kept in 1878.

Various atmospheric patterns collaborated to keep temperatures mild in the east. In January, Charlotte's highs reached 60 degrees or warmer on 12 days.  There were four 70-degree-plus days in February. Spring started the same way, as March (the first month of meteorological spring) had 10 days in the 70s and 10 more in the 80s. In fact, it was the second-warmest March in Charlotte history.

STORMY AND STEAMY ... May, July and August were hot, humid, and stormy.  Charlotte recorded nearly 6 inches of rain in May, and there were much-higher totals in some parts of the area -- thanks to numerous thunderstorms. At Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, there were storms on nine days in May; 16 in July; and nine in August.  June was a dry month.

Some parts of the Charlotte region recorded nearly 20 inches of rain from early May to early September. It was welcome, especially considering how dry the last few months of the year turned out.

JULY 4 HEAT WAVE ... For three straight days -- June 29, June 30 and July 1 -- the official high in Charlotte was 104 degrees. That equaled the city's record high temperature, and there were readings of 106 and 107 degrees in the region. The high also reached 100 degrees on July 5 and 8. Air conditioning technicians were working around the clock to keep up with the demand for repairs.

The heat finally broke on July 9. It turned out to be the fifth-hottest July in Charlotte history.

WESTERN WILDFIRES ... While this did not directly affect Charlotte, there was an indirect connection. A C-130 plane from a Charlotte-based Air National Guard unit crashed July 1 while fighting a wildfire in South Dakota's Black Hills. Four of the six crew members were killed. An investigation later determined that the plane encountered severe turbulence and was caught in a downdraft.

THE THUNDERSTORM THAT NEVER ARRIVED ... Never has a busted local forecast had such a big impact nationally. The stormy pattern that had been persistent in Charlotte during the summer continued into late August, for the start of the Democratic National Convention in the city.

Strong storms hit on the Saturday, Monday and Tuesday of the DNC (Sept. 1, 3 and 4), with more than 2 inches of rain falling. Some flooding was reported in the Saturday storm.

President Obama was scheduled to deliver his acceptance speech outdoors on Sept. 6 at Bank of America Stadium, and many of those who had volunteered their time to help with the convention were promised a ticket at the event. Unfortunately, meteorologists predicted another day of stormy weather on the 6th, with a cold front forecast to move through the region.

On the 5th, Democratic Party officials scrubbed plans for an outdoor speech and moved the event indoors to Time-Warner Cable Arena.  Naturally, most of Sept. 6 was dry and sunny.

SANDY ... The Charlotte area escaped any direct impact from the hurricane-turned-superstorm. But North Carolina took a shot from Sandy in two different ways. As the hurricane chugged up the coast, closer to shore than originally expected, strong winds and high waves tore up roadways and houses along the Outer Banks. And once the storm moved inland, its back-side precipitation brought heavy snow to the North Carolina mountains. Ski resorts were able to open at the beginning of November.


Anonymous said...

We know all this already. It's already last year. We don't need a recap or instant replay.

We want to know what's in store for this these next three months of winter.

How 'bout it?

Anonymous said...

This was pretty cool! Thanks Steve.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:39 = jdshaw

As usual you're not fooling anyone on here with your constant trolling when it comes to the weather stories.

Anonymous said...

What about the huge hail storm that hit South Iredell. We had 2 feet of hail in the Spring and 90% of the homes in our neighborhood had to get new roofs.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:44 -
Huh? You need to remove that tinfoil hat and take your meds pal.

Anonymous said...

There has to be a template for this discussion where Steve just plugs in specifics of a given year and publishes. When was the last time that the severity of weather was underestimated by the "professionals?" The weather is sold the same way all other news stories are sold, with a bunch of hyperbole and treating the worst-case-scenario as the likely scenario.

The day that weather forecasts downplay what's likely to occur will be the same day ESPN tells me an upcoming Super Bowl will be a disappointment.