February 2019 Extreme Weather

Each month we scour the continental U.S. looking for the warmest, coldest, wettest, snowiest, sunniest and cloudiest locations. Did your town make the list this month? Let’s find out…

Warmest City (compared to average)

In what is seemingly becoming a February tradition in our warmest city this year, residents of Montgomery, Alabama etched in yet another above average February into the record books. This year’s entry is the fourth February in a row to end with above average temperatures in a month that by all means should be their coldest of the year. The warmth this February is also part of a much smaller scale pattern that has brought month-after-month of above average temperatures to the region. Three- quarters of months in the past year have ended with above average temperatures. Needless to say, it has been a warm time in Montgomery for quite a while. This February was their 2nd warmest on record just behind the record set just last year. The month featured 23 days with above average temperatures including a week’s worth of days that were at least 20 degrees above. Twenty-seven days would see temperatures exceed 60 degrees – that’s the most for any February on record. Two days would top 85 degrees, another record for February, and set a brand new all-time warmest February temperature record of 86. Overnight lows were just as warm. A new all-time warmest February overnight low temperature would be set at a balmy 68 degrees. In all, Montgomery would break three high temperature and two warm low temperature records during February. At eleven degrees above the long term monthly average, Montgomery’s February was more typical of a February in Phoenix. Good luck getting those cactuses to grow.

Coldest City (compared to average)

If you thought Montgomery’s warmth was extreme, our top spot for coldest city in the US this February is downright outrageous. Plagued by rather persistent outbreaks of Arctic air, including the dreaded POLAR VORTEX, folks in Havre, Montana didn’t stand a chance. Take note of the graphic above. Compared to average, Havre finished the month almost 30 degrees below their long term monthly average. To put this into perspective, their February was more typical of one in Fairbanks, Alaska – some 2300 miles to their north – which sits pretty darn close to the Arctic Circle. Despite all of this, believe it or not, this was only Havre’s second coldest February on record. The record goes to 1936’s edition of February which was an incredible 35 degrees below average! Back to 2019, this month saw 26 days with below average temperatures including 12 days which were at least 30 degrees below average. When it comes to really cold days, this February was especially loaded. The temperature stayed below 20 degrees on 25 days of the month, below 10 degrees for 20 days, and below 0 for almost two weeks’ worth of days. This includes a ten day streak where the temperature stayed below zero. That’s longest enough to make for the 3rd longest sub-zero streak for February and the 11th longest for any month. The cold was exacerbated by 18 inches of snow that fell throughout the month making for the 3rd snowiest February in Havre. The good news is that from here temperatures can only go up. Here’s to a warmer spring!

It’s déjà vu all over again – at least as far as Februarys go. Take a look at the eerie similarity between February 2018 and February 2019 in terms of places that saw some of their warmest and coldest months on record. The big difference between last year and this year is the intrusion of the POLAR VORTEX which left a much colder fingerprint over the nation’s heartland. Two hundred and sixty four cities would end the month with one of their top 10 warmest Februarys on record. Another 113 would see one of their top 10 coldest.

Alabama, the site of our warmest city in the US this month, would end up having their third warmest February on record. Conversely, Montana, the site of our coldest city, would have their second coldest.

However, a very small cold bias will end up being the keynote of February 2019. Of the 800-or-so weather reporting stations across the US, fifty-three percent would end the month with temperatures below their long term average.

Wettest City

You may have heard the term ATMOSPHERIC RIVER pop up during the month of February, and for good reason. Certain patterns can develop in which large amounts of oceanic moisture are drawn into a region over a long duration producing widespread heavy precipitation. One of the more well-known such ATMOSPHERIC RIVERS is called the Pineapple Express – named for the connection of Pacific moisture from Hawaii (or near about) into the US West Coast. The Pineapple Express made a visit during February, leading to heavy rainfall across the West Coast. No surprise then that our wettest spot in the US this month comes to us from California. Say hello to Santa Rosa, California, our wettest city in the US this February. With 18 days of rainfall measuring just shy of 17 inches, Santa Rosa would see their wettest February and 3rd wettest month on record. Those eighteen days of rainfall are the 2nd most for any February and the 15th most for any month. They would set a new daily record of 4.64 inches which would also be enough to make it the 2nd wettest day in Santa Rosa history. Three days this month would make it into the top five wettest February days on record, and another two would make the all-time wettest days list. It was also Santa Rosa’s coldest February on record, making for what had to have been a miserably wet, raw, cold month. Sorry Santa Rosa!

Aside from the West Coast, it was also a particularly active month for storminess across the Great Lakes and Appalachia region. Over three hundred cities would have one of their top 10 wettest Februarys on record. Seventy-eight cities would see their wettest February on record, including Knoxville, Tupelo, Nashville, and Boise.

February 2019 will go down as the second wettest month in US history. Just a handful of states would end the month drier than the long term average. Tennessee would set a record for their wettest February.

Severe Superlatives

Four active days spawned a total of 184 severe weather reports (tornado, damaging wind, large hail). The busiest day was February 12th which alone saw 56 reports of damaging winds across Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas including tornadoes in Clayton, GA and Orangeburg, SC. February ended 50% below average in terms of tornado activity with 24 total reports. Ten different states would see at least one tornado during the month: Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, and California.

The strongest tornado of the month occurred on February 23rd in Columbus, Mississippi. This tornado was responsible for one death.

Golf ball sized hail fell in Pierce City, Missouri on the 6th.

NWS estimated a wind gust of up to 80 MPH in Monett, Missouri on February 6th. The damaging wind toppled trees and collapsed a concrete silo.

Snowiest City

Only two inches of snow separated our snowy spot in the US from setting their all-time snowiest month on record. The close to 90 inches of snow in Marquette, Michigan would make for their 2nd snowiest February on record and third snowiest month all-time. Of their nineteen days with measurable snow this month, six would see at least half a foot. This sets a new record for February and ties the all-time record. Marquette would receive snow from seven different named winter storm this February. The snowiest storms, Maya, Nadia, and Quiana, would drop a combined 55.6 inches in a span of two weeks. Marquette would set records for their 7th and 8th snowiest February days on record with 16.5 and 16.0 inches respectively. Three daily snowfall records would be broken. By the way, 90 inches of snow is roughly equal to one Andre the Giant – this article’s official snowfall unit of measure.

Sunniest City (average % of sky cover)

Remember back to our discussion about rainfall from early. There were only a handful of places that stayed relatively dry compared to the onslaught of moisture that touched the majority of the Lower 48. One of the states to get away rather unscathed was Texas. No surprise then that our sunniest spot in the US hails from the Lone Star State. With 21 cloud-free days in February, Alpine, Texas takes top billing this month. Every day this February was essentially mostly sunny or better. There were two days with rainfall, which brought enough cloud cover to ruin any chances of a completely sunny month. Alpine, which sits in the Chihuahua Desert, sees on average 247 sunny days per year. June is typically their sunniest month while February is their driest month.

Cloudiest City (average % of sky cover)

Right in the heart of the active storm track this February was Youngstown, Ohio. Frequent readers of this article will remember Youngstown as a common winner of cloudiest spot in the US, especially during the winter months. This month, Youngstown saw 15 completely overcast, sun-free, gray, dismal days. While the sun did peek out from time to time, there were zero categorically sunny days throughout the month. Fifteen days also saw measurable rainfall or snowfall making for the 13th wettest February on record. Youngstown typically sees about 160 sunny days per year, well below the US average of around 210. So don’t feel too bad for Youngstownians – they’re used to it!

There you have it, the extremes for the month that was February 2019. Make sure to check back next month to see what March has in store!

What weather extremes did you face in February where you live? Let me know in the comments below.