January 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)

Glasgow, Montana is not a very warm city during the month of January. In fact, a typical January will see temperatures stay below freezing from day one to day thirty-one. So when you end up at-or-above freezing for just about half of the days in January, you might suspect that it was a tad warm. January 2019 was Glasgow’s 11th warmest January on record at just over eight degrees above the long-term average. Twenty-three days saw above average temperatures with fifteen coming in at least 15 degree above average. The most telling feat of Glasgow this January was the very mild overnight lows. In a month where low temperatures stay in the single digits, twenty-one mornings had lows warmer than ten degrees! Two mornings managed to crack the freezing mark which is the most for any January on record. Glasgow would also set its second warmest January low temperature on record at a balmy 37 degrees! Keep in mind that their average high temperature for the month is right around 24 degrees. On the month, Glasgow would set one new record high and three record warm low temperatures. Not surprising, only 3.7 inches of snow would fall during the month, well below their average of eight.

Coldest City (compared to average)

Strangely enough, if you travel just 900 miles south from our warmest city, you’ll land in Alamosa, Colorado – our coldest city this January. It was the 13th coldest January on record in Alamosa at just under eight degrees below average. Twenty-five days of the month would see below average temperatures with just about half of those being at least ten degrees below the long term average. Twenty-seven highs would fall below 34 degrees – the average high temperature for the month –making for the 6th most in any January. As for lows, even in a typical January, it gets downright frigid in Alamosa. The average low during January is -1. Twenty days this month had low temperatures below -1! The final ten days of the month were exceptionally brutal as temperatures failed to reach the freezing mark over the entire stretch. January 2019 would end up being Alamosa’s 2nd snowiest January on record and 9th snowiest calendar month with 19 inches. Those 19 inches fell in eight days making for the 4th greatest number of snowy days in any January.

You might be thinking: Shane, wasn’t this the month of the dreaded POLAR VORTEX? Surely there were colder cities in the Midwest or Northeast. Where is Minneapolis or Chicago or Boston?

Let’s look at Chicago for example. Yep, it was really stinkin’ cold in Chicago (and the majority of the Midwest and Northeast) over the last ten days of the month. Chicago even had a day where it failed to reach ZERO degrees Fahrenheit! BUT, Chicago (and many of the other POLAR VORTEX cities) started January rather warm. Chicago managed to get as warm as the low-50s – temperatures they wouldn’t typically see until April. So, when you average out the temperatures for the month, Chicago winds up at just 2.8 degrees below average making for their 46th coldest January on record. Minneapolis would see their 81st coldest (or 65th warmest) January. Boston would see their 93rd coldest (or 53rd warmest) January. So while these cities did end the month of January with an incredibly cold stretch, when looking at the month as a whole, they were actually pretty darn close to statistically normal.

The temperature rankings tell quite the same story. Even with a direct shot of brutally cold Arctic air just about every location under the influence of the POLAR VORTEX had a fair-weather January temperature-wise. Not one single city in the entire US had their coldest January on record. Conversely, no one had their warmest January on record either. January was quite the ying and the yang; ringing in the New Year relatively mild and then crashing the temperatures to end the month.

Wettest City

Shout out to the readers of this column for pointing out that Quillayute station is actually Forks, Washington! Look who is back again… again, again. That’s right, for the THIRD straight month, Forks, Washington is the wettest place in America. At just a hair over 15 inches, this was enough to be the 25th wettest January on record. If you were wondering, 15 inches of rain would be monthly records for: Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, New York City, Nashville, and almost every major city within the Lower 48. Forks’ 16 days of measurable rainfall was actually the 7th fewest for any January. They would set one daily rainfall record at just shy of 5 inches of rain. That would be enough to make for their 3rd wettest January day on record. On average, January is the 2nd wettest month of the year in Forks, and while this January wasn’t all it was soaked up to be, it was still enough to be our top spot.

It was yet another wet month along the eastern seaboard. Only one major metro, Caribou, Maine, would break the record for their wettest January. One hundred and four other metros would break into their top 10 wettest Januarys. Twenty-seven states would end the month above average in terms of precipitation including the entire Northeast.

Severe Superlatives

Only four days in January would see an above average number of severe weather reports (tornadoes, strong winds, and large hail). The busiest being January 19th which alone would see 10 tornadoes and 61 reports of damaging wind as storms rolled through the Deep South. The month’s 18 total tornadoes is well below the 15-year average for January of 51.

The strongest tornado, an EF-2, would hit Wetumpka, Alabama on January 19th, injuring four people.

Golf ball hail fell from a severe storm over Foreman, Arkansas.

A 74 MPH wind gust accompanied a line of storms that blew through Level Plains, Alabama.

Snowiest City

On the shores of Lake Erie sits Buffalo, NY – a place that is hardly a stranger to big snows during the winter months. Once the lake-effect snow machine gets going, feet of snow can drop in relatively narrow corridors over the span of hours, days, and even weeks. It took a while this season for the lake-effect machine to turn on. Waters were certainly warm in the lakes, but a cold enough air mass had yet to take hold over the region. That would all change in January. The 63.4 inches Buffalo received was enough to get that to their 4th snowiest January on record and their snowiest January in 20 years! Their snow fell over 17 days and came at the hands of three named winter storms. The first, Winter Storm Harper, would drop 14.6 inches of snow on Buffalo. A back-to-back combo of Winter Storms Indra and Jayden, along with the first true lake-effect banding of the season, would put down another 22.7 inches just days later. Finally, one last strong lake-effect push at the end of the month would produce 21 inches on its own. That would total 43.7 inches in just a week’s time – enough to make for their snowiest January week on record. Phew!

Buffalo is currently the 5th snowiest major city in the US so far this winter. Taking the top spot, so far, is Marquette, Michigan with an impressive 131.8 inches. Other than Florida, we’ve seen accumulating snow in every state through the end of January.

Sunniest City (average % of sky cover)

For the first time in the two years we’ve been doing this column, we finally have a sunniest spot in the country that did not see 100% (or greater than 99%) sunshine the entire month. That’s right; the sunniest city in the US only managed 99% clear skies in January. Marfa, Texas did see 25 mostly sunny days, 21 of which was completely cloud free. Five partly cloudy-or-worse days would be enough to bump them out of a less than 1% total cloud cover. A little over a third of an inch of rain would fall making for their 5th wettest January on record. Their four days with measurable precipitation would be the third most of any January. Better luck next month!

Cloudiest City (average % of sky cover)

Finally, we’ll swing up to the familiar cloudy Midwest region to find the cloudiest city in the US this January. That honor goes to Traverse City, Michigan, whose 16 overcast days would be enough to give them top billing. With just two mostly sunny days-or-better along with eleven days of rain, Traverse City was anything but a bright, cheerful, winter oasis. But hey, January is their cloudiest month out of the year on average, so at least they’re probably used to gloomy Januarys.

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

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

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  1. “A typical January will see temperatures stay below freezing from day one to day thirty-one” is not quite correct. It’s true that the daily average high is below 32 throughout the month; however, I looked up Glasgow International Airport’s records on NOWDATA at NWS GGW and it turns out that since the airport’s records began in 1948, there have been just 3 Januaries in which the temperature remained below freezing for the entire month (1950, 1978, 1979). Only 10 Januaries had a month maximum colder than 40 degrees, and the record mean for January month max is 45.

  2. Hard to believe Glasgow, MT was the warmest location! I know the Great Plains can have wild temperature swings but still you wouldn’t think Glasgow, MT would be the warmest spot in the US during the winter months

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