January 2-4, 1879: Columbus’ 2nd Coldest Temperature

After a generally cold December, January 1879 started out with a severe arctic outbreak across the state, leading to Columbus’ 2nd coldest temperature ever recorded (officially). The outbreak began on January 2nd, when a strong cold front moved in from the northwest in the early afternoon hours. The temperature fell rapidly during the evening, reaching a low of -13 on the 2nd for a total drop that day of 42 degrees. The core of the cold air moved across Ohio during the day of the 3rd, so temperatures warmed very little. Highs across the state were in the single digits south to below zero across the norther 2/3rds. Columbus had a rare below zero high of -4, which is the 2nd coldest January high on record and the 3rd coldest high of any month. The low on the 3rd was a frigid -20. This low stood as the coldest temperature in Columbus for 115 years, only being surpassed during the great arctic outbreak of January 1994, during which the temperature fell to -22.

The strong front was very moisture starved, and only a few tenths to an inch to an inch of snow fell with its passage.

Temperatures remained in the single digits for two more days before a gradual warming commenced. By the 8th temperatures went above freezing. The rest of January 1879 was fairly tame. 16 days after the 8th had highs of 35 or greater.

Of note is that the temperature of -20 occured two more times before the end of the 19th century, in January 1884 and February 1899.

December 2012 Weather Recap

December was probably one of the strangest months ever for weather. The first three weeks were extremely warm, being almost 10 degrees above normal. The last 10 days cooled off, but not enough to make up for the warmth. The mean was 39.4 degrees, or 5.9 degrees above normal, and December ended up being the 10th warmest on record.

Although the month was very wet from the beginning (3rd wettest), there was also only a trace of snowfall through the 20th, and it looked like the month might end with below normal snowfall. Then 4 separate snow events dropped 14.9″ the last 10 days, making the month the 4th snowiest December of all time. Not only that, but two of the snowfalls (5.9″ and 4.9″) were two of the top 20 snowfalls for a December.

December 2012 will definitely go down as one of those months that defied expectations.

January 6-7, 1996: Surprise Blizzard

The first two weeks of January 1996 proved to be a very wintry period, culminating in a severe snowstorm with blizzard conditions on the 6th-7th. Although this storm was made famous for its effects on the Eastern Seaboard, the storm also had a significant impact on areas to the west of the Appalachians.

This storm developed in the Gulf of Mexico on the 6th and moved up along the East Coast through the 7th. Forecasts for Ohio were not especially indicative of an impending major storm. A weak low pressure moving through the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys was supposed to die out as the main storm on the Coast took over. Ohio was generally forecast to receive 1-3″, perhaps 2-4″, mainly along and south of I-70, with the higher end of the range down along the Ohio River. Even as late as the night of the 6th when snow began to fall, forecasters were not calling for a significant event.

I have very vivid memories of seeing the afternoon and evening news on the 6th and being disappointed at the forecasts for the storm to pass us well to the east. However, by the morning of the 7th, it was clear that the forecast had gone very wrong. Heavy snow and strong winds affected mainly the southern 2/3rds of the state. For some locations, there would be more than 30 hours of continuous snowfall.

Blizzard conditions raged across west-central and northwestern sections of the state, where winds gusted over 55mph. Blowing and drifting snowfall piled drifts several feet deep, and travel across the state was made impassible, particularly on country roads. For many, this was one of the greatest January snowstorms ever, and in some cases, the worst storm since the Great Blizzard of 1978. 8-10″ was common in the southern 2/3rds of the state, but there was as much as 15″ in parts of the Ohio River communities, as well as areas in west-central Ohio.

Some snowfall totals:
Columbus: 9.8″
Dayton: 8.0″
Cincinnati: 14.4″

So why had the forecast gone so wrong? The weak low pressure that was supposed to die off as the larger system wound up along the East Coast did not die out as expected. Instead, it moved into the lower Ohio Valley and essentially stalled as it spun itself down slowly. This low helped suck moisture over the mountains and into Ohio. Temperatures were cold enough for this moisture to fall as all snow, and a tight gradient brought with it strong winds. The result was a paralyzing winter storm and one of the all-time forecast busts ever.

January 2-3, 1999: Snow and Ice

Snow rollers in Columbus after the January 2-3, 1999 event.

New Year’s Day, 1999 dawned partly cloudy and cold in Ohio, a tranquil early January day in what had been until then a very warm fall and beginning to winter. Both November and December 1998 had been very warm months. December even had highs reaching into the 70’s early in the month, a truly rare occurrence. However, by the end of December, conditions had taken a turn.

On December 21, 1998, a cold front moved through Ohio, bringing copious amounts of rain. Most cities in Ohio received more than 1″ of rainfall, with several getting 2-3″. This front was the beginning of a very active period that would last for the next three weeks into mid-January. This pattern is not uncommon in La Nina winters, where the Midwest and Ohio Valley, in particular, are often much wetter than normal.

In any event, temperatures fell behind the front and remained generally below normal through the rest of the month of December, though no significant snow events came with the colder weather. That was about to change.

National radars on January 1, 1999 showed blossoming snow in the Great Plains, with cold air pushing south and abundant moisture pushing north from the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasts called for a significant winter storm beginning late on the 1st and lasting through the 2nd. The storm arrived a bit later than expected, but arrived in most areas during the overnight hours of the 1st/2nd as heavy snowfall. The snow initially fell at the rate of at least 1″ per hour, and thundersnow was reported from Cincinnati up through Dayton and Columbus.

During the day on the 2nd, warm air began to affect upper layers of the atmosphere, and the snow gradually began to change over to sleet and freezing rain, with an accumulation of ice of up to 1/2″ in some areas on top of the snow. By then, though, the damage was done. 4-6″ of snow fell in the Cincinnati area, with 6-10″ along the I-70 corridor. Up to 12″ fell to the north of there. Gusty winds created blowing and drifting snow at times, particularly in the northern areas that received less of a coating of ice.

Temperatures turned colder as the storm passed, and what precipitation remained changed back to snow showers by the 3rd of January. Temperatures would remain in the low to mid-teens for highs during the next two days before another storm would set eyes on the state.

Snow Totals for January 2-3, 1999
Dayton: 7.5″
Columbus: 6.6″
Cincinnati: 4.2″

To find out more about this storm, go here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_blizzard_of_1999

2008: Year of the Wind

2008 was a year of extreme weather events, but aside from the March Blizzard, the biggest story of the year was its severe wind events, particularly from Hurricane Ike. Let’s take a look back.

January 8th-9th Severe Weather
Record warm temperatures in the upper 60s on the 7th-8th of January, 2008 gave way to storms and even a rare January Tornado Watch on the evening of the 8th. Winds had been gusty all during the day of the 8th, but reached their peak with the frontal passage storms. Rain and thunderstorms began moving into Ohio during the late afternoon and increased in intensity through the evening, prompting the NWS to issue a Tornado Watch just after 10pm. Although no tornadoes were reported anywhere in Ohio on the night of the 8th-9th, the storms brought with them rains of 1-2″ and winds of up to 70mph, causing many reports of minor structural damage and scattered power outages.

January 29th-30th Windstorm
The second, more intense wind event for January in Ohio came during the last few days of the month. A very strong low pressure moved north and west of Ohio as strong high pressure moved south into the Plains. The resulting gradient caused winds to increase. Winds were sustained between 30-35mph most of the 29th. When the front arrived during the evening hours, winds ramped up even more. Winds were sustained at 40-45 with gusts between 60-70mph. There was very little precipitation with this front. Damages were widespread.

On a personal note with this event, I witnessed several power poles bent over and large business signs blown out from the force of the January 29th-30th wind event.

Hurricane Ike and Ohio’s Worst Windstorm
On September 1st, 2008, a tropical depression formed in the central Atlantic Ocean. That same day, the depression strengthened enough to gain a name: Ike. No one in Ohio anticipitated that this storm, far out in the Atlantic, would cause the most widespread, destructive windstorm the state had ever seen.

Ike gradually became a hurricane and roared west and then southwest over Cuba before turning back to the northwest and into the Gulf of Mexico. He churned westward growing in size as he went. The windfield of the hurricane was gigantic. Hundreds of miles from the center, tropical storm force winds were pounding parts of the Gulf Coast, giving an indication of the wind and surge potential.

Hurricane Ike made landfall near Galveston, Texas early on Saturday, September 13th with maximum sustained winds of 110mph. After landfall, the system turned to the north and then to the northeast as it hooked up with a frontal boundary that was draped across the Midwest. The system became extratropical by the end of the day on the 13th and gradually accelerated to the north and east towards the Great Lakes.

Now, at this point, that would normally be the end of the story. A dying tropical system far inland tends to produce a lot of rain and flooding, but wind is not usually an issue. And indeed, parts of Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois saw major and disastrous flooding from a combination of the frontal boundary and the remains of Ike. However, a very unusual situation occurred.

Over the Gulf of Mexico and up through landfall, Ike was never quite able to translate upper level high winds down to the surface. The sustained reading of 110mph at landfall never seemed to actually materialize in reports on the ground, and the vast majority of the damage along the Texas coastline was due to significant storm surge brought in by the massive size of the storm. However, Ike’s inability to translate the highest winds to the surface was about to change.

Ike maintained a very low pressure of between 986 and 990 throughout the journey through the OV and Great Lakes, and as he transitioned from tropical to extratropical, the remains actually intensified and Ike retained a large amount of his original wind field, particularly on the eastern side.

No one forecasted this. The NWS, as late as Saturday evening, had forecast winds of 25mph in gusts for much of Ohio.

On the morning of Sunday, September 14th, 2008, the National Weather Service in Wilmington had issued a Wind Advisory for its forecast area calling for gusty winds of 20-30mph with gusts up to 50mph. However, things began to rapidly change. Kentucky was already getting rocked with high winds of over 50mph, and the winds seemed to intensify even more as the core began to move into Ohio through Cincinnati.

By late morning, winds in Cincinnati had reached a *sustained* speed of 54mph with gusts to hurricane force! These heavy winds began to ride up the I-71 corridor, reaching Wilmington by noon and Columbus by 2pm. For several hours, high winds pounded the area. Sustained winds over 50mph were common, and gusts of 70-80mph were widespread. The winds did not begin to die down until after 6pm, and by 8pm, the area had gone almost completely calm.

When the storm was over, over 1/10th of the entire state’s population was without power, including more than 55% of Columbus. Tens of thousands of trees had fallen, and debris of all kinds was everywhere. Power lines had been snapped, signs had been blown down, billboards had been destroyed, and thousands of homes and buildings had sustained damage. Power remained out for thousands for up to two weeks after the storm passed.

The story was the same up and down I-71 up through Cleveland, although damage there was less than that in central and southern parts of Ohio. The severe wind field was about 100 miles across and centered through the major cities on I-71. Insured losses from this storm totaled well over a billion dollars, and total damage likely exceeded two billion. This made the storm one of the most damaging natural disasters in Ohio history, exceeding those like the Blizzard of 1978 and perhaps even the Great Flood of 1913 in adjusted dollars.

Highest Wind Gusts in Ohio on 9/14/2008
Highest measured wind gusts — official observations
75 mph — Port Columbus International Airport (Franklin County, OH)
74 mph — Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Int’l Airport (Boone County, KY)
74 mph — Airborne Airpark, Wilmington, OH (Clinton County, OH)
69 mph — Bolton Field (Franklin County, OH)
69 mph — Rickenbacker Airport (Franklin County, OH)
68 mph — Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport (Montgomery County, OH)
63 mph — OSU Airport (Franklin County, OH)
61 mph — Cincinnati Lunken Municipal Airport (Hamilton County, OH)
60 mph — Dayton International Airport (Montgomery County, OH)
59 mph — Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (Greene County, OH)

Highest measured wind gusts — unofficial observations
84 mph — West Chester, OH (Butler County)
78 mph — Lebanon, OH (Warren County)
77 mph — Wilmington, OH (Clinton County)
73 mph — Anna, OH (Shelby County)
66 mph — St. Mary’s, OH (Auglaize County)
65 mph — Baltimore, OH (Fairfield County)
65 mph — Trenton, OH (Butler County)
63 mph — Beavercreek, OH (Greene County)
61 mph — Springfield, OH (Clark County)
60 mph — Cleves, OH (Hamilton County
58 mph — Hamilton, OH (Butler County)
56 mph — Cincinnati, OH (Hamilton County)
49 mph — Greenville, OH (Darke County)

In general, the highest wind gusts and sustained wind were not the highest ever record in Columbus and other places, but they were generally in the top 5. However, previous events had generally been record in thunderstorms, and so were rather brief in duration. The multi-hour event of September 14, 2008, therefore, stands as one of the worst wind events in Ohio history.

Videos from around Ohio on 9/14/2008


February 5-6, 2010 Snowstorm

The winter of 2009-2010 will go down as one of the best ever (if you like winter, that is). The biggest reason for that is February 2010.

The first event started in the morning on February 5th. Forecasts in the days leading up to this event were mixed. Models were showing a lot of precipitation, but also a strong push of upper-level warm air into Ohio. How far north this warm layer reached was the point of contention. In most years, the WTOD, or the “Warm Tongue of Death” as some Ohio weather enthusiasts like to refer to it, is a constant threat each and every winter. When a storm is moving north or northeast south of the state, they tend to pull warm air north, and the Appalachian Mountains act like a funnel directing this warm air straight into Ohio. During winter events, it presents itself as a layer of warm air above the surface, often turning snow to ice, sleet or just plain rain, even if the surface itself is relatively cold. It’s a constant source of frustration for winter weather lovers. It was this phenomenon that was predicted to strike again and the dividing line, as it so often is, was predicted to be along I-70. North of there, mostly or all snow was predicted, while south was more mix, ice and rain. The I-70 corridor, including Columbus, was to be the northern extent of this mixing, limiting snowfall accumulations. Still, even with the mix predicted, a solid 4-6″ was predicted, which is a decent event by itself and about typical for any winter.

Precipitation began as snow across southern counties by dawn and spread north, reaching the Columbus area between 9 and 9:30AM. It started out as flurries, but the flakes were already fairly large. Within 15 minutes, the flurries had turned to very heavy, wet snow. Flakes were as large as quarters at times and stayed large, accumulating quickly despite the above freezing temperatures. Visibility quickly dropped to a half mile or less at times, and traffic quickly snarled with accidents as plows could not keep up with the pace of the inch-per-hour snowfall rates. Between 4PM and 5PM, there was a respite as snowfall lightened and there was a mix of sleet and ice pellets, but all snow resumed once heavier precipitation moved in, concluding the only and very short period of mixing I-70 had. Snow continued through the night of the 5th and into the 6th, finally ending before noon.

Snowfall totals were impressive, especially along and north of I-70, where little mixing took place, but also in pockets to the southeast of Columbus, like Lancaster. For Columbus, the 9.9″ that fell was good enough to be a top 15 largest snowfall for the city. It would not, however, be the largest snowfall of the month.

Greenville: 14.8″
Lancaster: 13.0″
Akron: 12.1″
Bellefontaine: 12.0″
Urbana: 12.0″
Westerville: 11.4″
Dayton: 11.1″
Springfield: 11.0″
Columbus: 9.9″
Youngstown: 8.4″
Delaware: 8.0″
Cleveland: 5.9″
Cincinnati: 4.5″
Circleville: 3.0″
Toledo: 3.0″

Snow totals for the NWS Wilmington area.

For more February weather records, go here: February Weather

December 14-15, 1901: Columbus Mega Front

Temperatures through November and early December 1901 had been persistently below normal. 24 days in November had been below normal, and but for a few days very early in December, this pattern continued. However, beginning on December 11th, temperatures began to rise ahead of an approaching weather system. By the 13th, temperatures reached record highs in Columbus when they spiked at 65 degrees. The following day started equally warm with a record high of 65. However, a change was coming. A powerful cold front would move through late on the 14th, and temperatures began to plummet. By midnight, the temperature had dropped all the way down to just 14 degrees, a single day drop of 51 degrees! 1.50″ of precipitation accompanied the frontal passage, with over 4″ wind-driven snow.

On the 15th, the temperature continued to fall, albeit more slowly, and by midnight the reading was -4. This mega-cold front had produced a 69 degree total drop in Columbus, which made it one of the strongest cold fronts ever to move through the Ohio region.

The front would bring a major pattern change. Every day from the 15th-21st featured highs in the teens, which set many daily low maximum records, some of which still stand more than 100 years later.

The winter of 1901-02 was generally cold and snowy in the Ohio Valley, but no future front that winter would come close to December 14-15th of 1901.

December 5-6, 2007: Clipper and Cold

Forecasts on December 4th, 2007 called for a weak, fast-moving clipper to affect much of the Midwest, Great Lakes, Ohio Valley and east to the Mid-Atlantic coast. Most forecasts in Ohio had the area south of I-80 down to just north of the Ohio River getting 1-3″ of snowfall, with a potential max of 2-4″ in south-central Ohio from Dayton to Chillicothe.

Snowfall began in western Ohio at about 10pm and reached central Ohio by midnight on the 4th. It began as flurries and light snow showers but gradually increased in intensity overnight and into the morning of the 5th, becoming heavy at times. By the time that the snowfall ended around 2:30pm in the afternoon, 4-6″ covered most of central Ohio, with the heaviest accumulations right near the I-70 corridor. Another max of snow occurred along a Mansfield to Canton line where a general 4-6″ also occurred.

The night of the 5th-6th brought a cold night for most of Ohio as clear skies after the storm and snow-covered ground sent temperatures far below normal. Most areas saw temperatures in the single digits, and many even fell into the single digits below zero. For Columbus, the low of 9 was the second lowest temperature ever recorded for the 6th of December.

Completed Project #2- 2000- Miranova

On November 16, 1995, Developer Ron Pizzuti announced plans for a residential and office complex on the Scioto River shore on the southwestern edge of Downtown. In 1995, this area was a large vacant lot and a handful of small buildings. Originally, the $150 million plan called for replacing this whole area with two 25-story condominium towers, 14 luxury townhomes on the river, a 5-story office building and a pair of restaurants, all with construction to begin in 1996. 200 residential units were planned for the towers. This was all supposed to be part of a new series of Downtown developments including a new COSI, a new soccer stadium across the river on the Scioto Peninsula and a residential development on the Whittier Peninsula west of the Brewery District.

On May 12th, 1996, it was reported that the project would not actually break ground until sometime in 1997, already another year later than originally planned. The two towers remained on the agenda, as did the townhomes and restaurants, but the office building had gained a floor and would now be 6 stories.

By July 8th, 1996, the project had gotten larger still. The # of townhomes had more than doubled to 30 and the office building had risen to 7 stories.

On December 16, 1996, the office building once again grew, this time to 8 stories.

By February 4, 1997, the number of towers had fallen to just one, and mention of townhomes had disappeared, yet the price tag remained $150 million.

Further changes came on December 12, 1997. The single tower would be 28 stories and the office tower had grown to 16 stories. Groundbreaking was pushed back to sometime in 1998.

February 11, 1998, still a single 28 story condo tower, but now two 16-story office towers.

May 8, 1998, and back to just one office tower. Still no groundbreaking.

September 19, 1998, more changes. Condo tower down to 26 stories and the office building down to 15. But work has begun on pouring foundations.

Rendering of Miranova in 1998.

Miranova condo tower was completed in the early spring of 2000. By July, 79 of the 112 condos had sold. The office building, down to a final height of 12 stories, would not be finished until 2001. The last condo sale would not happen for several years, as the 2000s saw the market crash for these residences.

Miranova Project Stats
Began Construction in 1999
Completed in 2001
Cost: $150 Million
Height: 26 Stories
# of Residential Units: 112

In-Planning Project- The Scioto Peninsula

The history of the Scioto Peninsula in not really all that positive. Bounded by 315 to the west and on all other sides by the Scioto River directly across from Downtown, this area currently contains Veteran’s Memorial, COSI and not much else. Even as far back as the 1950s, a large chunk of the peninsula, especially around Central High School (which still exists as COSI), was just vacant land. Otherwise, what existed were warehouse buildings and other commercial buildings. What people lived there were mostly confined to a few public housing projects. Being so close to the Scioto River, the area repeatedly flooded over its history, especially in the Great Flood of 1913 and to a lesser extent in 1959. This prevented much development here and in Franklinton in general. Federal standards were actually in place that banned most new construction or even renovations to most types of buildings. This allowed all of Franklinton, including the Peninsula, to stagnate and go through steady decline.

Help was coming, however, in the form of a giant floodwall. Conceived as far back as the 1980s, the Franklinton Floodwall would not be completed until 2004. It took another 4-5 years before people began to seriously look at the area for redevelopment and then for that development to actually start taking place. Eastern Franklinton, so far, has been the focal point of that redevelopment, and a big project to help tie in Downtown with the neighborhood is the planned redevelopment of the Peninsula.

Almost all the buildings that existed in the ’50s are now gone, even the housing projects. COSI uses much of the land for parking, as does Veteran’s Memorial. The rest is grassy lots primed for redevelopment. Some projects have already taken place. The two new Downtown bridges at Main and Rich Streets provide a nice access onto the Peninsula, along with the Broad Street bridge. A 4th, a planned pedestrian bridge, will be located on the north end crossing from Vet’s Memorial to North Bank Park in the Arena District. This bridge is probably still a few years off, as there is another, large project planned. The low-head dams along the Scioto River in the Downtown area are going to be removed, starting sometime next year. This will lower the river level and create a more natural flowing waterway. It will also create acres of new riverfront parkland that new paths and landscaping will be added to. This will create an inviting, park setting to both sides of the river.

The Peninsula has been planned for redevelopment several times in the last 30 years, but there was a lack of momentum for urban projects for decades and no serious plans ever seemed to emerge. That was until the last 10 years, starting in 2002 with the first Downtown development plan by Mayor Coleman and the city. A new version was released in 2010 and contained a dozen projects planned to help Downtown become a destination again. While the Scioto Peninsula was not specifically mentioned, fixing the riverfront was. That’s where Scioto Mile park came from and is now a very popular spot for residents. With all this momentum, the Peninsula needed a serious plan. Right now, meetings are taking place and a development plan is now in the early stages. Some early ideas include a lot of residential, retail and entertainment space, along with a more interactive riverfront and even a transit station for light rail. The first draft of the plan is likely to be released in 2013 and construction could begin as early as 2014.