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  January Almanac - The Southwest

In a normal year, the Southwest's wet season is at its peak in January. The storms occur in families with heavy precipitation and strong winds. Even dry southern areas can get into the swing of things in some storms in most years. Heavy rains in the lower coastal and valley locations give way to very heavy snows in the mountains. The snow there in a good Pacific storm is measured in feet.

Near the Pacific, in a wet year, when the soils become saturated, mudslides and flooding can become a serious problem.

After these stormy spells, periods of pleasant even warm winter weather are common. When the Great Basin high builds, the Santa Ana winds can blow bringing warm, dry weather to southern and sometimes central areas.

In drought years, these dry periods predominate and most storms stay well to the north. Since the area depends on the meltwater from the mountain snows for water for drinking and irrigation, this can pose serious problems for many months to come. The dryness in these years makes the threat of summer fires even worse.

Significant Past Weather Occurrences

January 1, 1934 -

    heavy rain which began on December 30th led to flooding in the Los Angeles basin area of California. Flooding claimed the lives of at least 45 people. Rainfall totals ranged up to 16.29 inches at Azusa, with 8.26 inches reported in downtown Los Angeles.

January 2, 1993 -

    in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, the Sugar Bowl ski patrol reported a snow depth of 90 inches at the 7000 foot level. A depth of 150 inches was measured at 7800 feet. Since December 29, 1992, a total of 72 inches had fallen at the 7000 foot elevation, with 93 inches at 8300 feet.

January 5, 1982 -

    a three day rainstorm in the San Francisco, CA area finally came to an end. Marin and Cruz counties were drenched with up to 25 inches of rain. Big snow fell in the Sierra-Nevada range, with accumulations up to eight feet in depth. The storm claimed at least 36 lives and caused more than 300 million dollars damage.

January 8, 1923 -

    the all-time January record high temperature reading was reached at Los Angeles when the mercury climbed to 90 degrees.

January 10, 1949 -

    snow was reported at San Diego, CA for the first and only time since 1882. Snow was even noted on some of the beaches in the Los Angeles metro area. Burbank reported nearly 5 inches (4.7) of snow, while both Long Beach and Laguna Beach received one inch.

January 11, 1951 -

    an F2 tornado struck Los Gatos and Sunnyvale, CA, causing $1.5 million in damage. Another F2 tornado moved through San Jose, CA with $50,000 in damage.

January 13, 1862 -

    the "Nochian flood of California" created a vast sea in the Sacramento valley. San Francisco had a January rain-fall total of 24.36 inches.

January 14, 1882 -

    southern California's greatest snow occurred. 15 inches blanketed San Bernardino, and even San Diego reported a trace of snow.

January 14, 1888 -

    a cold wave hit California, with temperatures of 20 degrees at Eureka and 29 degrees at San Francisco.

January 15, 1932 -

    downtown Los Angeles, CA had its heaviest snowfall when 2 inches fell. 1 inch was measured at the civic center.

January 15, 1952 -

    a 6 day snowstorm was in progress in the western U.S. The storm produced 44 inches of snow at Marlette Lake, NV, 52 inches at Sun Valley, ID, and 149 inches at Tahoe Lake, CA, establishing single storm records for each of those 3 states.

January 16, 1916 -

    San Francisco, CA had the greatest storm. Extensive wind damage occurred throughout central California.

January 16, 1988 -

    a powerful Pacific storm battered the coast of southern California. Winds gusting to 65 mph uprooted trees in the San Diego area, while Los Angeles recorded a barometric pressure reading of 29.25 inches of mercury -- the lowest in 100 years of official record keeping.

January 18, 1988 -

    a storm in the southwestern U.S. produced a 15 to 20 foot surf along the southern California coast, causing more than $50 million in damage. A small tornado in Orange County lifted a baseball dugout 15 feet into the air -- depositing it some 150 yards away, in the midst of a city street. The same storm was also responsible for 26 inches of snowfall at Duck Creek, UT.

January 19, 1933 -

    Giant Forest, CA received 60 inches of snow in just 24 hours, a state record, and the second highest 24 hour total on record for the U.S.

January 20, 1937 -

    the record low temperature for the state of California was set at Boca when the thermometer dropped to 45 degrees below zero.

January 21, 1854 -

    the coldest day of the famous California cold winter was recorded, when the temperature fell to 19 degrees at Sacramento.

January 21, 1993 -

    another strong low pressure system moved inland on the west coast of the U..S along the Sierra crest near Lake Tahoe, CA winds were measured sustained at 122 mph with a peak gust to 176 mph. Wind gusts reached 80 mph in the Reno, NV area. Thunderstorms with frequent lightning were reported at Blue Canyon, CA and the Sierra Ski Ranch was buried under 21 inches of new snow in 24 hours to raise its snowcover to 163 inches.

January 31, 1911 -

    Tamarack, CA recorded 390 inches of snow for the month. This established a record monthly snowfall total for the U.S.

Los Angeles, CA
Average High: 65 Record High: 95
Average Low: 47 Record Low: 23
Average Precipitation: 3.06 inches
Number of rain days: 6

San Francisco, CA
Average High: 56 Record High: 79
Average Low: 42 Record Low: 24
Average Precipitation: 4.65 inches
Number of rain days: 11

Las Vegas, NV
Average High: 56 Record High: 77
Average Low: 33 Record Low: 8
Average Precipitation: 0.47 inches
Number of rain days: 3


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