Northeast Regional Climate Center

Mild Weather Continues

December 1994 brought the second consecutive month of unseasonably warm weather to the northeastern United States. These warm temperatures persisted, almost without interruption, throughout the entire month. This resulted in a monthly average temperature for the region that was 5 degrees warmer than normal. For the Northeast this was the 10th warmest December in the last 100 years. The rankings for individual states, compared to data for the last 100 years, are as follows (1=warmest in last 100 years):
 
   State         Rank       State         Rank
   New Hampshire   5        Connecticut     9
   Maine           8        Delaware        9
   Rhode Island    8        Vermont        10
   New York        8        Pennsylvania   11
   New Jersey      8        West Virginia  11
   Maryland        8        Maine          16

Monthly temperature departures were fairly consistent across the region. The smallest departures were found in the south, where Delaware averaged 4.3 degrees warmer than the 30-year mean. The largest departures were found in New England, with New Hampshire topping the list at 5.8 degrees above normal.

Precipitation totals for the month were wetter than normal in southern New England, but on the dry side across the rest of the region. Delaware was the driest state. Its average of 1.5 inches of precipitation for the month was only 42% of normal, making it the 10th driest December on record. At the other end of the scale, Massachusetts received over 5 inches of precipitation (126% of normal) and Connecticut and Rhode Island were not too far behind with just over 4.5 inches each. Combined, the twelve states received 81% of the normal December precipitation amount-the 35th driest on record.

December Summary of State Temperature and Precipitation Averages.

SIGNIFICANT WEATHER EVENTS

Up to 5 inches of snow in the Buffalo, NY area on the 8th slickened roads, causing many accidents, including two involving fatalities. Some area schools were closed due to the weather.

A wintery mix of precipitation was found over northern New York and New England from late on the 9th through the 11th. The snow, sleet and freezing rain changed to all rain in some areas, but not before causing several traffic accidents. In the Adirondacks of New York, the northern mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire and northern Maine, the precipitation remained frozen with accumulations in the 4 to 7 inch range.

Rain and drizzle brought in on northeast winds froze as it fell onto cold surfaces in the hills of western Maryland and eastern West Virginia on the 14th. The glaze that resulted wreaked havoc on the roadways and caused school closings in several counties.

The worst weather of the month occurred when an intense coastal storm brought strong, gusty winds and heavy rain to New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine on the 23rd and 24th. Persistent northerly winds pushed the tides in New Jersey to about 2.5 feet above normal, causing significant beach erosion and minor tidal flooding. Wind gusts in New England ranged from 55 mph at Norwood, MA to 84 mph at Nantucket, MA. One observer in southern Bristol County, MA reported a gust of 99 mph! The unusually strong winds downed trees and power lines along the coast and in some inland locations, leaving thousands without power. Ten to 20 foot seas pounded the New England coast, resulting in beach erosion, mainly in New Hampshire and southern Maine. Minor flooding and a few road closures occurred in southeastern New Hampshire and southwest Maine due to rapid runoff over frozen ground and a few small ice jams. The fierce storm also caused many traffic delays for holiday travelers in the Northeast.

Dense fog in the Buffalo, NY area on the 26th resulted in a few multi-vehicle accidents. Not only was the visibility poor, but cold surface temperatures caused the fog to form a dangerous coating of ice on untreated roadways.

The 29th was another blustery day in New York and New England as strong northerly winds ushered in the coldest air of the season. Some peak wind gusts include 38 mph at Burlington, VT; 44 mph at Portland, ME; 56 mph at Concord, NH; and 70 mph at Monhegan Island, ME. Wind chills fell to 20 to 35 degrees below zero in northern Vermont and New York and to -45 deg. in northern Maine. Blowing and drifting snow in northern Maine caused whiteouts and very slick roads. Numerous accidents, some with injuries, were reported.

Weather advisories for rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow were issued for parts of Pennsylvania, New York and western New England on the 31st, putting a damper on New Year's Eve celebrations. The slippery conditions resulted in many accidents and some road closures before warmer air changed the precipitation to all rain.

WATER RESOURCES

New York

Mean flows were in the normal range at all monitored sites except at Hadley (Hudson River), Wappingers Creek near Wappingers Falls, Genesee River at Wellsville, and the Chemung River at Chemung, where the mean flows were excessive. Groundwater levels ranged from 1.02 feet below normal at Albany to 2.60 feet above at Putnam. The New York City reservoir system was at 78.9% of capacity; normal for the end of December is 77.4%. Storage at Indian Lake, Great Sacandaga Lake and Lake Champlain was near or above normal.

New Jersey

Groundwater levels were below normal at the Bird and Lebanon index wells and above normal at the Morrell index well. Streamflow was below normal at the High Bridge and Folsom index stations, but above normal at Trenton. The combined storage in the thirteen major water supply reservoirs was 78.3% of capacity. This equates to 62.9 billion gallons, which was 4.4 billion gallons less than last year.

Maryland and Delaware

Streamflow was in the normal range in the entire bi-state region. Groundwater levels were above normal in western and west central Maryland, and below normal in central Maryland and on the Eastern Shore. Contents in the Baltimore reservoir system were 108% of average.

Connecticut

Streamflow increased and was in the normal range for the eastern half of Connecticut and above normal for the western half. Mean flow averaged 193% of the long-term median value. Groundwater levels were above normal in northwestern and southeastern Connecticut and normal elsewhere. The usable contents of the state's reservoir system ranged from 76 to 100% of usable capacity. All systems except Groton (3% below) were above their long-term averages.

Maine

Streamflow was below normal in eastern Maine, and normal in the rest of the state. Groundwater levels were above normal in a small area in central coastal Maine, normal in the northern and southern two-thirds of the state and below normal in the central third. The usable storage in the reservoir system was 51% of capacity, or 9% below average.