Recap of Mid-South weather events for 2009

Since it’s the end of another year, and on the cusp of a new decade, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at Memphis and Mid-South weather that was newsworthy from 2009. Links point back to my blog posts that covered these events as they were occurring.

Early in the year, the metro area dodged a major bullet as Arctic air just to our north combined with a storm system to produce a devastating ice storm for places north of the area late in the month. The metro region got, on average, just under an inch of snow and schools were closed on January 28, but that was far less than what was expected when an Ice Storm Warning was put into effect for the region. As it turns out, northeast AR and extreme northwest TN got about an inch of ice, while the lower OH Valley, including Paducah, were hammered by accumulating ice. Recall the 1994 Ice Storm that hit Memphis and you get the picture.

A couple of weeks later, on February 11, another strong storm system hit, this one with thunder and high wind behind the non-severe squall line. A High Wind Warning was issued, power outages were widespread in the wake of the system, and wind gusts to 50 mph were common.

“The big snow” that everyone has waited years for ended up being a late season event as Winter Storm Warnings were posted and snow fell over the region on February 28-March 1. The heaviest snow occurred in the northern and eastern sections of the metro, with a very tight gradient of snowfall totals when all was said and done (from 3″ at Memphis Int’l to about 12″ in Arlington, eastern Tipton, and Fayette Counties). In the heaviest band, snow fell at rates of up to 2″/hr during the late afternoon of the 28th. The snow was even impressive in visible satellite imagery.

Within a week of the big snow, it was all but a memory as temps climbed into the 70s, followed by another wild drop in temperatures that prompted the issuance of a Winter Storm Watch on March 11. Fortunately, icy conditions on the 12th managed to stay just north of the suburbs and we escaped relatively unscathed.

The rest of the spring was fairly typical. April precipitation was 2″+ below normal, but was made up in May, which ended up 2.5″+ above normal. Temperatures averaged near normal. We did experience less severe weather than usual during the transition months. One powerful storm moved through on the morning of May 6, bringing isolated tornado to areas to our south. Areas not too distant received violent weather though, as Murfreesboro was hit by an EF-4 tornado on Good Friday.

Late in May, a low pressure system (with tropical origins) parked itself over the Mid-South and produced some showers and an impressive satellite presentation. As summer get into full swing, so did severe weather. June 12th was the first major severe weather case as a derecho swept in from the Ozarks during the Friday afternoon rush-hour. A huge swath of high winds produced widespread power loss (139,000 MLGW customers at it’s peak) and an EF-1 tornado in Bartlett. An entire page on MWN is devoted to this storms system, which you can find here. It contains links to a PDF report, damage pics, and a video of the sky as the storm passed overhead.

The severe storm system was followed by our most intense heat wave of the year with highs in the mid to upper 90s for the last half of the month of June. This streak helped to produce an average temperature for the month that was 2.6 degrees above normal for the month. In direct contrast to June, July was cool and wet and Mid-South Bermuda lawns flourished as we had five days with more than one inch of rain and ended up the month 3.2 degrees below normal for temperature and almost 4 1/4″ above normal for rainfall.

Most people will remember how the month of July ended – with tornadoes striking the Wolfchase Mall area in Cordova (EF-1) and Olive Branch, MS (EF-2) on July 30 as severe thunderstorms rumbled through the metro area. Thankfully, though these storms hit during rush hour in highly-populated areas, there were no deaths or serious injuries as a direct result of the twisters. One death occurred later during clean-up efforts. Damage pics from Cordova can be found here.

August ended up slightly drier and cooler than a typical August. Flash flooding was the result of localized storms on the 18th. September began a new wet trend as the month ended up with more than 5″ above normal rainfall and recorded precipitation on 13 of 14 days from the 13th-26th. This pattern continued into October which is climatologically our driest month of the year, but not so in 2009. The month ended up as the wettest October on record, more than 7″ of rainfall above normal and recording six days with more than an inch of rain. Also in October, a fall pattern began to emerge and the first Frost Advisories were issued, signalling the beginning of the cool season.

Just as the spigots were turned on for September and October, they were shut off in November, which ended up being one of the driest months of the year with just 1.37″ of rain, 4.39″ below normal. It also was a “warm” month, averaging 2.8 degrees above normal and likely saving Mid-Southerners a lot on their heating bills. In early November, strong Tropical Storm Ida made landfall along the Gulf Coast, but made a hard right turn before reaching the Mid-South.

December began the winter of 2009-2010, which will be another El Nino winter. Winter outlooks describe a cool and wet southeastern U.S. and a drier than normal period for the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. It remains to be seen what that means for the Mid-South. Outside the Mid-South, December did see massive storms hit first the central region of the country, followed by an epic Nor’easter a week before Christmas, then a Christmas Week Blizzard that pummeled the Midwest and Northern Plains. Meanwhile, we settled for gusty cold wind and a trace of snow on Christmas morning! The month will end up being cooler than normal with slightly below normal precipitation.

Overall, we have gotten quite a mix of weather types this year, from tornadoes to floods to “big snow” – enough to keep all the weathermen busy and the rest of you guessing I suppose? I wish you all a prosperous New Year and thank you again for your support of! I’m looking forward to a bigger and better 2010!

Photo of Murfreesboro, TN tornado taken by Titus Bartos,
Other photos taken by Erik Proseus,

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