2011 and 2012 have certainly been busy years for meteorologists in Connecticut. In fact the last 2 years of weather have probably been some of the most extraordinary in the last 100 years.
2011 featured the snowiest month on record (54.3″ at BDL in January shattering the old record), the June 1st tornado, tropical storm Irene, and the October snowstorm. Thankfully, the first 10 months of 2012 were a bit of a bore. After a nice breather, however, the last 2 weeks have more than made up for the year’s quiet start. Hurricane Sandy, with her unusual track and ferocity, and the November snowstorm that became a record-breaking early season snow in parts of the state, are just the latest curve balls mother nature has thrown at us.
One probably has to go back 1978-1979 to find two years filled with such wild extremes. The infamous blizzard of ’78 occurred just weeks after a January snowstorm that took down the roof of the Hartford Civic Center. Fall of 1979 featured the one of the state’s strongest tornado on record in Windsor, Windsor Locks, and Suffield only to be followed by the earliest measurable snow at our 2 climate sites.
1954 and 1955, however, still remain the 2 back-to-back years with the largest extremes. Hurricane Carol made landfall on August 30, 1954 near Groton as a category 3 storm (though Connecticut only received category 2 conditions). Carol was the strongest hurricane since 1938 and produced devastating damage in southeastern Connecticut. Hurricane Edna made landfall on September 11, 1954 as a category 3 hurricane near the Cape Cod Canal.
Imagine that? Two category 3 hurricanes striking New England within 2 weeks? I’d rather not to be honest.
But 1954 wasn’t done with us yet. Hurricane Hazel, the only category 4 hurricane to make landfall in North Carolina remained a monster storm as it moved inland on October 15th. The Battery recorded a wind gust to 113 m.p.h. at the southern tip of Manhattan.
After 3 hurricanes impacting southern New England (including an incredible 2 majors!) in 1954 the following year would bring the state its worst natural disaster since the 1938 hurricane. Connie and Diane produced exceptional flooding in Connecticut with monumental rainfall totals that are almost hard to fathom in this part of the world. The flooding in August of 1955 was horrifying across large swaths of the state.
Areas that were spared record flooding in August of 1955 weren’t as lucky in October of 1955. The much forgotten “flood after the flood” devastated parts of Fairfield County with record river crests that stand to this day. The record stage on the Housatonic River at the Stevenson Dam is 24.5 feet that was reached twice in 1955 – in August then again in October.
While the mid 1950s take the prize for the most extreme back-to-back Connecticut weather years 2011-2012 is giving that period a run for its money. Let’s hope we can sneak into 2013 without incident!