National Weather Service meteorologist John Tomko acknowledged that a large portion of 2013’s weather news was packed into a period of three or four months.
“But that period was absolutely amazing,” said Tomko, who oversees record keeping for the Weather Service’s office in Greer, S.C. “I don’t know that we’ll see a year like this again soon.”
It was a year largely void of wintry weather, with a single two-hour snow event in Charlotte in February. There were no threats from the tropics, either at the Carolinas coast or inland.
And the year passed with only 12 tornado warnings being issued by the Greer office. That compares to 50 such warnings in 2010.
Yet 2013 will not be forgotten soon because of the incredible amount of rain that fell, mostly between early May and mid-August.
The Charlotte region was hit by four major flooding events, along with one outbreak of severe thunderstorms. The heavy rain caused some of the worst flooding along the Catawba River in years.
Heavy rain returned in December after several relatively dry months. But meteorologists say it is too early to tell if the first part of 2014 will mark a continuation of the trend.
“There hasn’t been a single storm track,” Tomko said. “We’ve had some short shots of cold air, followed by rain.”
Computer models in recent days have indicated that severe cold will push into the United States for the first half of January, but it is unclear if the cold will make its way into the Southeast for more than a day or two at a time.
While consistency is uncertain in the winter forecast, it was a big part of last summer’s weather. The area was hit by a series of storm systems.
State transportation crews in North Carolina spent much of the summer repairing dozens of roads washed out by flooding in late June and early July.
The rain provided a bumper crop of mosquitoes and kept pest control companies busy all summer. It also rotted trees and kept tree-trimming companies scurrying to keep up with the demand.
But it slowed home construction and put a dent in the tourist business, too, especially in mountain areas where washed-out roads prevented people from reaching resorts.
And there was the seemingly endless string of cloudy, cooler-than-average summer days as well.
“It was just a gloomy summer,” Tomko said.
Charlotte’s rainfall total for 2013 is about 49.6 inches, which is far from the record of 68.44 inches set in 1884. However, the numbers were deceiving.
“We saw very big differences from location to location,” said Sharon Foote of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services.
Foote’s agency monitors automated gauges across the area, and she said some of the summer rainfall events produced totals that were much heavier than at the official measuring station at the airport.
Meteorologists say the wet summer was caused by a trough, or upper-level low pressure system, covering much of the East. It created an unsettled pattern.
“That is not typical of summer,” Tomko said. “Usually, the Southeast is under high pressure at that time of year.”
After a relatively benign winter and spring, things changed with a heavy rain event May 5-6 in the foothills northwest of Charlotte. That caused flooding downstream on the Catawba River.
“We received about three months of rain in three days in the upper Catawba River basin,” said Randy Herrin of Duke Energy.
Next was a derecho – a long-lived line of severe thunderstorms – that swept from Illinois all the way to North Carolina on June 13. The storms knocked down hundreds of trees in Stanly County.
That was followed by severe flash flooding on June 28 in northern Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties, and on June 30 in Cabarrus, Anson and Stanly counties.
Then it was Charlotte’s turn, as up to 6 inches of rain July 11 caused flash flooding in the city.
But the worst came July 27, when about 12 inches fell south of Hickory. That caused severe flooding and washed out dozens of roads in Catawba, Caldwell, Lincoln and Cleveland counties.
“It was some of the worst flooding we have seen in years,” said Jen Thompson, of the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Tomko said the rest of 2013 was generally quiet but added that the summer more than made up for it.
“We don’t measure cloudiness, but I’ll bet it was one of the cloudiest summers ever in our region,” he said.
Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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