From blizzards to heat waves, the year of 2012 will be a year to remember in the world of weather here in Western Wisconsin. Once again, we bring you the top 10 weather events from the past year.
#10 LEAP YEAR WINTER STORM
As you'll see later in the countdown, there's no way I’d ever call last winter snowy, but there was at least one exception. And that exception starts the countdown. It’s the Leap Year Winter Storm. The brunt of the storm arrived the night of February 28th. The snow was heavy and wet, which made travel very difficult. The cut-off between snow and rain was sharp. Over a foot of snow fell along and north of Highway 29. Meanwhile, to the south, the coulee region saw over 1" of just rain.
#9 QUICK TRANSITION FROM SUMMER TO WINTER
After a long and hot summer, many of us were hoping for some cooler temperatures. However, when the autumnal equinox occurred on September 22, we got more than we bargained for. Northern portions of our viewing area along Highway 8 saw their first snow of the season. Also in mid and late September much of the area saw an early freeze. It was a good 1 to 2 weeks ahead of schedule and just days after highs topped out in the 80s. This quick transition from summer to winter comes in at number 9.
#8 EARLY SEPTEMBER SEVERE STORMS
The number 8 weather event occurred earlier in September on the 4th. 90 degree heat and high humidity were in place to set the stage for two rounds of strong to severe storms to roll through Western Wisconsin with the coulee region getting hit the hardest. A tornado even touched down in Grant County. That’s a rare sight in 2012. This year tied for the second least amount of tornadoes to touchdown in the state of Wisconsin.
#7 DECEMBER 19th BLIZZARD
This was the second big winter storm in the month of December, but this one packed some wind. It comes in at number 7. It's the December 9th blizzard where 8-11" fell just south of Eau Claire near Osseo and the I-94 corridor. The snow was followed by strong winds that gusted over 40 to 50 mph creating blizzard conditions down in the La Crosse area.
#6 THE BLAIR AREA SEVERE STORMS
On the evening of May 2nd a powerful storm rolled through Buffalo, Trempealeau and Jackson counties producing damaging winds of 60 to 70 mph along with large hail. The worst of the damage hit the communities of Arcadia, Whitehall, and Blair. The majority of structures in Blair had some kind of damage including the high school. This destructive storm comes in at number 6.
#5 THE DECEMBER 9th WINTER STORM
After a record mild start, winter weather came back in a big way in December. The number 5 weather event of the year was the December 9th winter storm. The large storm system dumped a large swath of snow across Western Wisconsin. 12.5" of snow fell on the 9th making it the 3rd highest 1 day, 24 hour snowfall in Eau Claire. The storm total in Eau Claire was a whopping 14.7".
#4 YEAR WITHOUT A WINTER
One may say that 2012 was the year without a winter. The 2011-2012 winter season comes in at number 4. Western Wisconsin only saw 1 or 2 big storms all season. Snow was well below normal, and then there were the mild temperatures. There were 50s in January. It was crazy! In La Crosse, it was the 6th warmest winter on record and in Eau Claire it was the 5th warmest.
#3 THE MARCH HEAT WAVE
The next event was incredible! 2012 smashed the record for warmest march in history. No contest! The amount of records set in Eau Claire alone was staggering. We set 8 new record highs. For three days in the middle of the month we had highs in the 80s...unheard of in March. The 16th became the earliest we've hit 80 degrees in a year. We weren't alone; a massive 15,000 records were broken across the country. Crops came out of dormancy well ahead of schedule. Here in Western Wisconsin, it was the first time march was actually warmer than April. That was bad news for apple crops that were decimated from killing frosts in April.
#2 MAY 24th WIND STORM
Eau Claire hasn't seen anything like it since the 1980 wind storm. On May 24th a strong line of storms barreled through the Eau Claire area producing wind gust upwards of 80 to 100 mph. The storm knocked down trees all over town. Large trees were snapped like twigs. Clean up would last for days after the storm.
#1 DROUGHT AND HEAT OF 2012
The drought and the heat tops the list in 2012. They both go hand in hand this year and dominated the weather headlines. The drought still grips Western Wisconsin and much of the country. It's the most expansive drought since the 1930s. The mild winter and record warm spring got things going, but the long hot summer is really what made the drought crippling for area farmers. In early July Western Wisconsin endured one of the strongest heat waves in recorded history helping to make 2012...the third warmest year on record in Eau Claire and La Crosse.
Be sure to check out our Weather Notebook blog as we head into 2013. The blog has a lot of fun facts and more information on weather from all over.
As far as 2012 goes for the state of Wisconsin. Check out this resource form the National Weather Service Office in Milwaukee. Cool stuff!