Record setting month closes a record setting year

By Russell Russ

Here are the weather highlights from December 2008 as recorded at Norfolk’s National Weather Service Cooperative Weather Observer Station, Norfolk 2 SW, by the Great Mountain Forest Corporation. Norfolk 2 SW has completed its seventy seventh year of recording weather observations.

The month’s high temperature of 56 degrees was observed on December 10. The low temperature of 5 degrees was observed on December 22. The average temperature this month was 27.6 degrees, 3 degrees above normal.

The total precipitation recorded for the month was 8.45 inches, 3.87 inches above normal. It was the fifth wettest December since we began observations in 1932. It was very nearly the third wettest December. The snowfall total was 20.0 inches. This was 2.5 inches above normal. The snowstorm on December 19 was the largest, dumping 8 inches at the station. We picked up a total of 15.5 inches of snow between December 19 and December 21. Even though the temperature hit 48 degrees on December 25 it was another white Christmas in Norfolk.

As described in January’s issue there was a damaging ice storm on December 11 and 12. Many homes in the area lost power from downed lines due to broken branches and toppled trees. Some homes were out for days. Norfolk had some damage, but we were much more fortunate than our neighbors up in Massachusetts who really got the brunt of the ice damage.

After freezing and thawing a few times beginning on December 7 most local ponds and lakes, including Tobey Pond and Wangum Lake, froze over for good on December 18. This was about two weeks later than last year. It would have been similar to last year had it not been for a few days in the mid-50 degree range during the middle part of the month.

In review of Norfolk’s weather for the 2008 calendar year it was a little warmer than average and much wetter than average. The yearly mean temperature was 46.0 degrees, 1.6 degrees above average. Interestingly, this is exactly what last year’s yearly mean temperature was. The average yearly mean temperature for the last ten years is 46.2 degrees. The year of 2008 was the fourth wettest year since 1932 when we began observations. The yearly total precipitation amount was 68.21 inches, 15.72 inches above average and 20.04 inches more than we measured last year. Snowfall for the year totaled 77.0 inches. This was 19.1 inches below average, but by no means a record for least amount of yearly snowfall.

My closing comment from last year’s yearly review seems to still be appropriate so I will use it again for this year. A common statement being made these days by many weather experts is that we can expect to see big swings in both temperature and precipitation. For now, it appears that they seem to know what they are talking about.

December Storm Summary

December’s weather started out quietly with the first ten days being relatively normal with not much recorded precipitation; then came the ice storm of December 11 and 12. This ice storm was a classic example showing how important elevation is to what we get in the way of precipitation. With the general cut-off line of 1,000 feet in elevation there was a marked difference in the way we experienced this storm. Below 1,000 feet there was mostly just rain, but above it there was rain and damaging freezing rain. The higher you went in elevation the more ice you had on your trees and power lines. Winsted and Canaan had minimal ice while many parts of Norfolk and Colebrook had upwards of one quarter of an inch of ice build-up. Just over the Massachusetts line the damage was even worse. Power was knocked out in many parts of the region for days.

You could just tell we were in for trouble when on the afternoon of December 10 the temperature dropped nearly 10 degrees between 2:00 pm and 2:15 pm. At 2:00 pm it was 55 degrees and by 5:00 pm it was 38 degrees. Starting back on December 10 here are some rain totals. From December 10 at 2:00 am to December 11 at 8:00 am we recorded 1.12 inches from rain and rain showers. From December 11 at 8:00 am to December 12 at 10:30 am we recorded 3.30 inches of rain and freezing rain. Here in Norfolk we made it through most of the day on December 11 with mostly just rain, but then during the late evening and into the early hours of December 12 the ice began to build and that is when much of the damage occurred. All night long and into the daylight hours of December 12 you could hear the “pops” and “crashes” of branches and whole trees breaking from the weight of the ice. On the Great Mountain Forest property the roads were a mess. Many trees and branches blocked miles of our woods roads. After a few days of clean- up we managed to at least cut our way through a good portion of our road network. With the roads scheduled to be closed for vehicles at the season’s first significant snow it was a rush to make them passable for skiers while we could still drive in.

Then the snow hit. The snow began about 12:00 noon on December 19 and continued to fall at a moderate to heavy rate until about 9:00 pm. There was nearly 7 inches of snow by 5:00 pm. In total we recorded 8 inches of snow from this storm. The totals from all over the state ranged from 4 inches to 10 inches. It snowed off and on all day on December 20 where we recorded 2.5 inches. It snowed again during the morning and afternoon of December 21 leaving us with an additional 5 inches on the ground.

Looking at the monthly totals through December 22 we are at 18.3 inches for snowfall, already almost one inch over the normal December monthly total. We have measured 7.20 inches of total precipitation during this same period, already 2.62 inches over the normal monthly total. And, more rain is in the forecast for the coming days.

With November and early December being relatively dry and snow free these two weeks in December were big reminders of what Norfolk can experience for winter weather. In early December everyone was wondering if we would be having another warm winter without much snow, but if these last two weeks are any indication of what is to come, then we better buckle up for a good old fashioned Norfolk roller coaster winter.