Autumn Replaces Summer
By Russell Russ
September was our transition from summertime warmth and dry conditions to cooler fall temperatures and wetter conditions. It was bound to happen at some point. Summer cannot last forever here in Norfolk. September was about normal for temperatures and came in above normal for precipitation. It was our first month since April with above normal precipitation. We did not see anything dramatic for rainfall and it did not eliminate our yearly deficit, but it did turn the tide and it did ease Norfolk’s deficit conditions. Norfolk’s autumn rainfall often depends heavily on hurricanes and tropical systems. It was an unusually quiet hurricane season through September.
September’s high temperature of 82 degrees was observed on September 4 and the low of 38 degrees was observed on September 24 and 30. The monthly mean temperature was 59.9 degrees, 0.9 degree above normal. After just recording our warmest August on record, September was near average. Norfolk’s warmest September was in 2015 with a mean temperature of 64.7 degrees and the coolest was in 1963 with 53.6 degrees. It is fairly normal for some parts of Norfolk to see a few frosts in September. This year there were reportedly a few days with light frost in the area, but just one was observed near the weather station during the early morning hours of September 30. To wrap up summer totals as recorded at the weather station, there were three days with highs of 90 or above, which is about average for Norfolk. The warmest temperature recorded for the year was 91 degrees on August 4.
The month’s rainfall total was 6.36 inches, 1.69 inches above normal. There were five thunderstorms observed at the weather station, but none were severe. Norfolk’s wettest September was in 1938 with 13.40 inches and the driest was in 2014 with just 1.16 inches. Through September this year, the yearly precipitation amount was 33.89 inches. This was 5.13 inches below normal and a whopping 14.69 inches below last year’s total (through September). Interesting to note that in 2020 the total through September was just 29.18 inches. Actually, over the last five years, the precipitation totals through September, while fluctuating almost year by year, average out to very close to the ninety year average of 39.02 inches. Maybe things do average out over time. In this particular case, in five years.
In a preview of October’s weather, through October 20, it was very near normal for temperatures and already above normal for precipitation. By October 20, with a total of 4.55 inches, we were already 0.19 inch above normal for the month. Any precipitation we get until Halloween will eat away at our yearly deficit. It is time once again to talk about snow. Norfolk can see its first snowflakes in October and we have had some amazing early season snows over the years, but we have yet to see any flakes fly here (as of October 20). It is just a matter of time, so prepare yourselves. Let’s get the leaves picked up first though.
Norfolk’s fall foliage season was arguably just fair this year. The summertime drought played a role in some early browning and leaf drop, reducing our chances for a super spectacular foliage season. Peak color around the swamps and ponds was probably October 1-8, while overall peak was probably October 8-13. Of course, everyone has their own opinion on what makes a good or bad fall foliage season.