2010: The Year in Weather

Over the years, we've learned that just about every year is unique when it comes to our regional weather, and 2010 was no different.

We opened and closed 2010 with colder than normal weather, chilly bookends to a mid-year heat wave that ranks among the most intense on record for the Baton Rouge area. While 2010 turned out drier than normal, regional deficits for the year were far from record-setting. Baton Rouge's Metro Airport finished 2010 with 55.24" of rain, and metro area annual totals from other reporting sites typically ranged between 50" to 56" for the year, roughly 80% to 90% of normal. But a dry spring and a downright hot summer combined to put portions of the metro area and surrounding parishes in "moderate drought" for much of the latter half of the year according to the U.S. Drought Monitor (www.drought.unl.edu/dm/).

As mentioned, we began 2010 on the "cold" side, with the first three months of the year ranking as the coldest first quarter in more than three decades. January's cold was highlighted by three consecutive days -- the 9th, 10th and 11th -- with lows in the teens at Metro Airport, the coldest three back-to-back mornings since 1996! Severe weather on the 20th of January included more than a half-dozen tornadoes statewide, including touchdowns in nearby St. Landry and Tangipahoa parishes during the afternoon. Fortunately, most of the twisters around the state were relatively weak and short-lived, but the outbreak reminded us that severe weather can spin-up at any time of the year across the Bayou State.

February turned out to be one of the coldest Februaries ever for metro Baton Rouge, but the month's big weather story was the snowfall on February 12th. Accumulations of 1" to 3" were reported over parts of the metro area and the Florida Parishes, with pockets of 3" to 5" along the LA/MS state line and parts of southwestern Mississippi, creating a rare winter wonderland and closing schools across the region.

As we warmed into the spring, the weather turned dry, and near-record warmth in May pushed much of metro Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes into drought. A brief tornado at mid-month produced a few minor injuries near LaPlace, but the year's saddest weather story occurred on the afternoon of May 30th, when 8-year-old Evan Elwood -- while visiting family in the Baton Rouge area -- was struck by lightning, succumbing to his injuries days later. Evan's passing serves as a terrible reminder that the Gulf Coast region is among the nation's most dangerous when it comes to lightning threats.

The trend of warmer-than-normal weather that began in the spring persisted through the summer, with June being the second warmest June on record for Baton Rouge and July ranking among the top ten hottest for that month! No doubt, utility bills for many were sky high as a result of air-conditioners running overtime.

June marks the start of the Hurricane Season, and ominous forecasts for 2010 put already storm-weary Louisiana residents on pins-and-needles. Not only were many communities still recovering from Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, but the 2001-2010 decade (with the 2010 season yet to go) already was the most active ever in terms of 'hits' for the Bayou State. In fact, with16 Louisiana landfalls, the "Decade of Storms" recorded more than double the average number of Louisiana landfalls for a ten-year span.

In the end, the 2010 Hurricane Season closed with 19 named storms in the Atlantic Basin -- tied for the third highest in terms of total storm numbers. But the United States fared well, with no hurricane landfalls and only one 'hit' by a tropical storm (T.S. Bonnie over southern Florida). Still, Louisiana didn't escape the season completely unscathed.

Remnants of Bonnie tracked across the eastern Gulf and moved into south Louisiana in late July, fueling a monstrous downpour in the Brusly/Port Allen area on the morning of July 25th. Upwards of 4" to 8" of rain fell -- most of it in less than 2 hours -- flooding more than 100 homes and businesses along and near LA 1.

As hot as the summer had been through June and July, arguably the worst of the summer heat arrived at the start of August, with many metro area neighborhoods reporting triple-digit highs on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. And lows on each of those dates stayed at or above 80° -- a first ever for Baton Rouge: never before had there been two consecutive days with lows of 80° or more, much less three days! With the extreme heat during the daylight hours, and a lack of overnight cooling, the heat-stress on those without access to air-conditioning during these days must have been all but overwhelming.

Stormy weather in August included another round of community flooding again linked to the tropics -- remnants of downgraded Tropical Depression #5 slipped into Louisiana at mid-month, flooding homes and businesses in sections of Pointe Coupee, St. Landry and Avoyelles parishes on the 17th.  Some of the worst flooding occurred in and around New Roads, with reports suggesting nearly a foot of rain in a day's time at some locations! While the mid-month rains were a disaster for some, the string of wet days brought much-needed, although temporary, relief from the prolonged run of "dry-to-drought" conditions that had plagued much of the region since late spring.

Heat persisted through September -- making the 2010 summer among the 'warmest' summers for the region in more than 100 years! The persistent heat-wave finally subsided in October, but the return of "dry" weather pushed much of the metro area back into drought by mid-month.

Tornadoes took weather's center stage in November, highlighted by the Baker tornado on the afternoon of the 3rd.  Many residents in the area took snapshots and videos of the twister, recording their "too-close-for-comfort" encounter with Mother Nature's fury. (Somewhat ironically, that one tornado in Baker was the only severe weather event reported anywhere in the entire nation that day!)

A mini-outbreak of twisters occurred over southern portions of the state during the pre-dawn hours of November 29th, including two confirmed touchdowns in St. Landry Parish and a third in Amite County, all associated with a severe weather linked to a frontal event at month's end.

And to close the year? Well, there's no forgetting how temperatures flip-flopped during December: 8 days with highs in the 70°s, yet more than a dozen morning freezes, including a half-dozen hard freezes for many area communities. In the end, December 2010 ranks as the 'coldest' December since 2000 for Baton Rouge and among the ten coldest Decembers ever.

Near-record cold and near-record heat ... spells of drought occasionally broken by flooding downpours ... 2010 once again proves that there's always something new just around the corner when it comes to Louisiana weather.