2011: Weather Year in Review by Lyndsay Tapases

As we close out the year of 2011, it is interesting to take a look back at the significant weather events of the past year across our area.

First, winter. Last winter under-performed with respect to average, as we saw only 8.4" of snow for the entire season, less than half of the 17.4" average.

After closing out a rather tame winter, we entered into a busy spring and severe weather season. April 2011 went down as the most active tornado month on record, with 753 tornadoes nation-wide. A handful of those occurred in the heart of Virginia, beginning with a pair in Pulaski. Strong tornadoes are rare in the New River Valley but on April 8th, an EF2 touched down in Pulaski as well as an EF1 in Draper. A week later, 2 more twisters touched down, one in Rockbridge and one near Virgilina, also an EF2. With one last outbreak on the 27th of April, we saw the first severe-weather fatality of the season, as another EF2 tornado claimed one life near Nathalie.

Summer brought more heat, as usual, and the summer of 2011 in Roanoke now ties for first place as the hottest on record (originally set in 1993). The average high was 80.2 degrees, the average low 69.9.

A Tuesday afternoon in late-August brought a shock to many residents not only of Virginia but of much of the Northeast. Many were shaken up, literally, by the rumbling of the earth around them. A 5.8 magnitude earthquake had just occurred, centered near Mineral in Louisa county, Virginia. The quake was the strongest ever recorded by a seismograph in Virginia, and according to the USGS, there have since been 26 after-shocks. The USGS is also now reporting that this may be the most widely-felt earthquake in US history.

{}Just a few days after the earthquake, our attention was turned to a different phenomena: Hurricane Irene. Irene, the first hurricane of the year and the only one to make a US landfall, did so with a bang. Although central Virginia saw nothing more than light rain, areas east of here did not fare so well. The eye never made landfall in Virginia, but the slow-moving, massive hurricane dumped a widespread 6-10" of rain and brought 70mph winds from Richmond to the coast. Localized areas saw over a foot of rain, including Virginia Beach, where 20.4 inches fell. Millions were left without power for several days, and the storm resulted in 4 deaths state-wide.

Our local National Weather Service office in Blacksburg has released their picks for the top 5 weather events in our area for 2011, as voted for by their staff. You can find out what they are here.