by Heidi Sonen and Roscoe Shaw
I’m Dreaming of a …
Be careful what you wish for. A white Christmas is the dream of every child and many adults and it’s the stuff of movie stories and postcards, but the reality of a white Christmas can be a lot less fun than it seems.
First are the travel troubles. Heidi and I spent our daughter’s first Christmas eating from a vending machine at the Super 8 in Covington, Kentucky. Even the Domino’s Pizza was closed. Fortunately, the kid was too young to know or care. The Super 8 did not have a chimney.
Second, on a wickedly cold or snowy day, it’s tough to get out and enjoy some of the gifts you received. Who wants to ride a bike when two inches of snow turns over to sleet?
Finally, a lot of “white” days around here are pretty nasty. Two years ago, you’ll remember, was our snowiest winter on record. We had a white Christmas all right, but it certainly was the worst white Christmas ever.
The snow actually fell on December 18 and 19, 2009. Twenty-two inches fell in just 18 hours, making it a truly historic storm. The next week stayed cold, so most of the snow stayed.
Christmas morning 2009 broke with 28 degrees and pouring rain on top of the now-compacted slop and ice. Yuck! The freezing rain fell all morning and turned to just plain rain in the afternoon, totaling over an inch. Our weather log says “Most disgusting white Christmas ever.”
Notable White Christmases
We have data on Christmas day for 101 years and only seven had accumulating snow actually on Christmas. If you count leftover snow when the ground is still white, then about 20 days qualify, so the chance of a white Christmas is about one in five.
The king of all Christmas snows was in 1969, when 16 inches fell. 1966 was cold and clear, but 8 inches fell on the 23rd and 24th. Six inches dumped on Christmas Eve 1962. In fact, if you were a child of the 1960’s (like us), then having a white Christmas seemed normal. Snows fell on or just before Christmas in 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, and 1969.
The “disgusting pile of slop” Christmas in 2009 was the first since 1998 when an inch was on the ground on the big day.
The November graph doesn’t show the expected downward temperature drift. Early in the month, temperatures were cold with lots of frost and October snow lingering on the nearby mountains. The warm weather came late in the month with three straight days at 70 or more degrees over Thanksgiving weekend.
Overall, the month was slightly warmer than normal. The hottest day was the 14th at 74 degrees and the coldest morning was 23 degrees on the 19th.
Rainfall for the month was generally slightly below normal, 3.26” compared to a 3.80.” Here are some totals from around the area. Note that at this time of year, the amounts don’t vary nearly as much from place to place as they do in the thunderstorm season.
White Hall 2.41”
Charlottesville Airport 3.14”
Afton Summit 2.15”