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Goodbye 2021.. Pt. 1

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Wow, 2021 is almost over! After 2020 crawled, it felt like 2021 passed in a flash. 

There's a lot to reflect on from the past year. We had a deadly cold air outbreak, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, wind storms, and a December tornado outbreak.

As we look ahead to the new year and yearn for a brighter one to come, let's take a moment to see what we have been through over the last 12 months. I'll be breaking up the overview into multiple articles because there are many events to cover.


Torrential rainfall soaked mid-California in late January, leading to flooding conditions and mudslides amidst their state drought. 16" of rain fell in some parts, and the 100-mph winds ripped through the middle of the state. Meanwhile, travel was blocked in the mountains as roadways were covered with nine-foot snow.

January 24th through 26th experienced a powerful winter storm that tracked from the southwest into the midwest, bringing heavy snow. In Flagstaff, AZ 14.1" of snow accumulated on the 25th. This was the snowiest day for the city since November 29th, 2019. The snow provided some drought relief but did not break their ongoing drought conditions.

Meanwhile, the Lincoln, NE airport had 14.5 inches of snow on January 25th, which broke the record for the most snow recorded at the airport. Omaha saw 11.9", while Des Moines picked up 10.3" of snow. This snowstorm shut down roadways, canceled flights, and even closed down vaccination sites.

While snow battered the Midwest, severe weather was moving through the south. In Alabama, an EF-3 tornado developed late January 25th, leading to one fatality and 30 injuries.

Fultondale tornado, January 25, 2021
Image courtesy of NWS Birmingham, AL

Another winter storm developed on January 30th in the Midwest and impacted the Northeast. This snowstorm caused hundreds of flight cancellations and caused power outages across New England. Washington, D.C. broke their snow drought with this storm. 3.2" accumulated on January 31st, ending the 710-day snowless streak.


February was the coldest it has been in 30 years. Cold temperatures smashed records, and most of the country was plunged into subfreezing temperatures stretching from the Northern Plains, into the Midwest, and the south.

For two weeks, St. Louis, Springfield, MO, and even Oklahoma City, didn't rise above freezing. Oklahoma City saw its longest stretch with temperatures below 20°(6 days). Wind chills plummetted into the mid-negative-20s in Oklahoma, Texas, and Missouri.

National Weather Service Alerts
National Weather Service watches warnings, and advisories during the February 2021 cold air outbreak. Most of the country was in some type of winter weather alert.

The cold snap peaked February 14th-16th. During the peak cold, temperatures were on average 40-50° below-average. Over 3,000 daily low-temperature records were tied or broken at weather stations across the U.S.

Six states (Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma) placed in the top-10 for coldest February's on record.

This cold air outbreak is thought to be the most extreme for the south. Heavy snow and ice put strains on the electrical grid in Missouri and the Southern Plains. Texas was most affected by the electrical grid failures. Rolling power outages were the result. At the peak, over 4 million customers were without power in Texas. This caused municipal water failures and economic impacts exceeding $10 billion. 32 people died in Texas due to the cold. In total, during the cold outbreak, 58 people died.


The U.S. Drought Monitor reported worsening drought conditions in March. 46.6% of the country was in a drought at the beginning of the month. March 1st was the state of meteorological spring, and warm temperatures throughout the month ranked it the third warmest on record.

Coming up

We're entering the warm season of this weather review. Coming up we'll discuss the severe weather season of April and May, as well as notable events in June.

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