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Weather Watch: Looking Back on a Soggy Year

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Posted on January 4, 2012 | Blog Category:
By Charlie Hohn



IMG_3451.JPG

 

The weather forecast over the New Year weekend was complex, and almost comical in its variety.  

Addison County saw snow showers, sleet, unusually warm temperatures, waves of rain, and fog.  After the weekend ended we experienced a squall of snow and graupel, followed by plunging temperatures and cold winds.  The weather of the past few days mirrors the weather of the past 12 months - 2011 was a year of lots of water, of varying forms, falling from the sky.  In fact, this year has seen the most precipitation Vermont has experienced in a very long time, and in many parts of Vermont this has been the wettest year on record.

2011 started with snow, and lots of it.  Heavy wet snow, dry powdery snow, even a bout of February thunder-snow.  By spring, the snow switched to rain, and a mix of heavy rain and melting snow brought flooding to many areas of the state, especially along Lake Champlain which reached its highest level on record.  Summer brought several bouts of severe thunderstorms with damaging wind, heavy downpours, stunning nighttime lightning displays, and even large hail in some places (the hail in the photo above fell in East Middlebury last August).

The big weather story of the year, of course, was the massive flooding in much of Vermont from Tropical Storm Irene.  In Addison County, the worst flooding was in or near the mountains - Hancock and Granville were devastated, Lincoln and Ripton sustained significant damage, and here in East Middlebury we experienced a very frightening afternoon when we evacuated town shortly before the river started running down East Main Street.  This flooding was the worst in memory in many areas, and repairs are still ongoing, especially in central parts of the state.

After Irene, the weather in Vermont calmed down a bit, but wet conditions continued.  November  and December were relatively dry, but saw occasional waves of rain and snow.  It seemed like every time snow started to accumulate, a warm rainstorm would come along and melt it away.  2012 started snow-free, but at the current time there is a dusting of snow in East Middlebury.  Light snow is in the forecast, but no major snowstorms appear likely in the near future.

While this year was the wettest in history, other recent years have also tended to be wetter than the long-term average.  According to long-term weather data from Cornwall, precipitation in at least parts of Addison County has increased very significantly in the last 100 years.  If the trend continues, we may be seeing more years like this one... but hopefully not including any more tropical storms or hurricanes any time soon.
 


Charlie Hohn is a recent graduate of the UVM Field Naturalist graduate program. He has been closely watching the weather ever since he was a child in southern California. Charlie will be posting occasional blog posts here about Addison County weather. He also maintains a blog about water at slowwatermovement.blogspot.com.
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