Heat, drought made history in 1999

December 31, 1999


Some other 1999 weather highlights:

- Daily heat records were set June 7, when the temperature reached 95 degrees, and July 30, when it hit 99 degrees.

- The hottest day of the year was 101 degrees on July 31.

- On Feb. 12, the mercury hit 72 degrees, shattering the old record of 64 degrees set in 1964.

- It was the third warmest November on record, with an average temperature of 49.5 degrees.

- The longest dry spell of the year was Nov. 3 through 23.

- The only significant snowfall occurred March 14, when heavy, wet snow fell in the area all day.

- July and November tied for the driest months of the year. Each month had 1.16 inches of rain.

- Total snowfall for the winter of 1998/99 was 32.1 inches. The record, 74 inches, came during the winter of 1960-61.


- The first fall freeze was Nov. 28.

- Laura Ernde

By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

Weather-wise, the close of the 20th century will be remembered for two things - heat and drought.

The summer of 1999 first made headlines in July, when the mercury refused to dip below 90 degrees for 23 days in a row. That broke the old record of 20 consecutive days, which happened on four different years and most recently in 1983.

At month's end, it made history as the hottest July in Hagerstown in the 101 years that weather information has been collected here, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer.

The average temperature that month was 80 degrees.

The July heat was accompanied by just a little over an inch of rain all month.

But it was a long-standing rainfall deficit that began in the summer of 1998 that helped to create one of the worst droughts of the century.

The earth's moisture was evaporating faster than it could be replenished. The timing couldn't have been worse for farmers, whose crops withered in the sun. Even water for farm animals was scarce.

At its worst, the rainfall deficit in Washington County was 14.1 inches in mid-August, according to the Maryland Department of Environment.

But the year ended with above-normal rainfall of 41.26 inches. In a normal year, 38 inches of rain falls.

While May, July and November were unusually dry, the year started off wet. The 6.39 inches of precipitation that fell in January made it the third wettest January on record.

That, along with the remnants of Hurricane Floyd in September, helped to balance out the year.

Smithsburg-area weather observer Jim Vaughn blamed the hot, dry year on La Nia, a weather pattern that leads to above-normal temperatures and below-normal rainfall.

"We could be stuck in this weather pattern for another year or as many as four more years," Vaughn said.

The year was a warm one, but not as warm as 1998, which was the second warmest on record, said Dewey Walston, National Weather Service forecaster.

Other than the heat and the drought, the year in weather was pretty uneventful, he said.

"There wasn't a lot of snow or any extreme cold," Walston said.

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