Summary of the Early December 2018 Winter Storm that Tracked from California to the Mid-Atlantic Coast (Photo Credit: WPC, NWS San Diego, NWS Eastern Region, and The Daily Item)
DISCUSSION: An early December winter storm made its way across the southern United States with past week. The storm initially impacted southern California on Dec. 5th, 2018. It brought heavy snowfall to the mountain regions, with some areas recording over a foot of snow. In the lower elevations and closer to the coastline, extreme rainfall lead to flash flooding from Los Angeles to San Diego. According to the NWS San Diego, rainfall totals from the storm were greater than 4.5 inches in some places. John Wayne Airport received 3.5 inches while the San Diego International Airport received 2.6 inches. In addition to causing flash flooding, the extreme rainfall triggered mudslides, resulting in road closures, including the Pacific Coast Highway, and evacuations in areas that recently evacuated due to the November wildfires. However, a silver lining does exist for California, the early season snow has resulted in a higher than average snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. California relies on the melting of this snowpack in the spring to recharge its reservoirs to support their water demand during their dry season in summer and early fall.
After impacting southern California, the storm traversed across Arizona and New Mexico before moving into Texas, with heavy snow and rainfall impacting the state. In northern portions of Texas heavy snowfall occurred and places like Lubbock saw as much as 10 inches of snow from the storm. Meanwhile, rain was dumped across the Houston region, resulting in major flooding. Some places saw over six inches of rainfall, while College Station broke its daily maximum rainfall record with 4.01 inches of rain on Dec 07, 2018. According to the NWS Houston/Galveston the previous record was 1.70 inches in 1931.
Moving out of Texas the storm traversed across southern Louisiana, the Florida Panhandle, and into southern South Carolina. As it tracked eastward, snowfall continued to fall within the northern portion of the system, bringing snow from southern Oklahoma to the Mid-Atlantic Mountains. The heaviest of this snow occurred in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina and Virginia, with some areas in recording over two feet of snow. One place in North Carolina, the small town of Busick, which is located in the mountains of the state, saw 34 inches of snow. Meanwhile areas not in the mountains saw record breaking snowfall. The Raleigh/Durham international airport North Carolina recorded 7 inches, which is a record for Dec 10. Additionally, the city of Raleigh saw the most snowfall in a single day in the month of December since 1958. Furthermore, this event resulted in the city already exceeding their yearly average snowfall of 7 inches. Another record was set, the second highest single-day snowfall total, at the Richmond International airport in Virginia, which recorded 11.5 inches of snow on Dec 9, 2018.
When all was said and done, this early winter storm brought snowfall across the southern US, from CA to VA and heavy rainfall to many locations. It resulted in road and school closures, thousands of cancelled flights and car accidents, hundreds of thousands without power, mudslides, flash floods, and, unfortunately, some deaths. The system is now off the eastern coast, over the Atlantic Ocean but it is still driving freezing temperatures and gusty winds across the south, resulting in freeze warnings extending into Florida.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Sarah Trojniak, Ph.D.