Monday, January 11, 2016

T-Storms, Hail, Rainbows, Heat, Wind: Vermont's Weirdest Winter Weather Day

A rainbow arcs over a Cambridge, Vermont
farm Sunday during a day of
bizarre weather. 
I swear yesterday was the weirdest day in terms of weather I've ever seen in Vermont during the winter.

We had thunderstorms, hail, rainbows, record warmth, strong winds and minor flooding all in one neat little package during the afternoon and evening Sunday.

The thunderstorms were perhaps the strangest. Winter thunderstorms are rare in a Vermont winter, but they do happen.

When they do, it consists of a few flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder during a particularly vigorous snowstorm, or you get an isolated lightning strike in an especially rambuctious snow squall.

For instance, there was some lightning during snow squalls southern Vermont last winter, and numerous reports of lightning during a February, 2011 snowstorm.

But Sunday's thunderstorms were totally off the charts for January. They was a line of them, just ahead of a vigorous cold front. It was a bonafide squall line, the kind you get in the summer, not winter.

Though Sunday's thunderstorms were not technically severe, some of them were pretty strong, packing pea sized hail, gusts to 40 mph, numerous cloud to ground lightning strikes and heavy downpours.

The set up came together just perfectly and in a very rare arrangement for the season to give Vermont its springtime squall line thunderstorms in January.

A storm was strengthening as it  moved northeastward through the Great Lakes into Canada. A strengthening storm tends to add more lift and energy to the atmospher than a dying one, so we had that dynamics to work with.

A tree beginning to fall onto Upper Pleasant
Valley Road in Cambridge Sunday. Winds at the
time were gusting to about 60 mph. 
The storm flung record warmth out ahead of it, which was yet another weird aspect to Vermont's January Sunday. Record highs included 53 in Burlington, besting the old record of 49 degrees in 1939, and 46 in Montpelier, beating the old record of 44 set in 1956.

Bitter Arctic air was behind the approaching cold front, helping to set off a good temperature contrast to fire up the cold front and squall line. (The worst of the cold air isn't actually making it to Vermont now that the cold front has passed. It's only going to be near normal, which is certainly a switch from Sunday.)  

There were also breaks of sun Sunday afternoon, which modestly helped heat the ground and maybe contribute to some of the updrafts that helped spark the weird thunderstorms.

Those breaks of sun also yielded some spectacular rainbows in many areas of Vermont Sunday, which is yet another weird aspect to yesterday.

Also - and this was expected - strong winds developed along the western slopes of the Green Mountains Sunday. Winds gusted as high as 62 mph in Richford and Cambridge, Vermont and 55 mph near Jericho, Vermont.

I was in Cambridge and Underhill during the storm and saw numerous trees and power lines down because of the high winds. Green Mountain Power reported several thousand customers without power.  
Some guys remove tree branches that had fallen
across a Cambridge, Vermont road Sunday amid high winds. 

For those yearning for a return to normalcy in the Vermont weather department, you're in luck.

The rest of the week is going to be pretty typical for January, with highs in the 20s, some upper teens on the coldest days, and lows in the 0 to 15 degree range, mostly.

There will be a few bouts of snow, especially Tuesday afternoon and night, as an Alberta Clipper blusters by to deposit a few inches of fluff.

For those wishing for more weather weirdness on the scale of Sunday's bizarre conditions,  I don't see anything on the horizon at the moment.

But this is Vermont, so we're sure to get some oddball conditions sooner or later.

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