Record heat, wind, late-season snow defined 2020 in local weather

Weather Blog

(News 8 WROC photo/John Kucko)

The News 8 WROC weather team is taking in the year that was. From records being broken, to tornadoes touching down, it was a busy 2020 for our meteorology department. Here’s a look back at some of the more memorable moments from Rochester weather this year:

January

The month was defined by warmth! It was the 17th warmest on record with an average high/low of 37.8°/24.3°. The warmest was a 64° day on the 11th that broke the record of 63° set back in 1975.

There were zero sunny days and 20 days that reported at least light snow. No big snowstorms through January with a monthly total of 21.8 inches, about 6 inches below normal. The deepest snow depth on the 20th recorded at 6 inches after a typical mid-January snowfall. A larger lake-effect snow event happened on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with over a foot falling in Wayne County, but just a few inches were recorded in downtown Rochester. Here is a recap of that event.

MOST MEMORABLE: There was a high wind event on Sunday, January 12 that brought down trees and powerlines that ended up knocking out power to some. A gust of 63 mph was measured at the airport.

MORE | Here is a recap of that wind event.

February

While it was another warmer than average month, it was only by 2° with an average high/low of 34.4°/22.7°. The highest was 53° on the 24th. This warmth, while nothing special for February, finished the meteorological winter in top 20 territory at 18th warmest on record. Here is a recap of meteorological winter.

Snowfall was below average again and amounted to 21.6 inches (average 21.5 inches) with several days of smaller snow totals and no big snows, with the biggest bringing only 7.7 inches on the 6th and 7th. That storm also had some rain and ice mixed in.

MOST MEMORABLE: It’s all about timing. Several inches of snow fell on the 18th right before the morning commute, catching some off guard and resulting in several accidents across the region.

MORE | 2020 was a Leap Year, so February cashed in on an extra day.

March

A real taste of warmth came March 2020 with temperatures running nearly 6° above normal as the average high/low was 48.6°/31.7°. That ties 2016 for the 13th warmest on record. Rochester did hit 70° on the 20th, and a record warm low temperature was set with 47° on the 9th, beating 45° set in 2016.

Snowfall measured a meager 4.1 inches, over a foot below normal (16.3 inches). Most of that came on the 6th. Precipitation in general was running almost an inch below average.

MOST MEMORABLE: March 20th marked another wind storm for the region that knocked down some trees and powerlines. Winds gusted up to 61 mph at the Rochester Airport.

MORE| A rare snow-melt shadow was spotted in Webster

April

It was the first month in 2020 that finished below average. April was downright chilly when compared to normals with high/low at 51.0°/33.8°. A 3.9° deviation with zero days at or above 70°.

An active pattern brought above normal precipitation at 3.24 inches compared to 2.73 inches. 19 Days received some sort of rain or snow. 3.9 inches of snow fell through the month, which is almost as much as what fell in March, although it is exactly average for April. An impressive 9 days reported light snow.

MOST MEMORABLE: The last day of the month was a soaker. A large area of low pressure moved across the Southern Great Lakes and brought nearly an inch of rain, .91″ measured at the Rochester Airport.

MORE | Earth Day celebrated its 50th year anniversary.

May

While the month had below normal temperatures (-2.0°), do not let that take away from the record high of 93° on the 26th. That is the third warmest single day in May ever recorded. High/Low for the month was 64.8°/45.1°. Despite the record warmth, five nights did drop below freezing, with the 5th, 9th, 12th, and 13th all breaking records. It was the month of halves, with winter lingering for the first part and a major shift to a summer pattern to finish. 12 days reached the 70s, but 11 of those occurred in the second half of the month.

Yes, it can snow in May. The 9th saw a snowfall of 0.2 inches and it was the first time since 2010 that May recorded any snow at all. That 0.2 inches was the ninth latest recorded snowfall on record. The month was low in the precipitation department, which may not be great for plants but it was a nice surprise for those tracking Lake Ontario water levels. The month clocked in 1.92 inches of rain, almost an inch below the average of 2.87 inches.

MOST MEMORABLE: Rochester had five days with measurable snow of at least a trace. That ties the record set back in 1907. What made this month so strange was the stark transition to a warm pattern to finish, with one of the warmest temperatures in Rochester May history at 93°.

MORE | Some plants were damaged and others died with the late season frost.

June

Rochester’s average high/low in June was 79.0°/56.8°, a meager 1.7° above normal. It was a nice break from what had been a wild May. Only one day broke 90° and did so in style, hitting 94° on the 10th that tied a record set back in 1947. Here is a recap.

Rochester started to look for rain by mid-June as rainfall was in short order. The entire month saw 1.48 inches, almost 2 inches below the months average 3.34 inches.

MOST MEMORABLE: Lets not forget about the Saharan Dust. Not a huge impact locally, but a hot topic nationally. Otherwise it was a pleasant month across the region.

MORE | The NWS began a hazard simplification program.

July

The thermometer really started to crank in July with numbers running nearly 5° above normal. Average high/low was 85.9°/65.3° with eight days reaching the 90s. Peak was 97° on the 9th, just five degrees away from all time record warmth in Rochester. It was the warmest since July 21, 2011. The month ended up being the third warmest July on record. Read more here about the heatwave.

Major soaking events happened during July with the month finishing at 5.54 inches, over 2 inches above the normal 2.21 inches. Those rains came in buckets as the month could be defined as “Feast or Famine”. Only six days recorded rain, but two of those days saw rain exceeding an inch. One of those being the 11th with 3.18 inches of rain. That is the 10th wettest single day on record.

There was severe weather with a few rounds of storms through the month, but let us not forget the tornado that touched down in southern Monroe County on the 29th that did some minor damage.

MOST MEMORABLE: For the first time ever, each July day recorded an average above 70°. From the 5th to the 10th, each day hit or exceeded 90°, making it tied for 5th as longest 90°+ stretch. The coolest was 59°, tying for warmest low on record through the month. From a weather standpoint, a tornado is very rare in Monroe County. It may have only impacted a few people, it is notable.

MORE⼁A tornado touched down south of Rochester Wednesday: Here’s what to know for when it happens again

OTHER | Neowise: The comet that distracted the world

August

Rochester missed out on the 90° mark in August, peaking at 89° on the 10th. The month was near normal with the average high low of 80.8°/60.5° being just 1.7° away from seasonal norms. This warmth does mean the meteorological summer (June/July/August) finishes warmer than average, ranking 13th warmest overall.

The month was below average for precipitation with 2.7 inches, running .77 inches below the average of 3.47 inches. A storm system brought heavy, flooding rains and hail to much of the region on the 27th. Wind damage was reported across a good portion of Western New York.

MOST MEMORABLE: One of the most significant waterspout outbreaks in recent years happened over Lake Ontario. Otherwise, it was a quality stretch of sunshine and warmth that lasted from the 5th to the 15th. Pair that with the late-month storms, and it was a comfortable, but busy August.

MORE | All eyes continued to be focused on the Atlantic Hurricane season breaking records

September

By the numbers, 72.6°/51.7° is one degree above average. It was a typical September with eight days at or above 80°. No 90°, which is a mark that is hit three out of ten years in Rochester. Some impressive lows occurred with five days dropping to the 30s. That is the sixth most in Rochester.

Strong winds damaged homes and brought down trees on Labor Day.

Most of the month was dry, with rain only amounting to 2.29 inches compared to 3.38 inches. A lot of that rain came late in the month when a cold blast brought lake-effect rain showers to the region. Read how dry the majority of the month was here.

MOST MEMORABLE: While not in Monroe County, an early frost came on the 21st as lows dropped into the middle 30s. That tied the record set in 1973. Some inland regions south of the thruway got into the 20s.

MORE | A record hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin as tropical storms batter the coastline.

October

59.1°/42.7° made October nearly as average as you can get. It was just a 0.3° departure above average. A late surge of warmth sent the afternoon high up to 80° on the 23rd. This broke the previous record of 79° on the 1975 It was the 10th latest 80° day on record. Halloween was a cold one with overnight lows dropping into the 20s on the 31st.

Rainfall came to near average, finishing at 2.76 inches compared to 2.72 inches. Rochester saw its first trace of snow on the 30th. First flakes are usually recorded on the 23rd.

MOST MEMORABLE: From the 19th to the 27th, Rochester measured rain every day, making it the longest stretch of consecutive rain showers in October (nine days). Fall foliage was on full display with a nice stretch for the first half of the month.

MORE | Some of the best fall foliage photos of 2020

November

This month brought staggering warmth with a near record stretch in the 70s. Peak was 78° on the 10th. Cooler air filtered in on the back half of the month, sending the high/low to 54.3°/36.7°, 5° above average. Here is a story on people treating themselves to a day at the beach.

Rainfall was slightly below average, 2.28 inches is more than a half inch below 2.94 inches. Rochester got 1.2 inches of snow in bits and pieces, with 10 days reporting light snow showers, but only a few of those days recorded actual snowfall.

MOST MEMORABLE: Rochester had six days in the lower 70s for the first half of the month. 77° on the 9th topped the record 74° set in 1999 and 78° on the 10th crushed the previous record of 72° set in 1975.

MORE| From record heat to freezing temperatures, this month had it all

December

The top headlines for December were our lack of snowfall and mild temperatures. We ended up being 2.9° above average, and spent more than half the month with high temperatures above freezing!

The month fell above average for temperatures, but we were actually below average in precipitation, including snow. Our first inch of snowfall was recorded on the 2nd, and since then it’s been few and far between to get decent some decent flakes to fly. We’ve had plenty of near misses, a Nor’easter that only gave us just a few inches of snow while areas south and east receive the bigger totals, and a few lake effect events that left Rochester in the dust, and still below average. We’ve also been reluctant to register a measly 3 inches of snow in a 24 hour period.

MORE | Rochester outperforms in its first snow of the season

MOST MEMORABLE: Some of us ended up with a white Christmas while others saw more green with our Christmas Eve storm. Those within the Great Lake snow belts got the aftermath a day after with around a foot of snow in Batavia!

Overall we measured 11.7 inches of snow by the end of the month. The normal amount through that point is 28.4 inches, which is more than double what we ended up with.

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