WunderBlog Archive » Category 6™

Category 6 has moved! See the latest from Dr. Jeff Masters and Bob Henson here.

Inauguration weather

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 1:11 PM GMT on January 19, 2009

Barack Obama won't have the weather as the first concern of his presidency, unlike some of his predecessors. The weather for Tuesday's swearing in ceremony promises to be precipitation-free, with a mix of sun and clouds. With temperatures in the low 30s and a moderate north wind of 10-15 mph, he'll have to bundle up, though. As the afternoon progresses, clouds will dominate for the parade, but the weather at the inauguration promises to be a non-story, unlike some previous occasions:

Most Dramatic and Tragic - 1841:
President William Henry Harrison was sworn into office on a cloudy, windy day, with temperatures in the mid to upper 40s. His speech lasted one hour and 40 minutes, and he rode a horse to and from the Capitol, without wearing a hat or overcoat. Pneumonia developed from a lingering cold he caught on that day and he died just one month later.

Almost as bad - 1853:
President Franklin Pierce was sworn into office during a snowstorm, with temperatures near freezing. Shortly after Pierce took his oath of office, as he began his inaugural address, heavier snow began falling, dispersing much of the crowd and ruining plans for the parade. Abigail Fillmore, First Lady to the outgoing President Millard Fillmore, caught a cold as she sat on the cold, wet, exposed platform during the swearing-in ceremony. The cold developed into pneumonia and she died at the end of the month.

Worst Weather Day - 1909:
President William H. Taft's ceremony was forced indoors due to a storm that dropped 10 inches of snow over the Capital city. The snow and winds began the day before, toppling trees and telephone poles. Trains were stalled, and city streets clogged, bringing all activity to a standstill. Sanitation workers shoveled sand and snow through the night. It took 6,000 men and 500 wagons to clear 58,000 tons of snow and slush from the parade route. Despite the freezing temperatures, howling wind, snow, and sleet, a large crowd gathered in front of the Capitol to view the inauguration, but the weather forced the ceremony indoors. Just after the swearing-in, the snow tapered off.

Figure 1. Inauguration day, 1909. Workers shovel away heavy snow from in front of President Taft's reviewing stand (left). President Taft and wife returning to the White House after the ceremony (right).

The material for this post was taken from an excellent Presidential Inaugural Weather web page put together by the National Weather Service forecast office in Washington D.C. The page has loads more information, for those interested.

Good luck, Mr. Obama!

I'll have a new post on Wednesday.
Jeff Masters

Climate Change

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.