Wettest-Year Records for 2018, Take Two

January 3, 2019, 5:12 PM EST

Above: A home in Conway, South Carolina, is inundated by floodwaters caused by Hurricane Florence near the Crabtree Swamp on September 26, 2018. Nearly two weeks after making landfall in North Carolina, river flooding continued in northeastern South Carolina. Image credit: Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images.

In a post on December 29, we noted a number of U.S. cities that had already secured their wettest year on record. Now that 2018 is a wrap, it’s time to circle back and see how the final totals turned out.

Single-site records

Here are some of the larger towns and cities that notched records for 2018, as tallied by weather.com based on data from NOAA and the Southeastern Regional Climate Center. All of these locations have at least a 60-year period of record, and some of the records broken were truly long-standing, including Washington, D.C. (129 years) and Wilmington, North Carolina (141 years). Many of the records were smashed by impressive margins of 5" or more.

See the weather.com article for additional background on this very wet year.

Location + total rainfall in 2018 (old annual record + year)

Washington, DC (DCA):  66.28” (61.33”, 1889)
Mason City, IA:  54.74” (47.75”, 2016)
Waterloo, IA:  54.05” (53.07”, 1993)
Lexington, KY:  71.98” (66.35”, 2011)
Louisville, KY:  68.83” (68.02”, 2011)
Baltimore, MD (BWI):  71.82” (62.66”, 2003)
Asheville, NC:  79.48” (75.22”, 2013)
Elizabeth City, NC:  63.95” (62.13”, 1979)
Greensboro, NC:  64.11” (62.32”, 2003)
New Bern, NC:  79.17” (72.70”, 2003)
Wilmington, NC:  102.40” (83.65”, 1877)
Atlantic City, NJ:  68.57” (66.38”, 1958)
Elmira, NY:  57.62” (49.96”, 2011)
Columbus, OH:  55.18” (54.96”, 2011)
Pittsburgh, PA:  57.83” (57.41”, 2004)
Scranton, PA:  61.08” (59.99”, 2011)
State College, PA:  63.76” (59.30”, 1996)
Sioux Falls, SD:  39.19” (38.26”, 2010)
Danville, VA:  67.61” (62.78”, 2003)
Lynchburg, VA:  65.70” (59.71”, 1972)
Roanoke, VA:  62.45” (58.81”, 2003)
Green Bay, WI:  39.21” (38.36”, 1985)
Charleston, WV:  67.05” (61.01”, 2003)
Wheeling, WV:  57.65” (50.79”, 1950)

If we expand the roster of observing sites to include those with shorter periods of record, then more than 100 U.S. locations had their wettest year on record, according to The Weather Channel. You can zoom in on various U.S. regions to find those cities by using the online Perspectives tool, created by the Southeast Regional Climate Center. By clicking on each site, you can view the local records and periods of record.

Places where 2018 was among the ten wettest or driest years on record
Figure 1. The year 2018 landed among the ten wettest or ten driest years on record at all of the U.S. sites shown above. Size of the dot corresponds to the magnitude of the ranking (larger dots = higher rankings). Image credit: The Weather Channel, via Greg Diamond, @gdimeweather.

State records

For the period January through November, every state east of the Rockies was wetter than average, and eight states had their wettest Jan.-to-Nov. period on record. We can expect at least some of these states to end up with records for the year as a whole when NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information publishes the final data for 2018. Note that the NOAA/NCEI website is offline indefinitely because of the government shutdown.

At least five states appear to have set preliminary all-time records for the wettest annual totals at any location, according to NWS and CoCoRaHS data. In some states, more than one station has apparently topped the previous record. Below are some of the preliminary candidates. Any state rainfall records need to be validiated and certified by NOAA’s State Climate Extremes Committee before they become official.

Maryland:  84.56”, Catonsville (1.2 mi NW, CoCoRaHS)
   Current annual record: 76.52” (Towson, 1971)
North Carolina139.94”, Mt. Mitchell (NWS/COOP)
   Current annual record: 134.40” (Lake Toxaway, 2003)
Pennsylvania98.86”, Hidden Valley (CoCoRaHS)
   Current annual record: 81.64” (Mt. Pocono, 1952)
South Carolina:  123.12”, Jocassee (8 mi WNW, NWS/COOP)
   Current annual record:  119.16” (Hogback Mountain, 1979)
Virginia97.34”, Montebello Fish Cultural Station (NWS/COOP)
   Current annual record: 83.70” (Philpott Dam, 1996)

The 2018 total at Mt. Mitchell, NC, is likely to end up being the highest annual precipitation ever reliably recorded at any U.S. location east of the Pacific Coast states.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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Bob Henson

WU meteorologist Bob Henson, co-editor of Category 6, is the author of "Meteorology Today" and "The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change." Before joining WU, he was a longtime writer and editor at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO.



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