Columbus’ rainfall record washed away

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH)–On New Year’s Eve around 5:35 p.m., we officially eclipsed the all-time precipitation record for Columbus that was set in 2011, when the city tallied 54.96 inches.

John Glenn Columbus International Airport received 1.01 inches of rain by 9 p.m., raising the annual count to 55.18 inches. The average annual value is 39.31 inches, so that is quite an overflow.

A rain gauge in the northwest part of Columbus near the Scioto River reported 57.91 inches in 2018, and a Rockbridge observer, in northern Hocking County, had more than 65 inches.

Nine months in 2018 had above-normal precipitation in Columbus. Six months had more than five inches of rain: the wettest month was June, with 6.71 inches. A close second was September, when 6.57 inches of rain accumulated. 

The first two game-day Saturdays in September were memorably wet. 

On Sept. 1, rain and lightning halted the OSU/Oregon State game for nearly 70 minutes. Although only .38 inch fell at the airport, a Clintonville gauge recorded 3.35 inches, near Blenheim Road, where two to three feet of water turned several roads into rivers following early and late afternoon torrential downpours. A few gauges in Upper Arlington and Clintonville topped four inches in the two storm cells.

The very next weekend, the remnants of Gordon delivered 1.44 inches of rain on Sept. 8, much of it falling during the OSU/Rutgers game. The tropical system dumped 2.7 inches of rain on the city from Sept. 7-10.

February’s total precipitation of 5.25 inches (including melted snow on Feb. 7, when the city measured 4.4 inches in a morning burst with a clipper system), was the seventh wettest, and the soggiest February since the late 1800s.

The Columbus area had a dozen or so storms that deposited more than 1.5 inches of rain during the year, primarily between April and September during the heart of the growing season.

Average annual precipitation and the number of days with very heavy rainfall have increased significantly in the Ohio Valley in the past half-century. The top one percent of all precipitation events in the region is up 44 percent since 1958. 

Four of the 10 wettest years in Columbus occurred since 2000: 2018 (1st), 2011 (2nd), 2004 (6th), and 2003 (8th). Four other top 10 wet years were observed between 1882 and 1890. 

New Year’s Eve 2018 was also quite blustery, with wind gusts of 39 mph at Columbus, 46 mph at Marion and Lancaster, 47 mph at Bellefontaine, and 55 mph at Cleveland. More than 9,000 customers lost power in northeastern Ohio between Mansfield, Akron and Cleveland, as departing low pressure moved northeast of Ohio by late evening.

2019 will get off to a relatively dry start, with only sprinkles and flurries on New Year’s Day, but rain could return Friday night and early Saturday with a southern system, which is typical in El Nino winters with an active southern storm track and plentiful subtropical moisture–a persistent feature of 2018.

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