7 biggest weather stories of 2021

From heat waves to hurricanes, we saw it all this year

This year will be one for the record books as far as the weather goes.

The extremes for 2021 ran the gambit. It started with a deadly cold snap in the Southern Plains and ended with devastating tornadoes in the Heartland.

Here is a look back at the seven biggest weather stories of the year, in no particular order.

1. Deep freeze in Southern Plains

Arctic air plunged into the Central U.S. in mid-February, producing icy conditions and pushing temperatures down to levels that some places had not seen in a decade.

Texas was among the hardest-hit states by the deep freeze. At one point, the entire state of Texas was under a Winter Storm Warning. The mercury fell into the teens deep into the Lone Star State, and the National Weather Service Office in Houston issued its first-ever Wind Chill Warning.

The frigid temps caused equipment to freeze at many of the power plants in Texas. The deficit in electricity generation led to blackouts, leaving some people without a way to keep their homes heated for days. Pipes burst across cities and left homes without water for days.

More than 200 people died because of the historic cold.

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2. Extreme heat in Pacific Northwest

Record highs tumbled across the Pacific Northwest amid a four-day heat wave in June.

The average high in Portland, Oregon, during the heat wave was 112 degrees.

Seattle also saw record heat after hitting temperatures over 100 degrees for three days in a row. This in a city that had only hit 100 degrees three times in 126 years. The Emerald City hit 108 during the heat wave, which broke the city’s all-time high temperatures by 5 degrees.

The unprecedented heat in a region that does not normally have to deal with it led some roads to buckle, according to a report.

More than 100 people died during the heat wave in Washington state alone, according to FOX 13 Seattle.

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3. Wildfires scorch West

More than 58,000 wildfires have been reported across the U.S. this year, consuming more than 7.8 million acres. Some of the largest fires happened in the drought-stricken West – a region that is also home to some of the oldest forests in the U.S.

The KNP Complex fire grabbed national headlines when lightning ignited the two fires that comprised it in September. The fire burned more than 88,000 acres in and around the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, where some of the largest trees in the world reside. The parks had to be closed to visitors for several weeks while firefighters used foil blankets wrapped around the base of these giant trees to save them from the flames.

The largest fire of the year by acreage was the Dixie Fire that ignited in July. It consumed more than 960,000 acres northeast of Chico, California.

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4. Henri

About mid-way through this year’s hurricane season, a storm named Henri took aim at New England after meandering around Bermuda for several days.

The storm became a minimal hurricane, but weakened to a strong tropical storm just before making landfall in Rhode Island on Aug. 22. It was the first named storm to make its primary landfall in the state since Hurricane Bob in 1991.

Henri produced flooding from Massachusetts to New Jersey. Between 6 and 8 inches of rain fell in parts of the Northeast in a 38-hour period.

More than 140,000 people lost power at the height of the storm.

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5. Ida

The most powerful hurricane that made landfall in the U.S. this year was Hurricane Ida.

The Category 4 storm slammed into Louisiana with 150-mph winds on Aug. 29, the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It pushed ashore a storm surge of at least 10 feet and left the southeastern Louisiana coast in shambles.

Ida gained a second life as the storm moved north through the eastern U.S., producing tornadoes and historic flooding as far north as New England. Scenes of streets flooded with feet of water in New York and New Jersey brought back images of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. A major highway in Philadelphia was underwater after the Schuylkill River flooded.

Ida caused more than $64 billion in damage and killed nearly 100 people.

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6. Deadly flash flood in Tennessee

A line of strong storms produced a deadly flash flood in Middle Tennessee during the summer.

A little more than 20 inches of rain fell between Waverly and McEwen, about 60 miles west of Nashville, in just a day. The torrential rains sent rushing floodwaters into communities, killing 22 people.

A 20.73-inch rainfall observation at a wastewater treatment plant in McEwen set a new state 24-hour rainfall record, dwarfing the old record that had stood for nearly 40 years.

FOX 17 in Nashville reported that the flood is estimated to have caused $23.9 million in damage.

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7. Heartland tornadoes

The year ended with one of the most active Decembers on record as far as severe weather goes.

Unusually warm air dominated much of the southern U.S. throughout the month, which helped set the stage for several rounds of terrible thunderstorms and terrifying tornadoes.

The worst outbreak of the month happened on Dec. 10, when a supercell tracked from Arkansas to Kentucky and produced tornadoes along the way. The strongest tornado along that track happened in Mayfield, Kentucky, where an EF-4 tornado leveled much of the town.

Nearly 80 people were killed in Kentucky alone during the tornado outbreak.

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