ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The beginning of any new year is a time for reflection, and meteorologists are no different. 2022 brought it’s fair share of weather-related challenges from severe weather events, to longer term issues like drought and a streak of new records that follow a worrying trend.
We’ll start off with some of the most notable events, including the Livingston County downburst, the Wyoming County tornado and the “Blizzard of ’22.” These all share a common thread of shock, and communities coming together in a time of need.
Livingston County downburst
On June 17 a wash of strong to severe thunderstorms crossed over Western New York. One storm produced what was known as a downburst, or a strong burst of wind that descends quickly from inside a thunderstorm and spreads out quickly when hitting the ground. The damage these cause can often be mistaken for that of a tornado, especially since the winds estimated with them can often equal that of a low end EF-0 or EF-1 tornado.
The strength of the storm caught many by surprise, one resident, Barbara VanBolkenburg, was watching it from her window when the downburst passed through Livonia.
“By 4:15 [on June 17] the storm was here, this pine tree in the front yard came down right across our window,” said VanBolkenburg.
Trees and debris littered an eight-mile stretch from Geneseo to Livonia in Livingston County along Route 20A. In many places, including Livonia according to Hayley Anderson the town clerk, everyday people acted quickly to open roads back up and allow first responders through and bring a sense of normalcy back after the day took a drastic turn.
“When I left the village roads were impassable. About an hour and a half later you come through and there were people from all over [even] different towns with their trucks, their chainsaws,” said Anderson.
Wyoming County tornado
On a day that seemed like any other summer day (July 28), with some thunderstorms in the forecast, a rare EF-2 tornado spawned in Wyoming County. The storm left many in shock, including Lisa McCormick of Bliss, NY.
“We’re known for our snowstorms not tornadoes around here,” said McCormick.
The tornado was the first in 24 years in Wyoming county, and now only the second EF-2 on record in the county. Tornadoes in general are infrequent for the News 8 coverage area, with only 29 tornadoes reported since 1950, roughly occurring once every two and half years on average. According to Mike Fries of the Buffalo office of the National Weather Service while speaking on site the day of the tornado, confirmed the rarity of the situation.
“The majority of them that we would have in most areas would be an EF-0 or a 1. I wouldn’t say it’s unheard of at all, no, but it would be far less frequent than an EF-0 or an EF-1,” said Fries.
Amazingly, he also remarked during the press conference that no one was hurt during the event, including any of the animals on a farm which sustained a majority of the damage that day.
Buffalo Blizzard of ’22
This tragic storm began just before the Christmas holidays and left 39 people dead as a result. During the storm, Buffalo experienced over 35 hours of continuous blizzard conditions, defined as a quarter-mile visibility or less and frequent gusts over 35 mph. Through most of that time they exceeded that criteria with visibilities near zero and wind gusts exceeding 70+ mph at times.
Blizzard-like conditions extended well beyond Buffalo, with cities and towns across Orleans, Genesee and even western Monroe county in our area all experiencing the impacts of the initial storm and the lake effect snow that followed. In duration, these were all short term events, that while their impacts will be felt for years to come in some cases, the underlying storms ‘that caused them lasted less than a week, or even just hours outside of the blizzard.
Some events, though, lasted on a longer scale. Drought was an underlying problem for much of Western New York throughout the year with most of the area spending the summer listed as “Abnormally dry” on the drought monitor, including Monroe County. During the worst of the drought, portions of Wyoming, Genesee and Livingston counties faced a “Moderate drought” from mid-July to the end of August.
Rochester ended 2022 six inches below normal on rainfall when compared to the average based on precipitation from 1991-2020 at the airport. Most of that deficit grew during the summer months when a largely inactive (for rain, not severe weather as evidenced) pattern set up. In addition snow in the last few months of the year was also well below average, with just over 20 inches less than normal falling from October 1 to December 31.
Neither of these are records in each of their own respects but that doesn’t mean Rochester didn’t set any records this year. In fact, we set or tied eight of them. All for record heat, and not a single one for record cold. Three of those eight were for record warm lows during the summer, which has been found to be one of the fastest warming times of day during the summer.
This is now the second year in a row that Rochester has failed to record a record low temperature, with 2021 like this year only featuring new temperature records for heat. A trend that will need to be watched carefully over the next few years.