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Monday, January 19

Presidential Inaugural Weather

Written By: Brian Neudorff

Tomorrow, Barack Obama will be sworn in as our 44th president of the United States and the weather shouldn't be to much of a problem. The forecast from the National Weather Service for Washington D.C. is calling for clouds and sunshine with morning temperatures in the low to mid 20s and a high temperature near 32°F.

That is about 10 degrees below the average for Washington D.C. The average high temperature for January 20th in Washington is 42°F and the average low is 26°F. The inauguration takes place at noon and the typical temperature for midday in D.C. is around 37°F.

(information found from the National Weather Service from Sterling, VA)
Most Dramatic and Tragic - 1841: President William Henry Harrison was sworn into office on a cloudy, cold and blustery day. His speech lasted one hour and 40 minutes and he rode a horse to and from the Capitol without a hat or overcoat. Pneumonia developed from a lingering cold he caught on that day and he died just one month later.

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. Strong winds toppled trees and telephone poles. Trains were stalled and city streets clogged. All activity was brought to a standstill. Sanitation workers shoveled sand and snow through half the night. It took 6,000 men and 500 wagons to clear 58,000 tons of snow and slush from the parade route. See pictures. 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.

Worst Traffic Jam - 1961: Night before the inauguration, 8 inches of snow fell and caused the most crippling traffic jam (for its time). Hundreds of cars were marooned and thousands of cars were abandoned. The president-elect had to cancel dinner plans and, in a struggle to keep other commitments, is reported to have had only 4 hours of sleep. Former President Herbert Hoover was unable to fly into Washington National Airport due to the weather and he had to miss the swearing-in ceremony. By sunrise, the snow had ended and the skies were clearing, but the day remained bitter cold. An army of men worked all night to clear Pennsylvania Avenue and despite the cold, a large crowd turned out for the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural parade. At noon, the temperature was only 22°F and the wind was blowing from the northwest at 19 mph making it feel like the temperature was 7°F above zero.

Coldest Inaugurations:
Coldest January: 1985 - President Ronald Reagan's second swearing-in ceremony on January 21 had to be held indoors and the parade was canceled. The outside temperature at noon was only 7°F. The morning low was 4° below zero and the daytime high was only 17°. Wind chill temperatures during the afternoon were in the -10 to -20°F range.
Coldest March: 1873 - Ulysses S. Grant's second swearing-in ceremony - The morning low temperature of 4°F was a record for the month of March. The day remains the coldest March day on record. During the day, bitterly cold winds gusted up to 40 mph. By noon, the temperature had risen to 16°F. Wind chill temperatures were -15° to -30°F.

Warmest Inaugurations:
Warmest January: 1981 - Ronald Reagan - 55°F under mostly cloudy skies.
Warmest March: 1981 - Official record: 1913 - Woodrow Wilson - 55°F under overcast skies in Washington, DC.

You can find more fun Inauguration weather facts and information from the National Weather Service in Sterling, VA.

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