At the dawn of the 2010s, Florence, Irene, Matthew, Michael and Sandy would have read like random names in a directory.
Derecho, bombogenesis and polar vortex hadn’t yet made the leap from weather textbooks to water cooler chat.
The state’s wettest year on record was 2003, while the 1990s still claimed the hottest years.
All of that would change.
Throughout December, I consulted with colleagues across Virginia’s weather and climate field to arrive at a ranking of the state’s defining events of the decade.
Making a top 10 from their feedback proved harder than I thought: The nuanced nature of meteorology often thwarts a simple breakdown of events.
Recall: We saw a hurricane morph into a nor’easter-like low and dump a thick layer of snow on Appalachia. A violent thunderstorm was fueled by, and its miserable aftermath compounded by, the extreme heat waves that bracketed it. The many deluges of 2018 kept the ground soggy, and made it much easier for a pair of tropical systems to trigger deadly flooding. Both spawned prolific tornado outbreaks, too. And between it all, the frequency of downpours, coastal floods and heat records was likely influenced by the human-caused warming trend evident across the globe.
There will surely be more storms, seasons, records and studies to occupy us in the 2020s.
But the panel nearly unanimously recognized these five weather stories of the 2010s as the ones with the most unusual, severe and widespread effects in our state.
And these are the ones we’ll likely still be talking about in the decades to come.
2010: Season of snowstorms
While warmth was the prevailing meteorological mood of that year (and decade), it began with a decidedly wintry pattern. There have been many heavier snowfalls in the region before 2010 and since, but few seasons in memory were as relentless as 2009-10.
In some areas, snow covered the ground from December to mid-January, and again from late January to mid-March. A major snowstorm on Dec. 19, 2009, fell outside the scope of this review, but it set the tone for what was to come that season. At its height, the “Snowmageddon” storm of Feb. 5-6 paralyzed Northern Virginia with more than 2 feet of snow.
2011: April tornado outbreaks
Devastating tornadoes struck the region in three rounds that spring, each overshadowing the last. A national observer may remember April 16, 2011, for widespread loss in North Carolina, along with April 27 for a catastrophic toll in the Deep South, but both outbreaks also caused rare levels of tornado activity here in Virginia.
On April 8, an isolated EF-2 tornado damaged hundreds of homes in Pulaski County. Then, the April 16 outbreak unleashed 12 tornadoes in central and eastern Virginia. That day’s strongest, an EF-3, tracked for 47 miles from Surry County to the Middle Peninsula, killing two and injuring 24. Then 19 tornadoes struck on April 27-28, claiming three lives at Glade Spring in Washington County and another in Halifax County.
2012: Derecho and heat wave
We still call it “the derecho” — and it’s now the summer storm by which others are measured. Meteorologists will point out that our area has been hit by that class of broad, long-lived thunderstorm wind before and since this particular event, but the high-end nature of the severe thunderstorm of June 29, 2012, allowed century-old science jargon to explode on social media and crystallize “derecho” as a fearsome name in the public consciousness.
Hard-hit Roanoke began that day at a stifling 84 degrees and reached 104 in the afternoon, before countless trees toppled as winds of 80 mph raced over the Appalachians and all across the Piedmont that evening. Power outage numbers across the state topped 1 million, and temperatures still soared into the triple digits in the week afterward. Falling trees during the storm caused five deaths in Virginia, and eight people would die from heat-related causes.
2016: Feb. 24 tornadoes
There have always been outlier thunderstorms and tornadoes that appear during winter, but this day should forever dispel the idea that we have a set “tornado season” in Virginia. The right atmospheric ingredients converged in late winter and spawned eight tornadoes.
In Appomattox County, an EF-3 killed one person and injured seven, while an EF-1 killed three and injured eight in Waverly. Another EF-3 injured 25 people and left a 30-mile damage path from King and Queen County to Westmoreland County.
2018: Record rainfall and flooding
For the state as a whole — and many of its cities — the annual precipitation in 2018 was higher than any other year on record. It accumulated from a spring and summer with soggy stalled fronts, a parade of soaking storms in fall, and consistently high moisture levels in the air.
Along the way, flash flooding reached alarming levels in Richmond, Roanoke, Lynchburg, Danville and a host of other places. But any comprehensive list of swollen rivers and creeks, landslides, water rescues, swamped roads, ruined farms and shattered records is simply too long to include here.
Here’s a brief overview of Virginia’s other noteworthy weather stories of the 2010s, with a chronological list beneath each category.
Depending on whether you live near Chesterfield County, Cape Charles or the Cumberland Gap — or somewhere in between — some of these events may have missed your backyard entirely. Other, more localized storms might have been worse for your town than any of these below.
2010s as a whole: Virginia’s hottest decade. Five of our top 10 warmest years on record in the industrial era happened in the 2010s, and only one year, 2014, had a mean temperature below the 20th-century average. For the state as a whole, no individual month, season or year has ranked coldest since the 1980s, but several periods since 2010 ranked warmest (below).
2010: hottest summer on record for Virginia, with an excessive number of 90- and 100-degree days
2012: highest annual mean temperature across Virginia (and also the warmest March, warmest spring season and hottest July)
2015: warmest December
2017: warmest February and warmest April
2018: warmest May
2019: A hot spell in mid-July brought the highest heat index to metro Richmond in several years and contributed to several deaths.
Dec. 25-26, 2010: most recent Christmas snow for central and eastern Virginia
Mid-February 2014: The mountains saw 1 to 2 feet of snow.
February 2015: Heavy snows in the far southwestern region set the stage for extremely cold lows, down to 23 below zero.
Jan. 22-23, 2016: A major winter storm affected the entire state, with 10 to 16 inches and a near-whiteout in Richmond and upward of 3 feet in Northern Virginia.
Jan. 7, 2017: A snowstorm dumped up to 1 foot on parts of central and southeastern Virginia, with blizzard conditions along the Atlantic.
Jan. 3, 2018: The second Hampton Roads blizzard in as many years. The James River partially froze in the sharp but short-lived cold snap after the storm.
March 24-25, 2018: Twelve to 18 inches of snow hit the New River Valley and cut power to thousands.
Nov. 14-15, 2018: A high-elevation ice storm caused outages and extensive tree damage along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park.
Dec. 9, 2018: A storm’s snow accumulations set December records in western and southern towns, and marked Richmond’s largest snow total for so early in the season.
July 2013: downpours and flooding in the Roanoke region
October 2015: nor’easter and coastal flood in Tidewater, plus heavy rain in the mountains
June 23, 2016: flash floods in the Alleghany Highlands and neighboring West Virginia
July 8, 2019: flash flood emergency in Northern Virginia
August 2011: Hurricane Irene delivered the worst combination of wind, water and surf in the eastern part of the state since Isabel in 2003.
September 2011: The remnants of Tropical Storm Lee caused a narrow but extreme band of rainfall north of Richmond, with up to 21 inches near Colonial Beach.
October 2012: Hurricane Sandy, which brushed the coast with tidal flooding and wind while staying offshore, transformed into a powerful, nontropical low as it collided with the Mid-Atlantic and dumped more than 1 foot of snow in far Southwest Virginia.
October 2016: Hurricane Matthew flooded Hampton Roads with up to 14 inches of rain, while cutting power to nearly a half-million customers.
September 2018: Remnants of Hurricane Florence created a deadly EF-2 tornado in Chesterfield along with a swarm of nine others in metro Richmond, while flooding western and central regions.
October 2018: Tropical Storm Michael raced inland from the Florida Panhandle, bringing extreme flash flooding to the Piedmont, seven tornadoes and gusts to near 100 mph in Tidewater.
April 15, 2018: Six tornadoes hit mainly along U.S. Route 29, with 12 injured in the metro Lynchburg area by an EF-3.
April 19, 2019: Sixteen tornadoes formed, including an EF-3 in Franklin County.
March 2, 2018: Strong low pressure whirling offshore caused a long duration of high winds across the state. Gusts of up to 80 mph under sunny skies led to widespread power outages and two fatalities.
Autumn 2019: The state’s most severe and expansive drought since 2010 formed rapidly during August to October, primarily harming farms.
According to FEMA, disaster declarations were issued in Virginia for the 2010 snowstorms, Hurricane Irene in 2011, the remnants of Lee in 2011, the 2012 derecho, Sandy in 2012, the January 2016 snowstorm, Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and Florence and Michael in 2018.
Since 2010, the National Weather Service’s records list 71 fatalities in Virginia caused directly by weather, along with 28 indirect deaths and more than 400 injuries. Fatal weather occurred in every year, every month, and every region of the state.
With thanks to:
Michael Allen, Ph.D., Old Dominion University; Nick Gilmore, WVTF Radio IQ; Lowell Koontz, GlenAllenWeather.com; Chris Michaels, WSLS-TV; Kevin Myatt, The Roanoke Times; Jeff Orrock and staff at the National Weather Service in Wakefield; Kathryn Prociv, NBC News and Monarch Weather Consulting; Jamey Singleton, Cable 12 TV in Rocky Mount; Andrew Snyder, NWS Sterling; Sean Sublette, Climate Central, formerly WSET-TV; and Chris White, Fredericksburg.com.
House Speaker-elect Eileen Filler-Corn is stepping down from her job at an Arlington County-based lobbying and consulting firm, helping to alleviate the potential for conflicts of interest as she prepares for the leadership role.
Filler-Corn was the government relations director at Albers & Company, which lobbies the Virginia legislature and governor’s office on health care and energy issues. Filler-Corn was not a lobbyist, but some of her clients had interests or dealings before state government.
Her last day was Tuesday, said Jake Rubenstein, her new communications director.
Filler-Corn, a delegate since 2010, plans to open her own consulting shop, which won’t offer lobbying services, Rubenstein said. For any clients with interests in Virginia, Filler-Corn plans to personally step away from work directly related to state policy.
House Democrats elected her speaker in November after the Democrats flipped control of both chambers of the General Assembly. Before the vote to elect her speaker, Filler-Corn said she would abstain from votes that may give the appearance of a conflict of interest. Rubenstein said she would continue to abstain from votes as needed.
“I understand and deeply appreciate the significant duties and responsibilities that would come with holding the speakership, should my colleagues honor me by electing me to that post,” Filler-Corn said in a statement, alluding to the Jan. 8 House vote to officially name her speaker.
“That is why this is the right professional move that will allow me to best serve my constituents, the House of Delegates and the commonwealth.”
Robert Lipman, a Maryland activist who wants to reduce corporate money in politics, had raised questions Friday in an email to the Richmond Times-Dispatch about Filler-Corn’s role with Albers & Company, where managing director Guy Rohling is a registered lobbyist for Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company that manufactures insulin and is among companies under fire over the high cost of insulin.
While some Democrats such as Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, raised concerns about the high costs of insulin, Lipman said, he felt Filler-Corn had been quiet on the issue.
Carter has filed House Bill 66 for the 2020 General Assembly session, a bill aimed at limiting the price health insurance companies can charge for insulin.
Had Filler-Corn remained in her current job, she would have had power over that bill as speaker while working for a firm lobbying for an insulin manufacturer.
In Nation & World | Protesters attack U.S. Embassy in Iraq in reaction to airstrikes | Page A10
ASHBURN — The Ron Rivera era has begun in Washington.
The coach who took Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl will attempt a similar feat with young Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
NFL Network reported that Rivera signed a five-year deal in Washington, which has become standard for new coaching hires. A source with knowledge of the situation said Rivera spent Monday night in Northern Virginia with Redskins owner Dan Snyder, discussing plans for the organization.
Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent, will become the team’s first minority coach — not counting Terry Robiskie, who served in an interim capacity for three games.
Rivera is known as a defensive coach, and indeed, his quickest path to success in Washington will be reforming a unit that has loads of talent but often underachieved under Jay Gruden, an offensive coach who brought in a series of ineffective coordinators.
It’s the offensive side of the ball where Rivera will ultimately sink or swim, though.
The Redskins, and Snyder in particular, have made it clear that Haskins is the future of the franchise, a young quarterback with loads of athletic talent but very little in the way of in-game experience, even at the college level.
Rivera will get to pick his offensive coordinator but is expected to give strong consideration to Kevin O’Connell, the rising star who served in that position this year for Washington. Haskins improved as his rookie season progressed.
But Rivera’s greatest impact is likely to come off the field. Haskins arrived amid reports that he wasn’t ready for the leap to the pro level, and that his coach at Ohio State University, Urban Meyer, wasn’t impressed with his maturity.
Those questions increased when Gruden and then interim coach Bill Callahan both declared at times this season that Haskins wasn’t ready to lead the team. Callahan kept Case Keenum as the team’s captain even after Keenum was relegated to the backup role.
But Rivera, who worked with a young Cam Newton, is known for running a tight ship and demanding full buy-in from players. His relationships with Haskins and Snyder will be two of his most important — former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan lost the building when Snyder sided with then-quarterback Robert Griffin III over Shanahan during a series of disputes in early 2013.
This won’t be Rivera’s first experience dealing with stars, though. He deftly handled Newton after the quarterback arrived from Auburn University amid a cloud of controversy over whether he was paid to attend the school.
On Monday, Rivera’s former players were gushing in their praise of him.
Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said he would tell Washington players that “one of the best things that ever happened to your career is about to happen. He [Rivera] is one of the greatest men I’ve ever been around, one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever been around. … He’s going to turn that place around. Guaranteed.”
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen compared Washington’s team now to the way the Panthers were in 2011 when Rivera was hired originally in Charlotte.
“Young quarterback, super talented,” Olsen said of Haskins. “We’ll see if that kid can be Cam. But he’s got a young quarterback that they’re looking to develop similar to how we were in 2011, have some pieces in place, need to get a little structure, need to get a little organization — and Ron’s the guy for that type of job.”
Rivera has some familiarity with the area. His wife, Stephanie, previously served as a coach for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.
An introductory news conference is expected to take place later this week.