Chattanooga twice as rainy as Seattle in 2013; cooler temps, no tornadoes in Southeast Tennessee

Chattanooga twice as rainy as Seattle in 2013; cooler temps, no tornadoes in Southeast Tennessee

December 29th, 2013 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

Marion County Public Works crews work to remove rocks and mud that piled up at the intersection of Pine and Third Streets after the July 11 flash flood that inundated portions of South Pittsburg.

Marion County Public Works crews work to remove...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Aaden Baker, 4, holds an umbrella over his head as he rides in a wagon with his family at the National Cornbread Festival in April in South Pittsburg, Tenn. Southeast Tennessee had abundant rain in 2013.

Aaden Baker, 4, holds an umbrella over his...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Three people cross Georgia Avenue in Chattanooga during a May thunderstorm.

Three people cross Georgia Avenue in Chattanooga during...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga's 2013 weather in 3 bullet points

• It rained a lot.

• Tornadoes were scarce - although a freakishly strong January tornado claimed a life in Adairsville, Ga.

• It was cooler than normal - especially compared to the two years before, which had scorching summers.

All the rain that fell this year might make you think Chattanooga was morphing into Seattle.

Except that Chattanooga got twice as much rain in 2013 - 67.4 inches and counting as of Friday - as did Seattle, which had a total of just under 33 inches.

"It was a much-wetter-than-normal year," said Derek Eisentrout of the National Weather Service's Morristown, Tenn., office.

The Chattanooga area's 2013 rainfall - almost 16 inches above normal - was the 10th highest since record-keeping began in 1879, Eisentrout said last week, as more rain still was predicted before year's end. The record high for rainfall was in 1994, he said, when 73.7 inches fell.

It's said every cloud has a silver lining, and the area benefited in some ways from the deluge - including slightly lower electric bills.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which supplies power to Chattanooga's EPB and 154 other distributors across its seven-state region, generated a record amount of electricity at its 29 power-producing dams.

"This was our wettest year on record and our highest hydro year," TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said.

Since rain is free - unlike coal or natural gas - TVA paid less in fuel costs and passed savings on to its distributors. As a result, electric rates for the typical EPB customer are projected to be 2.1 percent less in January than they were a year ago, which should knock about $3.06 off the average household's electric furnace bill.

Three major Georgia cities - Atlanta, Macon and Columbus - all got enough rainfall in 2013 to make the top 10 all-time highs. On Friday - with more rainfall predicted before year's end - Atlanta had 64.41 inches, its eighth-wettest year. Columbus had 60.33 inches, its ninth-wettest year. Macon already had its highest annual rainfall since record-keeping began at 70.37 inches.

Huntsville, Ala., had logged 57.31 inches of annual rainfall Friday, which was 3.8 inches above normal.

Mild tornado season

While it rained a lot, tornadoes weren't as common or as strong as usual - especially compared to 2011, when one of the largest and deadliest tornado outbreaks ever occurred in late April. It killed 348 people in six states, including Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.

Northwest Georgia's worst tornado of 2013 came on Jan. 30 when a twister rated at EF3, or 135-165 mph, tore through Bartow and Gordon counties, killing one person in Adairsville.

"It's actually the strongest tornado we have recorded in Georgia in January," said meteorologist Ryan Willis of the National Weather Service office in Peachtree City, Ga. "That was our biggest tornado event."

Southeastern Tennessee was tornado-free in 2013, Eisentrout said.

Northeastern Alabama's worst tornadoes came on March 18, when two twisters rated EF2, or 110-137 mph, hit DeKalb County and an EF1, or 86-109 mph, ran through Marshall and Etowah counties, said meteorologist Kurt Weber of the National Weather Service's Huntsville, Ala., office.

Northwest Alabama saw about the same number of tornadoes as usual, he said, but they were weaker.

"A lot of the U.S. has had a very mild tornado season, compared to normal," he said.

This year was cooler than usual - which was noticeable on the heels of 2011, one of the hottest years on record, and 2012, the hottest year recorded in the continental United States.

The Chattanooga area saw an average high temperature of 70.5 degrees, compared to the usual average high of 71.6 and 2012's average high of 74.3 degrees.

Temperature-wise, in Northwest Georgia, "2013 looks like it'll end up somewhere right in the middle," Willis said.

The Huntsville, Ala., area had some noticeably cooler months, Weber said, including March, November and December, which were about six degrees cooler on average. There were eight days in July that were cooler than 90 degrees, which is more below-90 days than normal, he said.

"The only exception to that was January," Weber said. "That was a good bit warmer."

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or 423-757-6651.