By ARTHUR A. FRANCIS
Special to the news
---- — SALEM — This year, weatherwise, October was an ideal month for the thousands of tourists and visitors drawn to Salem from all over the United States and abroad for Haunted Happenings. Everyone enjoyed our special events, especially since the weather warmed up so nicely in the evening with temperatures in the 60s. The heavier rain that was forecast never materialized.
Overall, our October temperatures were just about average. Our high was a pleasant 84 degrees, and the lowest temperature was a chilling 30 degrees. The significant feature of the month was the lack of rainfall. For the month, we had a total of only 1 inch. This was 3 inches below average.
Now we will have our annual transition from fall to the coming winter. It will be getting much colder now. At the beginning of the month, our daytime high temperatures typically climb into the mid-50s and drop into the low 40s. Toward month’s end, highs will run in the mid- to upper 40s and plummet to the chilling lower 30s or upper 20s by sunrise.
To the far north over Canada and Alaska, the sun’s energy has lost its punch. Much-colder temperatures prevail over these regions now, and it is getting colder day by day. These wintry dry air masses are getting ready to make the journey southward toward New England. To our south, we still have very warm and moist air over the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean near Florida that can travel northward and collide with the Canadian cold air. Thus, November can sometimes produce sudden and dramatic weather changes and spawn some intense storms that can lash our coastal regions when the conditions are just right.
The most infamous and memorable November event was the Portland Storm of 1896. In that severe snowstorm, 400 lives were lost, including 191 passengers and crew members of the Steamship Portland. Despite warnings from the weather service, the ship departed Boston just before the storm developed explosively and rapidly intensified offshore. The killer storm generated huge waves accompanied by hurricane-force winds that tossed the large vessel about and shattered it to pieces. Three hundred other vessels also were lost at sea. Boston got 18 inches of snow, the greatest amount of snow in one storm for any November.
Another devastating storm was experienced in 1950. This was a warm storm accompanied by wind-driven torrential rain. Flooding was rampant, and coastal sections were inundated. LaGuardia Airport in New York City was completely underwater. It was an impressive storm of great size, accompanied by hurricane-force winds. In our area there were gusts to 86 mph — 100 mph at Hartford, Conn., and 110 mph at Concord, N.H.
Checking back on our records for the past 34 years, we experienced our highest November temperature of 80 degrees in 2001. Our lowest temperature was a midwinter-like 5 degrees above zero in 1989. Usually our rainfall for November is about 4 inches, but we have had as much as 10.34 inches in 1983. In contrast, we had a very dry November in 1995, when we received only 0.85 inches.
Snowfall averages about 1 inch, though we had as much as 12.7 inches in 1987. There have been many Novembers without any snowfall whatsoever.
It is time now to look forward to our joyous holiday season.
Arthur Francis is a Salem meteorologist.