by John Lawrence
From coast to coast, we saw a variety of record-breaking weather in July 2013. Several cities recorded one of their hottest Julys on record. A heat wave that lasted a week in middle July helped propel Hartford, Conn., Bridgeport, Conn., and Providence R.I. to their hottest July and calendar month on record. In the west Salt Lake City, Utah, Reno, Nev., Elko, Nev., Medford, Ore., Roseburg, Ore. and Bend, Ore. all saw their hottest July and calendar month in history.
Although July is typically the driest month of the year in the Pacific Northwest, it was exceptionally dry in July 2013.
Seattle, Olympia, Wash., Portland, Ore., Eugene, Ore. and Salem, Ore. were among the slew of locations in western Washington and western Oregon that recorded no measurable rainfall in July 2013. Only four other Julys since 1890 have had no rain in Portland (downtown). For Seattle, it was the first time in more than 50 years with no measurable rain in July.
On the other hand, heavy rainfall soaked much of the Southeast in July 2013 and resulted in numerous locations seeing either flash flooding or river flooding.
Asheville, N.C. (13.69 inches), Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C. (14.45 inches), Gainesville, Fla. (16.65 inches) and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (15.49 inches) were among the Southeast cities that set new records for wettest July.
Farther north, Roanoke, Va. (12.73 inches) and Philadelphia, Pa. (13.24 inches) also saw their wettest Julys on record. 8.02 inches of Philadelphia’s July total fell in a localized area within a matter of several hours on July 28.
On July 8 in Canada, more than 300,000 people were left without power in Toronto after a major storm caused city-wide flooding. Power was also cut to about 80 percent of Mississauga, a suburb of 700,000 west of Toronto. Subways were shut down and about 1,000 passengers were stranded for hours on a commuter train filled with gushing water.
Scores of Toronto police and firefighters used boats to rescue commuters from the 10-car, double-decker train that stalled in floodwaters that reached up to the lower windows. Murky brown water spilled through the bottom floor of the carriages, sending passengers fleeing to the upper decks. A passenger said that she could see people clinging to trees after abandoning their cars on a flooded highway alongside the tracks.
Environment Canada said some parts of the city had been drenched with more than 3.9 inches of rain, easily beating the previous one-day rainfall record of 1.4 inches in 2008. The storm left the downtown core dotted with abandoned vehicles, some sitting in water up to their windows. Porter Airlines canceled all flights out of the downtown airport due to power outages in the terminal. It was not clear how many flights were affected.
Toronto’s flash flooding came two weeks after extensive flooding in Calgary turned parts of that western Canadian city into a lake and forced up to 100,000 Albertans from their homes. Three bodies were recovered during the floods.
Severe flooding in China on July 6 killed at least 31 people and forced 220,000 to evacuate. Three people were rescued in Sichuan, China after a bridge collapsed as a result of those floods. China experienced heavy rainfall affecting 20 provinces and disrupting the lives of roughly 6 million people. The southwest was the hardest hit, experiencing what was described as the heaviest rainfall in 50 years. In Dujiangyan, Sichuan 37 inches of rain fell from July 8–9, the heaviest rainfall since records began in 1954. The rainfall led to widespread flooding that destroyed bridges and houses. The rain also triggered multiple landslides that buried dozens of people.
Later in the month a severe heat wave in eastern and southern China sent temperatures to record highs and claimed several lives.
The emergency response came after the National Meteorological Center issued an orange alert for heat, the second-highest level possible, for four consecutive days in East China’s Anhui, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Fujian provinces and Shanghai, Central China’s Hunan and Hubei provinces as well as Southwest China’s Chongqing. It was the first time in history that such a response had been issued.
According to statistics from the National Climate Center since July 1 the heat wave spread across one third of China’s territory. And an area of 189,000 square kilometers, almost the size of Syria, saw temperatures soaring above 95 degrees F for more than 20 days in July.
In Shanghai, the mercury climbed to 105 degrees F on July 26, the highest temperature recorded in the city. 24 high temperature days in July made it the hottest July in 140 years. The sizzling temperatures in the city led to the deaths of a 63-year-old woman and a 51-year-old man from heat stroke over the weekend. There was one death in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province, and two in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province.
Elsewhere, Fenghua, a city in Zhejiang, recorded a temperature of 109 F, becoming the hottest in the country. Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang, also saw its temperature surpassing 104 F for five consecutive days, setting a record for the city.
Several provinces are suffering through a drought as the heat wave continues to scorch a wide swath of land where flooding is usually the problem during the rainy season. Drought has affected 12.2 million people in mountainous Guizhou Province, leaving 2 million people there to deal with temporary drinking water shortages and damaging 840,000 hectares of crops, the provincial government said on Tuesday. Thirty-three counties and cities in Hunan are also facing severe drought, as the province received less than 30 percent of expected rain in July.