Panhandle weather is often described as extreme and 2011 certainly fit the bill.  A strong La Nina episode in the central Pacific Ocean significantly influenced the weather pattern across the Panhandles for most of the year.  Due to this, 2011 will be remembered as the driest and one of the hottest years on record.

     Amazingly, only one month in 2011 ended up with above normal precipitation -- December.  Four of the first five months out of the year (January, March, April, and May) combined to experience only 0.25 inches of precipitation!  Well below normal precipitation continued into the middle of August before the weather pattern became more favorable for precipitation.  The final three months of the year combined to produce almost half of the annual precipitation at Amarillo.  For the year, Amarillo only received 7.01 inches of precipitation, easily placing it at as the driest year on record.

     Amarillo typically averages about 18 inches of snow per year, and we measured just over 19 inches of snow, despite the historic drought.  This was mainly due to three storm systems that combined to bring almost 14 inches of snow – one in early February, the second in late October, and the last on Christmas Day. 

     The heat was also another major story, particularly between June and August when numerous daily temperature records were tied and/or broken.  Some notable temperature records that were broken at Amarillo this year include the all-time record high (111° F, set on June 26), the most number of 100-degree days (50 days), the most consecutive days of 90-degree temperatures (50 days), and the hottest average monthly temperature on record (July at 85.2° F).  Only February and December have the distinction as being the only months this year with below normal temperatures.  Overall, 2011 will go down as the 7th warmest year on record at Amarillo.

     2011 will also be remembered as a quiet year for severe weather.  The severe weather season started slowly but did increase slightly in June when all 4 tornadoes that were reported in the Panhandles this year occurred on June 11.  However, since 1950, this was the 6th latest start to a year without a tornado in the Panhandles.  The Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles typically see about 21 tornadoes per year, and this year, all 4 tornadoes that were reported were weak.  Most of the thunderstorms this year were responsible for producing straight line wind damage, including the 120-mph wind gust that occurred with a thunderstorm in Beaver County, OK on August 9.

 

YEAR 2011 SUMMARY FOR AMARILLO


High for the year: 111° F, June 26 (all-time record)
Low for the year: -6° F, February 9 and February 10
Average High Temperature: 74.5° F (3.5° F above normal)
Average Low Temperature: 44.6° F (0.8° F above normal)
Average Annual Temperature: 59.6° F (2.2° F above normal)
Annual precipitation: 7.01 inches (13.35 inches below normal)
Annual snowfall: 19.3 inches (1.5 inches above normal)
Days with temperature ≥ 100 degrees: 50 (record)
Tornadoes: 4 Total – 3 EF-0 and 1 EF-1

 



January
    Hi: 72° F, 29th
    Low: 2° F, 11th
    Average: 35.6° F (0.2° F above normal)
    Precipitation: 0.06 inches (0.57 inches above normal)
    Snowfall: 0.6 inches

    The year started off on a quiet note with minor seesawing of temperatures, but overall, near normal temperatures prevailed.  With La Nina close to its peak in the central Pacific Ocean, the jet stream stayed well north of the area through most of the month.  As a result, most locations saw very little precipitation.



February
    Hi: 81° F, 16th
    Low: -6° F, 10th  
    Average: 36.2° (4.4° below normal)
    Precipitation: 0.43 inches (0.12 inches below normal)
    Snowfall: 9.0 inches
    Records:  Set the record high temperature of 81° F on the 16th.
                     Tied the record high temperature of 78° F on the 19th.
                     Set the record cool high temperature of 10° F on the 1st.
                     Set the record low temperature of -5° F on the 3rd.
                     Set the record low temperature of -6° F on the 10th.
                     Set the record warm low temperature of 45° F on the 20th.
                     Set the daily record snowfall of 5 inches on the 8th.

    The upper-level pattern broke down drastically at the beginning of the month and allowed a powerful arctic cold front to move south through the area.  Record cold temperatures and extremely low wind chills were observed across the Panhandles between February 1 and 3.  In fact, the second lowest wind chill value (-36° F) ever recorded by an Oklahoma Mesonet site occurred on February 1 at Boise City, OK.  A winter storm affected the area several days later on February 8 and 9, dropping several inches of snow across the Panhandles, including 12.0 inches at Canadian, TX.  
    After the snows and cold temperatures, a classic La Nina pattern re-emerged by the middle of the month.  This pattern resulted in warm, windy, and dry conditions for the last half of the month.  As a result, fire weather conditions rapidly deteriorated and led to several wildfires.  The most notable of these occurred on February 27 when a wildfire outbreak burned over 70,000 acres across the Texas Panhandle and consumed several residences in Potter and Randall Counties.



March
    Hi: 89° F, 17th
    Low: 26° F, 5th and 9th
    Average: 51.0° F (3.1° F above normal)
    Precipitation: 0.06 inches (1.07 inches below normal)
    Snowfall: 0.0 inches
    Records: Set the record high temperature of 89° F on the 17th.

    The La Nina pattern continued to persist into March, resulting in very warm temperatures and very little precipitation.  Several smaller wildfires affected parts of the Panhandles, but the most notable wildfire occurred on March 22 just north of Guymon.  This fire burned over 7,000 acres and destroyed two residences.

 


 


April
    Hi: 94° F, 29th
    Low: 32° F, 16th
    Average: 60.1° F (3.9° F above normal)
    Precipitation: 0.05 inches (1.28 inches below normal)
    Snowfall: Trace
    Records: This was the 7th driest April on record.
                   Set the record high temperature of 88° F on the 2nd.
                   Set the record high temperature of 91° F on the 3rd.
                   Set the record high temperature of 90° F on the 9th.
                   Tied the record high temperature of 94° F on the 29th.
   
    The heat and drought began to worsen during April, and wildfires continued to rage on with very little relief from precipitation.  Once again, another wildfire outbreak occurred on April 9 and 10 and burned tens of thousands of acres.  The month was extremely quiet from a severe weather perspective.  However, the first severe storm of the season occurred near Spearman, TX where quarter size hail was reported on April 19.  Other isolated severe storms developed on April 24, 25, and 26 but only produced large hail. 

 


 


May
    Hi: 104° F, 29th
    Low: 33° F, 3rd
    Average: 66.7° F (1.5° F above normal)
    Precipitation: 0.08 inches (2.42 inches below normal)
    Snowfall: Trace
    Records: This was the 3rd driest May on record.
                    Set the record high temperature of 100° F on the 28th.
                    Set the record high temperature of 104° F on the 29th.
                    Set the record warm low temperature of 73° F on the 30th.
                    Set the May record high temperature of 104° F on the 29th.
                    Set the May record warm low temperature of 73° F on the 30th.

    With the La Nina pattern continuing, May was the third straight month with less than 0.10 inches of precipitation measured at Amarillo.  May typically marks the time of the year when fire weather conditions begin improving as the jet stream begins lifting north, favoring weaker winds.  However, the pattern continued to remain favorable for wildfires, with May 29 being particularly notable.  In fact, on May 29, a wildfire developed on the northwest side of Amarillo and destroyed seven homes before being contained.
    Although May is climatologically the most active month for severe weather in the Panhandles, there was very little in the way of severe weather.  Early morning storms on May 11 produced wind damage in Amarillo and Borger.  Severe storms also developed on May 31 and produced several reports of large hail across the southwestern and central Texas Panhandle, including hen egg size (2.00 inches) hail near Bootleg, TX.



June
    Hi: 111° F, 26th
    Low: 55° F, 10th
    Average: 82.4° F (8.1° F above normal)
    Precipitation: 0.49 inches (2.79 inches below normal)
    Snowfall: 0.0 inches
    Records: This was the 2nd warmest June on record.
                   This was the 7th driest June on record.
                   Set the record high temperature of 102° F on the 7th.
                   Set the record high temperature of 106° F on the 13th.
                   Set the record high temperature of 107° F on the 16th.
                   Set the record high temperature of 109° F on the 24th.
                   Set the record high temperature of 111° F on the 26th.
                   Set the all-time record high of 111° F on the 26th (previously 109° F on June 24, 2011)
                   Tied the record high temperature of 104° F on the 19th.
                   Tied the record high temperature of 103° F on the 23rd.
                   Tied the record high temperature of 107° F on the 25th.
                   Set the record warm low temperature of 72° F on the 8th.
                   Tied the record warm low temperature of 70° F on the 3rd.
                   Tied the record warm low temperature of 68° F on the 4th.
                   Tied the record warm low temperature of 71° F on the 7th.
                   Tied the record warm low temperature of 73° F on the 26th.
                   Tied the all-time record high average daily temperature on the 26th.
    Tornadoes: 4 total – 3 EF-0 and 1 EF-1

    Due to the ongoing and intensifying drought, the big story was the heat when several record high temperatures were set during June.  In fact, Amarillo actually broke its all-time record high two days apart, first on June 24 and then on June 26.  June also ended up being the most active month for severe weather in the Panhandles in 2011.  The only four tornadoes that were reported in the Panhandles this year occurred on June 11 and mainly affected the eastern half of the Oklahoma Panhandle and the northeastern Texas Panhandle.  Three EF-0 tornadoes occurred near Follett and Darrouzett, TX and Boyd, OK.  An EF-1 tornado occurred near Tyron, OK.  In addition to the tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds were also reported.  Another severe weather event occurred on June 28 and resulted in several reports of wind damage across Beaver County.  In addition to the severe weather, wildfires also continued to be a problem.



July
    Hi: 105° F, 9th
    Low: 63° F, 4th
    Average: 85.2° F (7.0° F above normal)
    Precipitation: 1.00 inches (1.68 inches below normal)
    Snowfall: 0.0 inches
    Record: This was the warmest July and warmest month ever on record.
                  Set the record high temperature of 103° F on the 7th.
                  Set the record high temperature of 103° F on the 8th.
                  Tied the all-time record high average daily temperature on the 9th.
                  Tied the record high temperature of 102° F on the 15th.
                  Tied the record high temperature of 103° F on the 20th.
                  Tied the record high temperature of 102° F on the 26th.  
                  Tied the record high temperature of 102° F on the 28th.
                  Set the record warm low temperature of 79° F on the 9th.
                  Set the record warm low temperature of 77° F on the 27th.                                           
                  Tied the record warm low temperature of 74° F on the 10th.
                  Tied the record warm low temperature of 74° F on the 14th.
                  Tied the record warm low temperature of 74° F on the 24th.

    The drought began to reach its peak by late July and early August.  Due to the dry soils, temperatures were above normal every day of the month across the area, and in many instances, new record temperatures continued to be set.  The most impressive statistic is that July ended up being the warmest of any month ever on record (since 1892) at Amarillo!  The good news is that the winds finally began to subside, which allowed the threat for wildfires to diminish greatly.  Hit and miss showers and thunderstorms provided some relief from the heat, but almost all areas still saw well below normal precipitation.  Any thunderstorms that formed were often accompanied by very strong wind gusts.  On July 22, a collapsing thunderstorm produced an 81-mph wind gust at Amarillo. 



August
    Hi: 105° F, 7th and 8th
    Low: 66° F, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th
    Average: 85.1° F (8.3° F above normal)
    Precipitation: 0.53 inches (2.38 inches below normal)
    Snowfall: 0.0 inches
    Records: This was the warmest August on record and 2nd warmest month ever.  
                    This was the 6th driest August on record.
                    Set the record high temperature of 103° F on the 5th.
                    Set the record high temperature of 102° F on the 27th.
                    Set the record high temperature of 102° F on the 28th.
                    Set the record high temperature of 103° F on the 30th.
                    Set the record high temperature of 103° F on the 31th.
                    Tied the record high temperature of 105° F on the 7th. 
                    Tied the record high temperature of 105° F on the 8th.  
                    Tied the record high temperature of 101° F on the 9th. 
                    Tied the record high temperature of 101° F on the 22nd. 
                    Tied the record high temperature of 102° F on the 23rd. 
                    Tied the record high temperature of 103° F on the 24th.
                    Tied the record high temperature of 100° F on the 26th. 
                    Set the record warm low temperature of 75° F on the 7th.
                    Set the record warm low temperature of 74° F on the 23rd.
                    Set the record warm low temperature of 73° F on the 24th.
                    Set the record warm low temperature of 75° F on the 28th.
                    Tied the record warm low temperature of 72° F on the 19th.
                    Tied the record warm low temperature of 72° F on the 30th.

    Between June 21 and August 10 (50 consecutive days), the high temperature at Amarillo each day was 90 degrees or higher, which broke the previous record of the most consecutive 90-degree days.  The record 50th and final 100-degree temperature of the year at Amarillo occurred on August 31 when the high hit 103° F.  A cold front finally moved through the area on August 11, bringing a brief break from the heat and allowing most locations to remain below 90° F.  Largely due to a tap of monsoonal moisture across New Mexico, prospects for showers and thunderstorms increased across the area.  On August 9, severe thunderstorms impacted much of the central Texas Panhandle and the eastern Oklahoma Panhandle.  120-mph straight line winds caused damage to hog farms near Beaver, OK while 90-mph winds caused damage near Pampa, TX.



September
    Hi: 95° F, 1st and 12th
    Low: 58° F, 15th
    Average: 70.7° (1.2° F above normal)
    Precipitation: 0.92 inches (1.00 inches below normal)
    Snowfall: 0.0 inches
    Records: Set the record high temperature of 97° F on the 12th.
                   Set the record cool high temperature of 58° F on the 15th.
                   Set the record low temperature of 48° F.
                   Tied the record warm low of 71° F on the 1st.

    The oppressive heat relented some in September as a series of cold fronts moved through the area about every week.  However, consistent opportunities for precipitation were still few and far between.



October
    Hi: 90° F, 2nd
    Low: 28° F, 28th
    Average: 59.4° (1.1° F above normal)
    Precipitation: 1.23 inches (0.43 inches below normal)
    Snowfall: 3.1 inches
    Records: Tied for the 6th snowiest October on record
                    Record snowfall of 3.10 inches on the 27th. 

    Very warm temperatures continued through the first part of the month, including the last 90° F temperature at Amarillo on October 2.  Occasional cold fronts brought opportunities for precipitation, especially near the end of the month.  Enough cold air was present along with an abundance of moisture to produce snowfall across much of the southern Texas Panhandle on October 27 with 3.1 inches of snow measured at Amarillo.  Severe thunderstorms developed on October 11 across the eastern portions of the Panhandles and produced large hail up to the size of baseballs Lefors, TX.



November
    Hi: 81° F, 1st
    Low: 19° F, 17th
    Average: 48.2° F (1.9° F above normal)
    Precipitation: 0.62 inches (0.18 inches above normal)
    Snowfall: 0.0 inches
    Records: Tied the record warm low of 54° F on the 13th  
                    Record rainfall of 0.44 inches on the 21st

    November was marked by frequent temperature swings, but overall, the month remained more mild than normal.  Some areas were fortunate to see beneficial rainfall, but these areas were hit or miss.  Severe storms are extremely rare in November, but a late season severe weather event occurred on November 7 and produced the largest known hailstone (2.00 inches) in November in the Panhandles near Claude, TX.



December
    Hi: 73° F, 31st
    Low: 4° F, 6th
    Average: 34.2° F (2.7° F below normal)
    Precipitation: 1.54 inches (0.83 inches above normal)
    Snowfall: 6.6 inches

    Records: Record rainfall of 0.95 inches on the 19th.
                   

    The big story of December was relief from the drought and above normal temperatures the region had been experiencing since the spring.  December was actually the wettest month that the area has seen all year.  Furthermore, it was the first month since November 2010 that Amarillo received above normal precipitation for a month.  December was one of the few months in 2011 that actually featured below normal temperatures.  The biggest thing that helped alleviate the drought conditions was several snow storms that hit the area during December.   On December 4, a strong cold front moved through the region which resulted in snow falling during the early morning through the early afternoon hours of December 5.  Snowfall accumulations ranged from 4.5 inches in the western Panhandles to a trace in the east central Texas Panhandles.  The biggest snow storm came December 19 and 20 as a strong low pressure system approached the region and produced very heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions across the western Oklahoma Panhandle and northwestern Texas Panhandle.  Kenton, Oklahoma received 15 inches of snow while areas south of I-40 received hardly any snow.
    Less than a week later, many southern Panhandle residents awoke to snow on Christmas Day.  A low pressure system just south of the area helped develop snow bands that started moving into the area early on Christmas morning.  This snow lasted through much of the day and provided Amarillo with its 11th White Christmas since 1892.  Amarillo officially recorded 4.2 inches of snow for the day making it the second snowiest Christmas on record.  Other areas around the south central Texas Panhandle received anywhere from 1 to 3 inches of snow.

 


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