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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

A look back at the wild weather Wilmington and North Carolina endured in 2022

National Weather Service
Hurricane Ian's projected path

In 2022, North Carolina weathered everything from unseasonably warm winter months to a late-season Hurricane to a brutal cold snap just in time for the holidays. WHQR looks back at some of the top weather events, courtesy of the National Weather Service.

Winter 2021-2022

January 2022 started off very warm in some areas, with Lumberton at a daily record high of 81 degrees on January 1. A high-pressure system pulled a tropical air mass across the Carolinas just two days later, bringing widespread damaging wind gusts. In mid-January, a low-pressure storm brought around two inches of rainfall to Wilmington on the 16th.

At the end of the month, snow came after an arctic air mass pushed moisture back up along the coasts along with cold temperatures. Cold temperatures also lingered after this system: Wilmington's low of 19 degrees on the morning of January 30 was the coldest observed since 2019.

The temperature switched in February, though, averaging three to four degrees above normal. Highs on the 24th and 25th of February reached 86 degrees across southeastern North Carolina and northern South Carolina, making for very warm winter weather.

This trend continued into March; over half of the days were seeing highs in the 70s and 80s. On March 11th, a low-pressure system developed along the Gulf coast and only strengthened as it moved into the Carolinas. The morning of March 12th saw extreme wind gusts. ILM recorded 68 mph wind gusts which were the highest all year, including Hurricane Ian. Cold weather behind the system led to Wilmington’s last spring freeze on the 14th.

Spring 2022

Severe storms occurred on April 7th as a cold front moved across the Carolinas. Hailstones bigger than golf balls were recorded near western Horry County, SC, reaching down to Conway, SC. At the end of April, warm weather moved in with temps in the 80s on most days.

May 6th was recorded as the hottest day of the year up until that point in Lumberton, NC, where temps hit 93 degrees. The heat was followed by extreme thunderstorms in the Carolinas, and as those passed, the 90-degree temperatures returned.

June started off with a heat wave that brought 100-degree temperatures to the area. Lumberton reached 100 degrees on June 1 and 2, the hottest temperatures reported there since 2019. Wilmington recorded a high of 98 degrees on June 2, the hottest observed at any point in 2022. High pressure over the Carolinas was responsible for the hot weather, but as the high weakened widespread thunderstorms developed and dropped significant rainfall including 2.92 inches in Wilmington on June 3 and 2.01 inches in North Myrtle Beach on June 4.

Summer 2022

July was mostly hot and humid due to an air mass that moved in behind Tropical Storm Colin.

Severe thunderstorms developed on August 15 as a series of upper-level disturbances moved across the area.

The same upper-level weather pattern allowed additional severe thunderstorms to occur August 16, this time affecting areas around Tabor City, NC and Loris, SC. Trees were blown down along Inman Road southeast of Tabor City, and baseball-sized hail was observed falling near Loris during the evening hours.

An area of low pressure moved across the area on August 19, producing fairly widespread heavy rainfall. Official daily totals reached 2.86 inches in North Myrtle Beach and 3.08 inches in Wilmington, however many volunteer stations recorded much higher totals including 7.08 inches in Surfside Beach, and 7.28 inches in Socastee. Flash flooding was reported in Socastee and in the Forestbrook section of Myrtle Beach.

August is normally when the Atlantic hurricane season begins to really get active. For the first time since 1997 no tropical cyclones formed in the Atlantic during August, likely a consequence of hot, dry, and dusty air blowing off the west coast of Africa suppressing thunderstorms across the tropical Atlantic.

Warm and humid air covered the Carolinas for the first week of September. A cold front pushed through on September 8 allowing dry and cool weather to temporarily build overhead. High tides on September 3 associated with the Full Moon led to minor coastal flooding along the beaches, including a measured tide level of 6.83 feet at Wrightsville Beach, NC, almost a foot above flood stage.

Fall 2022

By far, the largest weather story of September was the landfall of Hurricane Ian. Ian was a category four major hurricane when it made its first U.S. landfall south of Tampa, FL on September 28. Ian weakened to tropical storm strength as it moved across Florida, emerging off the east coast on September 29.

Ian restrengthened to a category 1 hurricane before its final landfall on September 30 near Georgetown, SC. The hurricane produced wind gusts in the 60-80 mph range and caused a substantial storm surge along the Grand Strand beaches, devastating coastal homes and businesses. Observed water levels were four to six feet above astronomical tides.

Small amounts of rain fell on October 13th and during the last few days of the month; otherwise, October experienced very dry weather. Monthly rainfall totals were only about 15 percent of normal. Near normal rainfall during summer plus rain from Hurricane Ian had erased drought conditions, however by the end of October the National Drought Monitor again classified portions of southeastern North Carolina as "abnormally dry."

An unusual early-season cold snap arrived on October 18 with temperatures running 10 to 18 degrees below normal through October 21. The first freezing temperatures of the fall season occurred in Florence on October 19, and in Lumberton on October 20. This is about nine days earlier than normal in Lumberton and 22 days earlier than normal in Florence.

Well above normal temperatures occurred during the first ten days of November, including highs in the 80s for four consecutive days November 4 through 7. Wilmington reached 84 degrees on November 6 and 7, setting new daily high temperature records on both days.

The biggest weather story of November was Hurricane Nicole. Nicole formed from a non-tropical area of low pressure near Puerto Rico and became a subtropical storm on November 7 while hundreds of miles east of the Bahamas. Nicole weakened as it moved northward through Georgia and western North Carolina on November 11. Across the eastern Carolinas, Nicole's impacts included 30 to 40 mph wind gusts, up to 1.50 inches of rain, along with rough surf and large seas offshore.

The first two-thirds of December experienced changeable but overall mild weather as a series of weak weather systems swept across the eastern United States. Freezing nighttime temperatures were recorded inland between December 1-2, 13-14, and 18-19, but along the coast no freezes occurred in Wilmington or Myrtle Beach.

Winter 2022-2023

The biggest weather story of December was the Christmas cold snap. A powerful arctic cold front moved off the coast during the morning of December 23. Strong winds gusting between 45 and 55 mph developed behind the front as cold air poured across the Carolinas. Temperatures fell into the teens for several nights including Christmas. This was the coldest Christmas morning most of the area had seen since 1989.

Related: Pushed by Gov. Cooper, Duke officials apologize for blackouts, blame widespread extreme cold

The cold snap was a nationwide story, stranding — and, in some tragic cases, killing — people in their cars and homes. It also snarled traffic and airline flights, right as the country was entering one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Camille hails from Long Island, NY and graduated from Boston University with a BS in Journalism and double minors in Classical Civilizations and Philosophy. Her story focus revolves her deep care for children, young adults and mental health. You can reach her at cmojica@whqr.org.