9. A polar vortex in late January was blamed for at least 27 deaths. 8. At least 23 people were killed by a powerful tornado that ripped through Alabama on March 3. 7. The second "bomb cyclone" in less than a month froze the central United States on April 10. 6. On May 27, a swarm of tornadoes tore across Indiana and Ohio. 5. A 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Southern California on July 4th, causing millions in damage. 4. In mid-July a stifling heat wave gripped two-thirds of the country. 3. On September
Photo: Illustration by Ryon Horne
Photo: Illustration by Ryon Horne

Hurricane devastates Bahamas: A look back at the top 9 weather stories of 2019

2019 was a year of triumph. And tragedy. One of hope. And heartbreak. Before we embark on 2020, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s content curation desk is taking a look back at the biggest stories of 2019 and their effects on Georgia and the rest of the nation. Today’s topic: Weather.

A pedestrian walks through frigid weather Jan. 31 in New York. The polar vortex made it feel about 17 below zero, according to the National Weather Service.
Photo: Earl Wilson/The New York Times

9. 27 dead in winter storm 

A polar vortex in late January brought frigid temperatures to more than half the country and was blamed for at least 27 deaths across eight states, according to official reports. Snow and record-breaking low temperatures that swept across the Midwest and Northern Plains closed schools and businesses, and it prompted suspension of mail delivery in more than a half-dozen states. Hospitals reported hundreds of cases of frostbite and hypothermia as overnight temperatures plummeted to minus 30 or lower in many areas — with some wind chills of minus 50 or worse. 


A Chevrolet Corvette sits under rubble that was caused by a tornado March 5 in Smiths Station, Alabama. Numerous tornadoes in Eastern Alabama and Western Georgia on March 3 killed at least 23 people.
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

8. Tornado kills 23 in Alabama 

At least 23 people were killed by a powerful tornado that ripped through East Alabama on March 3, plowing a path almost a mile wide and 24 miles long through Lee County along the Georgia border. The storm also left behind a path of destruction in Georgia, but there were no known fatalities despite cars being smashed and roofs being shredded. 

The city of Talbotton, less than a two-hour drive southwest of Atlanta, got the worst of it in Georgia. The storm leveled nearly 20 properties there. The tornado was an EF4, the second strongest on the rating scale, according to the National Weather Service in Birmingham. 


A man crosses over a creek during a blizzard on March 13, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, as a "bomb cyclone" hit the United States.
Photo: Tribune News Service

7. Second ‘bomb cyclone’ hits US 

The second so-called "bomb cyclone" in less than a month hit the central United States on April 10. 

The weather phenomenon made conditions go from balmy to a blizzard overnight in several states including Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Minnesota and New Mexico. Heavy snowfall disrupted ground and air travel; flights were canceled, numerous traffic crashes were reported, and interstates were closed down amid life-threatening conditions.  


Homes and vehicles were severely damaged after a tornado swept through the Dayton, Ohio, area on May 27.
Photo: Andrew Spear/The New York Times

6. Tornadoes rip through 8 states 

On May 27, a tightly packed swarm of tornadoes tore across Indiana and Ohio, smashing homes, blowing out windows and damaging buildings. One person was killed, and about 90 were injured. The storms were among 53 twisters that forecasters said may have touched down across eight states. During one week alone, authorities linked tornadoes to at least seven deaths and scores of injuries. Federal government weather forecasters logged preliminary reports of more than 500 tornadoes in a 30-day period. As of May, tornadoes were blamed for at least 38 deaths in the United States, including the fatality in Ohio. 


Bottles of wine are strewn in the middle of an aisle inside a Southern California store on July 6 after the largest earthquake the region had seen in nearly 20 years.
Photo: Associated Press

5. Earthquake hits California 

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake rattled Southern California on Fourth of July morning, with dozens of aftershocks following. The temblor was centered in the Mojave Desert, near the town of Ridgecrest, about 120 miles outside of San Bernardino. Officials estimated the quake caused between $10 million and $100 million of damage. One of the aftershocks forced the NBA to postpone the finish of a Summer League game in Las Vegas. A WNBA game in Las Vegas was also stopped, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres played through the tremors during their game at Dodger Stadium.


Children cool off in a Chicago fountain as temperatures climbed into the 90s with a heat index expected to reach as high as 115 degrees on July 19. The heat wave affected nearly two-thirds of the United States, where more than 195 million people experienced multiple days with temperatures above 90 degrees.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

4. Heat wave roasts US 

In mid-July, a stifling heat wave gripped two-thirds of the country, with power outages reported in multiple Midwest and East Coast states as residents ran air conditioning nonstop to stay cool. The National Weather Service had 34 million people under heat advisories. From the Carolinas to Maine, daytime highs reached the upper 90s. Coupled with high humidity, temperatures felt as hot as 110 degrees in some places. Cities across the nation urged people, especially vulnerable populations, to drink plenty of water and stay out of the sun. In Georgia, the heat wave brought record-breaking 95-degree temperatures to the Atlanta area in May, making the month the warmest on record, according to state climatologists.  


On Sept. 26, a 315-billion- ton iceberg about the size of Los Angeles broke away from the Amery Ice Shelf in Antarctica. The separation was the largest rift of an iceberg in more than half a century.
Photo: Satellite image

3. Giant iceberg breaks from ice shelf 

On Sept. 26, an iceberg about the size of Los Angeles broke away from the Amery Ice Shelf in Antarctica. The separation was the largest rift of an iceberg in more than half a century. The iceberg, which measured 632 square miles in area and 689 feet thick, weighed 315 billion tons. The giant block of ice is being tracked by satellites because of the potential danger it poses to shipping. Scientists said they don't believe the break is related to climate change. 


President Donald Trump references a map while talking to reporters about Hurricane Dorian in the Oval Office on Sept 4. The map proved controversial because it showed an early forecast track from Aug. 29 and appears to have been altered by a black marker to extend the hurricane's range to include Alabama.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

2. President Trump and ‘Sharpie-gate’ 

As Hurricane Dorian bore down on the Bahamas in early September, the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service took issue with President Trump after the commander in chief said to TV cameras — and on Twitter — that Alabama "will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated" — even though the National Hurricane Center had the storm going nowhere near Alabama. Twenty minutes after Trump's briefing in the Oval Office, NWS-Birmingham sent out a rebuttal on Twitter. "Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian," the agency stated. “We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.” Later it was determined that the president had used an out-of-date National Hurricane Center forecast map as part of his briefing, and the map was altered with a black Sharpie pen — evidently to demonstrate a weather threat to Alabama — and support Trump's mention of the Yellowhammer State. A week earlier, there had been concerns that Dorian could go across the Florida Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening Alabama and the Gulf Coast. But by the time Trump warned residents in Alabama, the state was not in the sights of the hurricane at all. 


Here is a view of damaged homes after Hurricane Dorian devastated Elbow Key Island on Sept. 8 in Hope Town, Bahamas.
Photo: Jose Jimenez/Getty Images

1. Hurricane Dorian devastates Bahamas 

On Sept. 1, Hurricane Dorian, a dangerous Category 5 storm, made landfall in the Bahamas. The slow-moving storm sat over the islands for two days, leaving it in utter ruin. At least five deaths were reported as punishing winds and floodwaters destroyed or severely damaged thousands of homes, crippled hospitals and trapped people in attics. The storm's trajectory put it on a path toward the East Coast of the United States. As the storm threatened to strike Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp ordered evacuations for residents east of Interstate 95 in six coastal counties. Days later, he lifted the order as Dorian's path shifted, keeping it at sea.

Check out the other stories in our year-end project:

9 for 2019: Top Georgia stories

9 for 2019: Top sports stories

9 for 2019: Top business stories

9 for 2019: Top national stories

9 for 2019: Top world stories
9 for 2019: Notable deaths

9 for 2019: Top political stories

9 for 2019: Top arts and entertainment stories

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