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Inauguration Weather

By Joe D'Aleo
Monday, January 19, 2009

Presidential Inaugurations first went outdoors with the inauguration of James Monroe in 1817. A wide variety of weather conditions occurred over the years including the extreme and even tragic with William Henry Harrison catching pneumonia and dying a month later. Read more about the weather history on Inauguration day (January 20th) below.

 

 

Year

President

Noon

 Remarks

Temp.

2005

George W. Bush

35°F

Mostly cloudy with some sunny breaks.  Northwest wind 14 mph. Around 1" of snow lay on the ground.

2001

George W. Bush

36°F

A cool dreary day, with rain and fog - visibility 2 miles. An inch of rain had fallen the day before, with another third of an inch falling on Inauguration Day. Rain changed to a little light snow (0.3") late in the evening.

1997

William Jefferson Clinton

34°F

It was partly sunny with a high overcast. Winds were from the south at 7 mph.

1993

William Jefferson Clinton

40°F

It was sunny and pleasant.

1989

George Bush

51°F

It was mostly cloudy, mild and breezy.

1985

Ronald Reagan

7°F

It was sunny, but bitter cold. Wind chill temperatures fell into the -10° to -20°F range in the afternoon.

1981

Ronald Reagan

55°F

It was mostly cloudy and mild.

1977

Jimmy Carter

28°F

It was cold and sunny. The wind chill temperature was in the teens.

1973

Richard Nixon

42°F

It was cloudy and windy.

1969

Richard Nixon

35°F

It was cloudy with rain and sleet later in the day.

1965

Lyndon B. Johnson

38°F

Skies were cloudy and one inch of snow lay on the ground.

1961

John F. Kennedy

22°F

Snow into the early morning left 8 inches on the ground. It was sunny but cold the rest of the day.

1957

Dwight D. Eisenhower

44°F

Jan. 21: Light snow in the early morning. Cloudy skies with a few flurries in the mid afternoon.

1953

Dwight D. Eisenhower

49°F

Cloudy skies.

1949

Harry S. Truman

38°F

Mostly sunny and windy.

1945

Franklin D. Roosevelt

35°F

Light snow ended around 9 a.m. that morning. Cloudy skies.

1941

Franklin D. Roosevelt

29°F

Sunny, but cold with a brisk wind. Wind chill 10°F.

 



Year

President

Noon

 Remarks

Temp.

1937

Franklin D. Roosevelt

33°F

Cold with heavy rain. Between 11 am and 1 pm, 0.69 inches of rain fell.  Some sleet and freezing rain fell in the morning.

1933

Franklin D. Roosevelt

42°F

Mostly cloudy with a few peaks of sun.

1929

Herbert C. Hoover

48°F

A heavy rain began just before the oath of office was administered, and the Capitol grounds and parade route were so crowded that it was impossible for anyone to run for cover. By the time he completed his inaugural address, President Hoover's face was beaded with water and his suit was wringing wet. Herbert Hoover's inaugural parade moved up Pennsylvania Avenue during a lull in the rain.

1925

Calvin Coolidge

44°F

Mostly sunny skies.

1921

Warren Harding

38°F

Sunny.

1917

Woodrow Wilson

38°F

Partly Cloudy and windy. Ceremony on March 5.

1913

Woodrow Wilson

55°F

Overcast, but mild.

1909

William H. Taft

32°F

Heavy snow, drifting snow, and strong winds. The 10 inch snow fall ended at 12:20 pm but the afternoon remained cloudy and windy.

1905

Theodore Roosevelt

45°F

Sunny with strong northwest winds. Patches of snow remained on the ground from a light snow fall the day before.

1901

William McKinley

47°F

Overcast. It rained overnight and then began again during the ceremony and ended at 3:45. Total rainfall was 0.32 inches.

1897

William McKinley

40°F

Clear.

1893

Grover Cleveland

25°F

Snow began during the early morning and ended around 1 pm. One to two inches fell across the area. A biting wind blew from the northwest. The crowd was small for the ceremony. Many planned events were canceled.

1889

Benjamin Harrison

43°F

Rained all day. Total rainfall was 0.86 inches. Took oath of office in a downpour under an umbrella. (See picture below).

1885

Grover Cleveland

54°F

Sunny.

1881

James A. Garfield

33°F

Snowed all night until about 10 am. The afternoon was sunny and windy.

1877

Rutherford B. Hayes

35°F

Cloudy with brief periods of light snow. Ceremony was on March 5.

 

Year

President

Noon

 Remarks

Temp.

1873

Ulysses S. Grant

16°F

Clear, windy and bitterly cold. Morning low of 4°F remains the coldest March day on record. Wind chill temperature of -15°F.

1869

Ulysses S. Grant

40°F

Light rained all morning but stopped just before noon. Afternoon was mostly sunny. Total rain was 0.11 inches.

1865

Abraham Lincoln

45°F

Rain for two days and right up to the ceremony when it ended and the sun broke through. Total rainfall for the day was 0.30 with the bulk of it falling near daybreak. Grounds around the Capitol were very soft and muddy.

1861

Abraham Lincoln

 

Rain until mid morning and then sunny and mild in the afternoon.

1857

James Buchanan

49°F

Sunny.

1853

Franklin Pierce

35°F

Light snow and windy...heavier snow during the president's inaugural address. (Temperature is estimated)

1849

Zachary Taylor

42°F

Cloudy with snow flurries. Heavy snow began during the inaugural ball. Ceremony was on March 5.

1845

James K. Polk

42°F

Thunderstorm at dawn with rain during the day. Total rainfall was 0.40 inches. Polk took his oath of office under an umbrella in heavy rain. The crowd was a sea of umbrellas with people standing ankle deep in mud. 

1841

William H. Harrison

48°F

Overcast with a cold wind. (Noon temperature is estimated)

1837

Martin Van Buren

26°F

Sunny and brisk.  (Noon temperature is estimated)

1833

Andrew Jackson

29°F

Uncertain. Probable fair weather based on descriptions of happy crowds. (Noon temperature is estimated)

1829

Andrew Jackson

57°F 

Warm and balmy. (Noon temperature is estimated)

1825

John Quincy Adams

47°F

Rain. Total rainfall was 0.79 inches.  Observations taken by Adams himself.

1821

James Monroe

28°F

Ceremony on March 5. Observation taken by John Quincy Adams. Snow began on Saturday evening making Washington snowbound by Sunday afternoon. Snow continued through the inauguration day forcing Monroe to take his oath of office in the House Chambers.

1817

James Monroe

50°F

Warm and sunny. First outdoor inauguration. (Noon temperature is estimated)

 

 

Extreme Weather for Past Inaugurations

Most Dramatic and Tragic - 1841:  President William Henry Harrison was sworn into office on a cloudy, cold and blustery day. His speech lasted one hour and 40 minutes and he rode a horse to and from the Capitol without a hat or overcoat. Pneumonia developed from a lingering cold he caught on that day and he died just one month later.


Benjamin Harrison's inauguration in 1889.

Almost as bad - 1853: President Franklin Pierce was sworn into office on another cold and snowy day. He awoke to heavy snow in the morning which continued until about 11:30 am. Skies looked to be brightening by noon. Shortly after Pierce took his oath of office, as he began his inaugural address, snow started again. It came down heavier than ever dispersing much of the crowd and ruining plans for the parade. Abigail Fillmore, First Lady to the outgoing President Millard Fillmore, caught a cold as she sat on the cold, wet, exposed platform during the swearing-in ceremony. The cold developed into pneumonia and she died at the end of the month.

Worst Weather Day - 1909:  President William H. Taft's ceremony was forced indoors due to a storm that dropped 10 inches of snow over the Capital city. The snow and winds began the day before. Strong winds toppled trees and telephone poles. Trains were stalled and city streets clogged. All activity was brought to a standstill. Sanitation workers shoveled sand and snow through  half the night. It took 6,000 men and 500 wagons to clear 58,000 tons of snow and slush from the parade route. See pictures. Despite the freezing temperatures, howling wind, snow, and sleet, a large crowd gathered in front of the Capitol to view the inauguration, but the weather forced the ceremony indoors. Just after the swearing-in, the snow tapered off.


Photo taken in front of Taft Presidential Reviewing stand.

Worst Traffic Jam - 1961: On the eve of the Kennedy inauguration, 8 inches of snow fell and caused the most crippling traffic jam (for its time). Hundreds of cars were marooned and thousands of cars were abandoned.  The president-elect had to cancel dinner plans and, in a struggle to keep other commitments, is reported to have had only 4 hours of sleep. Former President Herbert Hoover was unable to fly into Washington National Airport due to the weather and he had to miss the swearing-in ceremony. By sunrise, the snow had ended and the skies were clearing, but the day remained bitter cold.  An army of men worked all night to clear Pennsylvania Avenue and despite the cold, a large crowd turned out for the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural parade. At noon, the temperature was only 22°F and the wind was blowing from the northwest at 19 mph making it feel like the temperature was 7°F above zero.

Coldest Inauguration  1985 - President Ronald Reagan's second swearing-in ceremony on January 21 had to be held indoors and the parade was canceled. The outside temperature at noon was only 7°F. The morning low was 4° below zero and the daytime high was only 17°. Wind chill temperatures during the afternoon were in the -10 to -20°F range.

Data compiled by National Weather Service.

Forecast this Inauguration Day: Partly cloudy breezy and quite cold. lows near 20 and highs around 32F.

 

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