Cold, snowy and wet: A history of presidential inauguration weather

Weather Blog

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Joe Biden is set to be sworn in today as the 46th President of the United States. The weather in Washington D.C. is looking very chilly, with highs hovering around 40 degrees and wind chills in the 20s to low 30s.

Inauguration day will be chilly with a low chance for snow flurries.

Skies will be mainly sunny, but there is also a low chance for a few snow flurries/snow showers as well. No accumulation is expected.

Inauguration Day is typically January 20, every four years, following an election according to the Constitution. This hasn’t always been the case and didn’t begin until the inauguration of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.

Before then, Inauguration Day was held on March 4, with outdoor ceremonies taking place starting in 1817 with President James Monroe. With that said, official weather records only date back to 1871.

According to the National Weather Service, the average high temperature for Jan. 20 in D.C. is 43 degrees. But when the president gets sworn in (usually around noon) it’s colder; with an average temperature of 36 degrees. Precipitation wise, the normal amount of rain for this date is a tenth of an inch of rain and roughly two-tenths of an inch of snow.

US President Ronald Reagan (C) is sworn in as 40th President of the United States by Chief Justice Warren Burger (R) beside his wife Nancy Reagan (C) during inaugural ceremony, on January 21, 1985 in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC. (Photo by – / CONSOLIDATED NEWS PICTURES / AFP) (Photo by -/CONSOLIDATED NEWS PICTURES/AFP via Getty Images)

The coldest inauguration

President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985 marked the coldest January inauguration. That day, the temperature reached a balmy seven degrees, whiles the highs barely hit 17 degrees. The ceremony was forced the ceremony indoors and causing the inaugural parade to be cancelled.

The coldest March inauguration goes to Ulysses S. Grant for his second inauguration in 1873, with a record low of just four degrees that morning, only rising to 16 degrees by noon. Wind chills were well below zero due to strong wind gusts as high as 40 mph. Brrrr.

The warmest inauguration

While President Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration was the coldest in January, his first is the warmest. It hit 55 degrees by 12 p.m. in 1981. With that said, it should be noted that Gerald Ford, who took over after Richard Nixon’s resignation, experienced the warmest inauguration on record. It was 89 degrees when he took office, but that is because it took place during the month of August.

The wettest inauguration

In 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt experienced a washout with a record 1.77 inches of precipitation falling on his ceremony. A morning wintry mix transitioned into a cold rain. Even with these conditions, a parade took place.

William H. Taft’s inauguration day saw record snowfall the night before, forcing the ceremony indoors.

The snowiest inauguration

William Howard Taft found himself facing a blizzard the night before his inauguration in 1907. The ceremony was moved indoors after more than nine inches of snow fell on the city.

Despite the snow, the presidential parade still took place. 58,000 tons of snow were carted off by around 6,000 city workers.

Another notable weather event that impacted a president’s inauguration was during that of the shortest serving president, William Henry Harrison. His inauguration was on a cold wet day in which he chose to not wear a coat. Harrison gave the longest inaugural address out of all the presidents.

While the legend states his decision to not wear a coat and give a long speech gave him a cold that led to his death, that likely isn’t the case. According to the New York Times, he died roughly a month after his inauguration, but not from pneumonia as was originally reported. He likely died from a parasite he picked up from poor water treatment at the White House.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Tracking the Coronavirus

Coronavirus Cases Tracker

Latest Central Texas COVID-19 Cases

More Coronavirus Live Blogs

Trending Stories

Don't Miss