Triple-digit heat shatters October temperature records in southern US

Brian Lada

When the calendar turns to October, many people think of crisp autumn evenings, the changing colors of the forest and carving pumpkins for Halloween. However, the start of October seemed to signal the return to summer from the Gulf Coast to the mid-Atlantic this year.

The first three days of the month featured record warmth from New Orleans to New York City as millions sweltered in conditions more typical of July. Temperatures in the 90s F were widespread across the region with even higher AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures.

On Tuesday alone, over 30 cities set new all-time high temperatures for the month of October.

The heat turned up even more on Wednesday with several cities breaking monthly temperature records set just 24 hours earlier. New Orleans was one of these cities, hitting 96 F on Wednesday, breaking the old October temperature record of 95 F set on Tuesday.

The extreme temperatures on Wednesday forced some school districts across the region to dismiss classes early or to cancel classes entirely.

Birmingham, Alabama, topped out at a record-shattering 103 F on Wednesday. However, the National Weather Service is investigating to verify the record. If it holds, it would not only be the hottest day of the year for the city but would fall just 2 degrees shy of the highest temperature ever observed east of the Mississippi River during the month of October.

The heat Wednesday in Birmingham, if the temperature record is verified, easily exceeded anything the city experienced even in the middle of summer this year. Birmingham didn't reach the 100-degree mark once this past July, and the mercury hit triple digits on just three days in August.

On Wednesday, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and New York City (LaGuardia Airport) were some of the most notable cities in the Northeast to set new all-time record high temperatures for the month of October. According to the NWS, New York City hit 93 degrees on Wednesday -- the second-highest October temperature ever recorded in the Big Apple. The all-time October high of 94 occurred on Oct. 5, 1941.

There were many more areas farther south to reach this benchmark, including Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Huntsville and Montgomery, Alabama; Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee; Charlotte and Asheville, North Carolina; Greenville and Orangeburg, South Carolina; Greenville, Greenwood and Vicksburg, Mississippi; and Atlanta and Rome, Georgia.

Temperatures swelled to record-setting levels yet again on Thursday with over half a dozen cities hitting the 100-degree mark.

It was the first time that the mercury hit the triple-digit mark in Raleigh, North Carolina, during the month of October and shattered the previous latest occurrence of reaching the milestone by 23 days.

"A roller coaster-like jet stream pattern across the country is to blame for the summerlike heat across a wide swath of the eastern United States," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said.

Very little cooling rainfall has fallen across those areas, expanding drought conditions, Buckingham added.

Friday may bring yet another round of record-challenging heat before residents across the region see some relief.

For a time on Wednesday afternoon, every weather station across eight different states were reporting temperatures higher than that of Death Valley National Park in California, one of the hottest places on Earth.

Once the heat finally retreats, it is likely that some areas, such as the mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley, will not experience warmth of this magnitude again until 2020.

For cities such as Atlanta, the record October temperatures were a continuation of the abnormally warm September.

"Atlanta experienced the second-warmest September on record with an average monthly temperature of 82.4," AccuWeather Meteorologist Kyle Elliott said. "The warmest September on record occurred in 1925, when the average monthly temperature was 83.0."

"As of Thursday, Oct. 3, Atlanta has hit 90 on 90 different occurrences during 2019 and is expected to have reached that landmark 91 times by the end of the day on Friday, which would break the previous record of 90 occurrences in a single year that was tied on Thursday," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Ryan Adamson.

Although the Southeast is baking under a persistently warm and dry weather pattern, this is forecast to flip heading into the winter months.

"While the Northeast braces for snow and cold, the Southeast is more likely to experience a wet couple of months," according to AccuWeather's official U.S. winter forecast.

Click here to read AccuWeather's entire 2019-2020 US winter forecast.