Climatology of LaVale, MD
LaVale, MD is located in western Allegany County, on the east slope of the Allegany Front, just west (3-4 miles) of Cumberland and about 6 miles east of Frostburg.  It is a southwest to northeast oriented strip of homes and businesses sprawled out between Haystack and Wills Mountain (and the Narrows) to the east and Piney and Dan's Mountain to the west and northwest.  I-68 cuts through the southern portion of LaVale, winding down Haystack Mountain then cutting through the gap between Piney and Dan's mountain towards higher elevations.  Its elevation ranges from about 800-1200 feet (my station is 1,016 feet, according to topographic maps and geographic surveys, and the Cumberland Police Barrack station is located at 930 feet elevation.  The coordinates are 39.66 N and 78.82 W.

The climate of LaVale, and all of Maryland, is temporate with distinct seasons.  Temperatures average about 52 degrees Farenheight in a typical year.  The most "pleasant" times of the year, temperature-wise, are the transition seasons--mid April through early June, and again from September to mid-October.  Of course, these "transition" seasons can also have some of the most unpredictable temperatures and largest swings from day to day.  The diurnal range is usually around 20 to 25 degrees, but can vary by as much as 40 or 50 degrees in dry, clear conditions or during frontal passages, or stay nearly constant in cloudy, humid conditions.  Overall temperatures average around 30 degrees in January and around 73 in July.  Typical annual extremes are close to or a few degrees below 0, with the coldest part of the year from late January to early February, to the mid or upper 90s, occasionally reaching 100 or higher, with the hottest part of the year from mid July through early August.  High summer humidity usually makes it feel even hotter, with heat indeces frequently topping 100. The hottest ever temperature was 105 on July 16, 1988, and the coldest readings of -16 were recorded on January 20-21, 1985 & January 19, 1994.  See below for some monthly statistics (means and extremes).  Winters are quite chilly, but usually not extreme, certainly not as brutal as the mountain locations immediately to the west and north.  Snow can fall from October through May.  Measurable snow usually falls between mid November and late March to mid-April.  Heavy snows have affected the area from late October through late April.  The first and last frosts are usually in early October and early to mid-May, though killing frost is sometimes observed as early as early September and as late as early June.  Nearby mountain locations usually see a shorter growing season, and much more snow, due to the higher elevation and exposure to high winds coming off the Great Lake (mainly lake Erie).  Snowfall averages around 38 inches per season, but varies quite a bit from season to season, with some seasons receiving less than 1 foot, and others receiving over 80 inches (nearly 7 feet).  January is the snowiest month, on average, with 11.2 inches.  The heaviest snows tend to come from "Nor' Easters" moving up the Atlantic coast and tracking just to our south and/or east.  Such storms have dumped extremely heavy snows in the area on Dec. 10-11, 1992 (23.5"), Mar. 13-14, 1993 (21"), Jan. 6-8, 1996 (30", a single-storm record) and Feb. 15-17, 2003 (28").  Other heavy snow storms, occasionally dropping in excess of 1 to 2 feet, can occur from systems moving northward or eastward from the midwest of Gulf of Mexico.  Fast-moving Alberta Clippers often bring light to occasionally moderate amounts of snow.  A dusting to a few inches can fall from Lake Effect snows, which are again enhanced by orographic lift along the Allegany Mountains.  Little significant snow makes it east of Frostburg.  Mixed precipitation is common, with several sleet and freezing rain "glaze" events observed several times in a typical cold season.  Occasionally, an ice storm will paralyze the area with several inches of solid sleet/glaze.  Sometimes these storms are caused by "cold air damming" on the east slopes of the Alleghanies.  The worst ice storms in recent history occurred on March 6, 1989, when heavy freezing rain and sleet (accompanied by high winds and thunder for good measure) piled up 4 to 6 inches in the area; February 8-9, 1994, when an inch of solid glaze topped 3-4 inches of sleet and paralyzed travel in the area for days, and January 14-15, 1999, when a similar ice storm hammered much of Maryland.

Prevailing wind is from the west.  Ahead of storm systems, winds are often more from a south, sometimes east or southeast direction, pulling in Atlantic moisture.  A low-level south or east flow favors heavy precipitation in the LaVale area, with orographic lift on the east slopes of the mountains.  However, when the low-level flow is from the west or northwest, systems often dissipate or break up due to the mountains - consequently LaVale and much of western Maryland (but especially Allegany County) is in a rain/precipitation shadow, with all but the extreme western portion receiving about 5-10 inches less than most of the rest of the state.  Still, precipitation averages a healthy 40.5 inches per year, and is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year.  The spring tends to be slightly wetter, with the summer the second wettest season.  The driest months are October through February, and May is on average the wettest with 4.10 inches.  The drier months average 2.5 to 3 inches, while the wettest months average near 4 inches.  Any given month can be abnormally wet, with occasionally over 9 or 10 inches falling, or abnormally dry, with the driest months receiving a few tenths of an inch.  Most precipitation during the "cold season" (October through April) tends to fall from classic mid-latitude, synoptic-scale cyclones that bring steady, sometimes heavy precipitation resulting from winds moving north or west from the Gulf of Mexico and/or Atlantic Oceans.  Precipitation during the warm season can occasionally come from these type of systems, but are more likely to come from scattered hit-and-miss thunderstorms.  Again, a south or east low-level wind flow favors heavy precipitation (June and July 1989 had a persistent pattern like this and the result was severe flooding in the area from thunderstorms), while a west to north wind can often break apart or dissipate thunderstorms coming in from those directions.  Of course, there are exceptions, such as in the Frostburg Tornado of June 2, 1998, when southeastward-moving severe supercells crossed the Allegany Front, unleashing an F4 twister, two other tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds in the county.

Severe weather can and usually does happen a few times per year.  The primary threat is damaging thunderstorm winds.  These can be straight-line winds, or, occasionally, tornadoes.  Other damaging wind events can occur from strong fronts or intense Nor' Easter type storms that have a tight pressure gradient.  Damaging winds are observed, on average, 2-3 times per year, while hail is usually seen, on average, once or twice per year, with thunder observed, on average, between 30 and 40 times in a typical year.  Ice (sleet and freezing rain) is usually seen close to a dozen times per year, often due to cold air damming just east of the Alleghany Front, and ice storms can cause tree and power line damage, snarl travel and create dangerous conditions for days.  Fog is the most common weather phenomenon, occurring over 70 days a year on average, and can be particularly dense on the mountain ridges.  In May 2003, extremely dense fog caused a massive 90-vehicle pile-up on Big Savage Mountain just west of Frostburg, killing 2 people and injuring dozens.

The most common type of severe weather event in the area, by far, is flooding. This is due to the high probability of intense rain events and the rugged terrain.  Flood events most often occur due to rapid snowmelt topped by heavy rains (most notably in March 1936 and January 1996, when devastating floods hit the Cumberland area), remnants of tropical systems (such as Hazel in October 1954, Agnes in June 1972, Juan in November 1985, Fran in September 1996, and Frances and Ivan in September 2004), or slow-moving or training (multiple storm cells repeatedly following the same track), intense thunderstorms (e.g. August 4, 1978 when 4.12" fell in Cumberland in 2 hours, the storms of June & July 1989, the storms of late June 1995 when over 6 inches fell in Westernport and 5 inches fell just east of Cumberland; September 11, 2000, when a storm dumped 5+ inches of rain on LaVale and west Cumberland, the Memorial Day flood of 2002, when a stationary storm dumped 4 to 5 inches of rain on Baltimore Pike just east of Cumberland, and July 13, 2005, when a thunderstorm dumped 3 inches of rain in 1 hour in Cumberland).  Other weather hazards are from the opposite - droughts, causing water shortages and more dangerously, forest fires.  The most notable recent forest fire events occurred in 1987, 1991 and 2001.  Damaging winds can occur from thunderstorms.  One of the worst storms ever struck the area on April 9, 1991, when a line of severe cells hammered the area with 80 mph winds, hail and funnel clouds, knocking the power out for days and causing very severe and widespread wind damage.  Thunderstorms can also produce large hail.  The worst hail storms occurred on June 18, 1997, when golfball sized hail pelted our backyard, and baseball-sized hail destroyed many cars at a nearby dealership, and on June 2, when quarter-sized hail covered the ground and accumulated.  Lightning has also caused damage - e.g. a lightning strike on Aug. 31, 1993 blew out our TV for days; on May 7, 1999, our church in Cumberland was struck, and on July 13, 2005 Tim Thomas's station in Cumberland was damaged by lightning.

Tornadoes are a rare event, but they do occasionally occur in Allegany County's rugged terrain.  Overall, 8 tornadoes have touched down in Allegany County, dating back to 1891.  Frostburg has been hit several times by tornadoes, most notably on July 5, 1969, and June 2, 1998.  The 1998 tornado did over $5 million in damage and was rated F4, the first ever F4 in the state of Maryland.  This was just one of three tornadoes that hit Allegany county that evening.  Thankfully, nobody was seriously injured or killed.  On July 29, 2009, another EF1 tornado hit Oldtown, about 15 miles to our southeast.

For more information and actual data from my LaVale station, click
HERE.

Here are some monthly and annual statistics (means and extremes), based on data from my station (1992-2009, with sporadic data prior to 1992) and the Cumberland Police Barracks dating back to 1948:

Averages

Month  Temp  MaxT  MinT  Precip  Snow  Fog  Sleet  Glaze  Thunder  Hail  Dmg Winds

Jan       29.8    38.5     21.2    2.86      11.2    4.6    1.6      1.5       0.2            0.1    0.2
Feb      32.4    42.2     22.7    2.71        9.2    2.6    1.8      1.1       0.3            0.1    0.3
Mar      40.6    51.8     29.4    3.80        7.6    5.4    1.5      0.4       0.8            0.1    0.2
Apr       51.6    64.2     39.1    3.72        0.7    3.9    0.3      0.2       2.8            0.2    0.3
May      60.7    73.6     47.9    4.10         T      7.0     0         0         4.8            0.2    0.1
Jun       68.9    81.5     56.2    3.65         0      6.2     0         0         6.3            0.4    0.4
Jul        72.7    84.8     60.6    3.66         0      7.4     0         0         7.6            0.2    0.1
Aug       71.4    83.5     59.3    3.33         0    10.2     0         0         6.0            0      0.1
Sep      64.2    76.5     51.9    3.48         0      9.5     0         0         2.2            0.1    0.1
Oct       53.2    65.5     40.9    2.97         T      6.9    0.1     0.1        0.8            0       0.1
Nov      42.3    52.2     32.6    3.27       2.1     5.0    0.8     0.3        0.7            0       0.2
Dec      32.9    41.2     24.6    2.99       6.9     4.7    1.4     0.9        0.3            0       0.3


Year    51.7    63.0     40.5   40.56     37.7   73.4    7.5     4.5       32.7         1.4      2.4

Extremes (and dates by year)

Month  Max  Min  ExtMax  ExtMin  MaxPrec  MaxDay  MinPrec  MaxSnow  MaxDay

Jan   42.1 (50) 18.3 (77) 78 (50)  -16  (94)  7.84 (96)  2.17 (96)  0.45 (55)  42.9 (78)  23.5 (96)
Feb  39.9 (76) 21.7 (58) 76 (85)   -9   (61)  6.29 (86)  2.06 (00)  0.40 (02)  36.5 (03)  18.0 (03)
Mar  47.2 (73) 28.4 (60) 85 (98)   -2   (60)  8.49 (93)  2.39 (93)  0.84 (06)  29.0 (99)  20.5 (93)
Apr   57.0 (94) 45.7 (75) 96 (09)  16  (97)  7.92 (64)   3.57 (93)  0.84 (71)  8.5 (66)    8.0 (66)
May  67.8 (91) 54.3 (97) 96 (96)  26  (66)  8.63 (68)   3.10 (60)  0.29 (64)  T (89)       T (89)
Jun   73.1 (94) 63.0 (58) 102 (51) 33 (66)  9.43 (72)   3.48 (55)  0.68 (66)  0               -
Jul    77.9 (99) 68.7 (01) 105 (88) 40 (66)  8.75 (89)   3.10 (04)  0.70 (83)  0               -
Aug  76.3 (95) 67.5 (92) 102 (83) 38 (86)  7.08 (78)   3.05 (75)  0.73 (57)  0               -
Sep  68.8 (70) 56.4 (49) 100 (53) 26 (57)  9.87 (96)   5.20 (96)  0.08 (85)  0               -
Oct   59.3 (84) 47.0 (57) 93 (53)  18 (69)   9.22 (76)   4.64 (54)  0.23 (63)  T (08)        T (08)
Nov  48.0 (75) 33.5 (96) 86 (82)    6 (58)  10.72 (85)  3.50 (96)  0.19 (98)  18.3 (95)  9.0 (67)
Dec  41.2 (84) 22.1 (89) 76 (82)  -10 (83)   6.30 (69)  2.80 (92)  0.29 (55)  34.0 (69)  20.0 (92)

Year 54.5 (06) 46.9 (58) 105 (88) -16 (94) 59.05 (96) 5.20 (96) 29.81 (63) 83.2 (60-61) 23.5 (96)

Data are based on my data from 1989-2009 and Cumberland Police Barrack data from 1948-2005.  Dates (years) are listed as the
last date of occurrence and may have also been observed on one or more previous occasions. Some of the data is estimated based on data from nearby stations such as Cumberland and Frostburg.
Thank you for visiting.  Click HERE to return to my main page.