What is Normal Weather for a January Inauguration?
Extreme Weather for Past Inaugurations
Inaugural Weather Fact Sheet
Inauguration Day Weather (Traditional Dates)
Inaugural Weather for Non-Traditional Dates
What is Normal Weather for January Inauguration?
Climate Data for January 20
|Normal High||Normal Low||Record High||Record Low||Record Precipitation||Record Snow|
|43°F||28°F||70°F in 1951||-2°F in 1985||1.77 inches in 1937||3.8 inches in 1975|
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.
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 Presidential Reviewing stand.
President Taft and wife returning to White House after the ceremony.
Wash Out - 1937: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's second inauguration. It was the first time the inauguration was held on January 20th. Two hundred thousand visitors came to Washington for the inauguration, though several thousand never got farther than Union Station. It was a cold rainy day. Some sleet and freezing rain was reported in the morning. Between 11 am and 1 pm, 0.69 inches of rain fell. The ceremony began at 12:23 pm. The noon temperature was 33°F. At the president's insistence, he rode back to the White House in an open car with a half an inch of water on the floor. Later, he stood for an hour and a half in an exposed viewing stand watching the inaugural parade splash by in the deluge. Total rainfall for the day was a wet 1.77 inches and this amount remains as the record rainfall for January 20th.
Worst Traffic Jam - 1961: On the eve of the 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.
Warmest Inaugurations: (Official weather records began in 1871)Warmest January 20th Traditional Date: 1981 - Ronald Reagan - 55°F under mostly cloudy skies.
Warmest March 4th Traditional Date:
Official record: 1913 - Woodrow Wilson - 55°F under overcast skies in Washington, DC.
Unofficial: 1793 - George Washington - estimated 61°F in Philadelphia, PA.
Warmest Non-traditional Dates: August 9, 1974 - Gerald Ford - 89°F with partly cloudy and hazy skies.
Coldest Inaugurations:Coldest January Date (and overall): 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.
Coldest March Date: 1873 - Ulysses S. Grant's second swearing-in ceremony - The morning low temperature of 4°F was a record for the month of March. The day remains the coldest March day on record. During the day, bitterly cold winds gusted up to 40 mph. By noon, the temperature had risen to 16°F. Wind chill temperatures were -15° to -30°F. Cadets and midshipmen had been standing on the mall for more than an hour and a half without overcoats. Several of them collapsed. When the president delivered his inaugural address, the wind made his words inaudible to even those on the platform with him. The inaugural ball was held in a temporary building without heat. It had to be halted at midnight so people, who had been dancing in their overcoats and heavy wraps, could go home and get warm.
Traditional January Inaugurations -Beginning with Most Recent
|2009||Barack Obama||28°F||Filtered sun through the thin cirrus clouds. Breezy with northwest winds around 15 mph, gusting 20-25 mph. Wind chill values in the mid teens.|
|2005||George W. Bush||35°F||Mostly cloudy with some sunny breaks. Northwest wind 14 mph. Around 1" of snow already 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.|
|William Jefferson Clinton||34°F||Partly sunny with a high overcast. Winds were from the south at 7 mph.|
|1993||William Jefferson Clinton||40°F||Sunny and pleasant.|
|1989||George Bush||51°F||Mostly cloudy, mild and breezy.|
|1985||Ronald Reagan||7°F||Sunny, but bitter cold. Wind chill temperatures fell into the -10° to -20°F range in the afternoon.|
|1981||Ronald Reagan||55°F||Mostly cloudy and mild.|
|1977||Jimmy Carter||28°F||Cold and sunny. The wind chill temperature was in the teens.|
|1973||Richard Nixon||42°F||Cloudy and windy.|
|1969||Richard Nixon||35°F||Cloudy with rain and sleet later in the day.|
|1965||Lyndon B. Johnson||38°F||Skies were cloudy and one inch of snow 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.|
|1937||Franklin D. Roosevelt||33°F||Cold with heavy rainy. Between 11 am and 1 pm, 0.69 inches of rain fell. Some sleet and freezing rain fell in the morning.|
Traditional March Inaugurations -Beginning with 1933 and going back to 1871 (1871 = Beginning of official government weather records)
|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. (See picture below). Intermittent rain continued through the day. Total rainfall was 0.40 inches.|
|1925||Calvin Coolidge||44°F||Mostly sunny skies.|
|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.|
|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).|
|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.|
|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.|
Benjamin Harrison's inauguration in 1889.
Herbert Hoover's inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Traditional March Inaugurations - Beginning with 1869 and going back to 1817 (beginning of outdoor ceremonies). Note: weather records are unofficial during this period.
|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.|
|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)|
Traditional Inaugurations- Indoors - Beginning with 1813 and going back to 1789 (Weather records are unofficial during this period)
|1813||James Madison||March 4 ceremony. Sunny.|
|1809||James Madison||March 4 ceremony. Cloudy. Rained the day before leaving the streets muddy.|
|1805||Thomas Jefferson||March 4 ceremony. Fair (meaning good). Observation taken by Jefferson. Estimated noon temperature of 50°F.|
|1801||Thomas Jefferson||March 4 ceremony. Mild and beautiful. Estimated noon temperature of 55°F.|
|1797||John Adams||Ceremony in Philadelphia on March 4. Fair. Estimated noon temperature 53°F|
|1793||George Washington||Ceremony in Philadelphia on March 4. Hazy sunshine and mild. Estimated noon temperature 61°F.|
|1789||George Washington||Ceremony in New York City on April 30. Clear and cool. Estimated noon temperature of 59°F.|
|Year||Date||President||Temperature||Weather / Remarks|
|1974||Aug. 9||President Gerald Ford||89°F||Partly cloudy skies and hazy.|
|1963||Nov. 22||President Lyndon B. Johnson||68°F||Skies were clear. Ceremony was at 2:29 pm in Dallas, Texas. Oath of office taken inside Air Force One.|
|1945||April 12||President Harry Truman||64°F||Fair skies. Ceremony was at 7:09 pm. (Temperature is estimated)|
|1923||Aug. 3||President Calvin Coolidge||65°F||Fair skies. Ceremony was at 2:46 am in the Green Mountains of Vermont. (Temperature is estimated)|
|1901||Sept. 15||President Theodore Roosevelt||72°F||Skies were clear. Ceremony was in Buffalo, New York. (Noon temperature is estimated)|
|1881||Sept. 19||President Chester Arthur||75°F||Weather was fair. Ceremony was in New York City.|
|1865||April 15||President Andrew Johnson||57°F||Rainy day. (0.35 inches of rain fell.)|
|1850||July 10||President Millard Fillmore||87°F||Cloudy skies. Ceremony was indoors. (Noon temperature is estimated)|
|1841||April 6||President John Tyler||50°F||Clear skies. (Noon temperature is estimated)|
Last Updated April 24, 2012