National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Presidential Inaugural Weather
 
US flag icon 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
White House

 

What is Normal Weather for January Inauguration?

  • Normal high temperature for the day is 43°F.
  • Normal low temperature for the day is in the upper 28°F.
  • Normal weather for 12 pm EST is a temperature of 37°F, partly cloudy skies, 10 mph wind and a wind chill of 31°F.
  • There is about a 1 in 3 chance of measurable precipitation (i.e., at least 0.01") on that day and a 1 in 6 chance of precipitation during the ceremony.
  • There is only about a 1 in 10 chance of measurable snow (i.e., at least 0.1") on that day and a 1 in 20 chance of snow during the ceremony.
  • There is about a 1 in 6 chance that there will be at least 1" of snow already on the ground from a previous snowfall.
  •  

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

 

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.

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.


SnowPhoto taken in front of Presidential Reviewing stand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Snow

 

 

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.

 

Inaugural Weather Fact Sheet

 

  • 1817    =    First outdoor inauguration. President James Monroe was sworn into office.
  • 1873    =    Coldest March 4th inauguration. Noon temperature was only 16°F with a record low temperature for March of only 4°F. Sunshine was no help as the wind made it bitterly cold. President Ulysses S. Grant was sworn into office for his second term.
  • 1909    =    Most snow with 9.8 inches. Also very strong winds. President William H. Taft was sworn into office.
  • 1913    =    Warmest March 4th inauguration. Noon temperature was 55°F.
  • 1937    =    First inauguration held on January 20th.
  • 1937    =    Record rainfall. It was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's second inauguration. A total rainfall of 1.77 inches fell that cold day.  Between 11 am and 1 pm, 0.69 inches of rain fell with a noon temperature of 33°F.
  • 1961    =    Eight (8) inches of fresh snow laid on the ground for President John F. Kennedy's inauguration.
  • 1981    =    Warmest January inauguration. Noon temperature was 55°F. It was Ronald Reagan's first inauguration and would greatly contrast his second inauguration listed below.
  • 1985    =    Coldest January inauguration (Jan. 21). Noon temperature was only 7°F. The morning low temperature was -4°F and the afternoon high was only 17°F. Wind chill temperatures in the afternoon were in the -10 to -20°F range. It was Ronald Reagan's second inauguration ceremony.

 

Inauguration Day Weather

 

Traditional January Inaugurations -Beginning with Most Recent

Year President Noon
Temp.
 Remarks
2013 Barack Obama 45°F Cloudy.  South wind 7 mph.
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.

1997

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)

Year President Noon
Temp.
 Remarks
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.
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.
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.

RainBenjamin Harrison's inauguration in 1889.

 


Rain 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.

Year President Noon
Temp.
 Remarks
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)

 

 

Traditional  Inaugurations- Indoors - Beginning with 1813 and going back to 1789  (Weather records are unofficial during this period)

Year President  Remarks
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.

 

Inaugural Weather For Non-Traditional Dates (Inauguration) was in Washington, DC unless otherwise noted)
 

 

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)

 

References:

  • "The Weather of Inauguration Day" by Patrick Hughes, ESSA, Environmental Data Services, 1968.  (ESSA became NOAA in 1970)
  • "American Weather Stories", Published: DOC/NOAA/Environmental Data Service, Washington, DC, 1976.
  • Data collected by NOAA's National Weather Service Washington Forecast Office.
  • Weather records/data is maintained at the NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Ashville, NC.
  • All Photos from the collection of the Library of Congress.

Last Updated April 24, 2012