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Climatological Narrative For Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport is located about midway between the two cities,
at the southwest end of the crescent-shaped Lackawanna River Valley. The river flows through
this valley and empties into the Susquehanna River and the Wyoming Valley a few miles west of
the airport. The surrounding mountains protect both cities and the airport from high winds, and
influence the temperature and precipitation during both summer and winter, causing wide
departures in both within a few miles of the airport. Because of the proximity of the mountains,
the climate is relatively cool in summer with frequent shower and thundershower type
precipitation, usually of brief duration. The autumn usually offers a spectacular foliage color
display of bright reds, oranges, and yellow. The winters in the valley are not severe. The
occurrence of sub-zero temperatures and severe snowstorms is infrequent. A high percentage of
the winter precipitation occurs as rain.
For the period of record, the temperature extremes were recorded when the observations were
taken in Scranton; 103 degrees on July 9, 1936, and minus 19 degrees on February 9, 1934.
Maximum temperatures of 100 degrees or higher have been recorded on several days. There
have also been a few days when the maximum temperature was only zero degrees.
Although severe snowstorms are infrequent, when they do occur they can approach blizzard
conditions. High winds cause huge drifts and normal routines can be disrupted for several days.
From a meteorological viewpoint, severe storms are most interesting. In going back to the period
before the turn of the century, the blizzard of 1888 is the only severe storm worthy of note. This
storm began March 11 as rain, with wind velocities estimated at 65 miles an hour. The rain
changed to snow the night of March 11, and continued as snow for 2 more days. Snow depth
was 15 inches, and drifts 15 to 20 feet were reported. In recent history, the Blizzard of March
1993 produced nearly 2 feet of snow in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area.
The area has felt the effects of tropical storms. Hurricane "Hazel" on October 15, 1954, resulted
in considerable wind damage. Back to back hurricanes in August 1955, "Connie" and "Diane, "
resulted in floods on the Lackawanna River from Scranton, south. Hurricane "Agnes," in June
1972, resulted in the worst natural disaster to hit the region with record flooding along the
Susquehanna River. In Wilkes-Barre, the river crested on June 24 at a height of 40.91 feet,
almost 8 feet above the previous record. There were five deaths attributed to the storm, and
property damage in the Wilkes-Barre area was set at nearly $1 billion.
While the incidence of tornadoes is very low, Wilkes-Barre has occasionally been hit by these
storms which has caused loss of life and property damage.