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November weather preview: Early predictions, record events and more

Dawn Hahn, 15, of Babylon, shovels the walk

Dawn Hahn, 15, of Babylon, shovels the walk in front of her home on Thanksgiving Day 1989. Credit: Newsday/Cliff De Bear

Brace yourself: November now is expected to be colder much longer than initially forecast. And any gales or squalls could shorten one of the month's most glamorous aspects. 

Finally free of monochrome green, November’s trees start the month fully revealing the brilliant reds, yellows and oranges they hid all summer.

There is barely time before the mad rush of holidays for them to again retreat to just one color — brown.

That hue signals it is time for them to wither and fall, and then be swept into piles and leapt upon, before being abandoned at the curb.

Chilly rains and windstorms can hasten the demise of autumn leaves. So can any snow, which though rare for a Long Island November, has twice blighted Thanksgiving holidays in the past eight decades.

“Mostly what happens is that the rain just knocks the leaves from trees early. They don’t have a chance to do their thing,” said Taryn Bauerle, associate professor at Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science in Ithaca.

Long Island could be set to close out autumn with a few more weeks of spectacular leaf shows.

“I think that the colors should be pretty nice this year, as long as you don’t have those huge storms that knock the leaves off again,” Bauerle said.

While the official Atlantic Basin hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, those storms are most likely to strike from mid-August to late October, according to the National Hurricane Center.

From 1851 to 2018, only five hurricanes have pummeled the U.S. coast in November, down from 58 in October and 108 in September.

That is because West Africa is exiting the monsoon season and heading into its dry season, explained Brad Pugh, a College Park, Maryland-based Climate Prediction Center meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The genesis for long-track hurricanes that come across the Atlantic and have the greatest potential to make landfall on the East Coast typically form from low pressure systems off the west coast of Africa," Pugh said.

Low pressure systems allow air columns to rise, capturing and condensing cloud vapor that falls as rain.

“During that late October and November period,” Pugh said, hurricanes “typically form in the northwestern Caribbean Sea and remain south of the northeast.”

HOW ABOUT THIS YEAR?

The odds that this November will be warmer than usual unexpectedly diminished, according to the Climate Prediction Center’s latest 30-day forecast.

“The outlook has become considerably colder in the Northeast; you know it kind of changed overnight,” said Matthew Rosencrans, a meteorologist with the College Park, Maryland, agency that is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The early cold snap that blew in after the Halloween gale was expected; but not the fact that it might linger. 

“We were expecting that cold to last through at least 10 to 14 days of the month,” Rosencrans said. “Once you have such a cold start, it’s really hard to recover and go back to those warmer conditions, though some of the models and variations in the tropics that we track do actually point towards some recovery in temperatures for the second half of the month.”

However, short-term forecasts are far more likely to be spot-on than long-term predictions, he cautioned.

“There is definitely a lot of uncertainty in the second half of the month, and that is why the probabilities in this outlook are not very high,” the expert said.

“I can’t tell you it is really a slam dunk that it is going to be cold for the entire month.”

In addition to supercomputer models, tropical patterns now signaling a more chilly November are formally known as the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which NOAA defines as “an eastward moving disturbance of clouds, rainfall, winds, and pressure that traverses the planet in the tropics and returns to its initial starting point in 30 to 60 days, on average.”

Historical data show that this atmospheric circulation helps set North America’s weather.

“Several times a year the MJO is a strong contributor to various extreme events in the United States, including arctic air outbreaks during the winter months across the central and eastern portions of the United States,” NOAA says. 

WHAT'S NORMAL, WHAT'S NOT

TEMPS

The mean temperature in November is 45.1 degrees — roughly 10 degrees cooler than October’s mean, according to the weather service. November’s maximum is 53.2; the minimum 37.1.

The hottest November since 1963 was just four years ago at 49.9 degrees, the weather service said. The coolest was 1987's 39.8. The record daily high was 78 degrees in 1990.

9 hours, 23 minutes of daylight by month’s end with sunrise at 6:57 a.m. and sunset at 4:26 p.m.

PRECIP

The normal amount of rain is 3.67 inches.

The wettest November was in 1983, with 8.3 inches of rain, the weather service said. The driest was in 1976, with a scant 0.39 inch of precipitation.

SNOW

Normal is half an inch. The snowiest November since Islip's records began in 1963 occurred in 1989, when 7.6 inches fell.

WILD WEATHER

As the above statistics show, temperatures during the final month before winter can swing wildly.

That can force last-minute changes in Thanksgiving attire, which might have been the case for 1989 holiday-goers.

“The first Thanksgiving snowstorm in more than half a century crossed Long Island yesterday, dumping more than 9 inches on eastern Suffolk and 6 inches in parts of Nassau as it breezed up the Atlantic coastline,” Newsday reported on Nov. 24 that year.

“The snow was enough to turn highways into icy ribbons. Roads that were nearly empty in the morning became traffic-snarled by afternoon and some were dangerously slick after dark," Newsday said.

High winds deflated Snoopy's nose and sidelined Bugs Bunny, but New Kids on the Block, teen pop stars from Boston, kept most youngsters happy during the first snowstorm to hit the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 51 years.

Spider-Man was a hit, too, swaying low over the screaming crowd as winds seemed ready to snap the balloon's guy wires. And the daughter of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, professional skater Jill Schulz, delighted the crowd as she performed figure-eights on a float with Charlie Brown and Lucy.

In Montauk, dozens of people ignored the snow completely, as John Keeshan held his 15th Annual Thanksgiving Day Run for Fun around Fort Pond.

More than 50 people showed up that year, and 38 took part in the race, slogging through snow drifts more than 2 feet deep in spots and slipping on icy spots as well.

Thanksgiving 1938 Turkey with a side of snow

The 1938 Thanksgiving snowstorm, extending in fits and starts over four days, brought New York just under 13 inches of the white stuff, according to the New York City Weather Archive website.

“This was the snowiest month of the winter and the third snowiest November on record (after Nov. 1898 and 1882),” according to the archive.

While the National Weather Service’s records in Islip only began in 1963, Central Park statistics that date back to 1920 show 1989 holds the record for a Thanksgiving snowfall at 4.4 inches, followed by the 1938 holiday with 3.9 inches, and 1898 with three inches.

November 2018 Unexpected storm turns 'absolutely bananas'

An unexpected snowstorm in 2018 left meteorologists and road crews alike flat-footed, as what had been predicted to be a light dusting turned into heavy, wet snow that fell just in time for the evening rush hour.

Drivers heading home on the Long Island Expressway sat in miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic, while major bridges and tunnels shut down, stranding drivers for hours. On the Long Island Rail Road, commuters dealt with suspensions and delays.

For one couple at a Plainview hotel, a normally 15-minute drive from Lindenhurst — a distance of 10 miles — took 90 minutes.

"From Lindenhurst! Lindenhurst!" Walter Guven said with disbelief. "It's absolutely bananas."

Nov. 22, 1989 100,000 LILCO customers in the dark

Other torrential storms also are far from unknown in the second-to-last month of the year.

Long Island was bruised by one just before the historic Thanksgiving snowstorm of 1989.

Gale force winds, including gusts of 100 mph recorded in Port Jefferson, wreaked havoc with the morning rush hour on Nov. 22, 1989, as downed Long Island Lighting Co. power lines halted service on 19 Long Island Rail Road trains and drivers made their way to work without the help of traffic lights at numerous intersections, Newsday reported.

The powerful wind and rainstorm, which blew in from the Great Lakes, tore boats from moorings, toppled trees, knocked out power to nearly 100,000 LILCO customers, and disrupted service to about 50,000 LIRR commuters.

Signal gates were not working at 35 train crossings as a result of power outages and 91 of 145 LIRR morning rush-hour trains were late or canceled as a result of the storm.

Along the North Shore, anxious boat owners telephoned yacht clubs and marinas throughout the day to check on the condition of boats that had not been removed from the water for the winter. There were scattered reports of battered boats and tattered sails.

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