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Year in review: Top 5 viral weather stories of 2015

By By Katy Galimberti, Staff Writer
January 07, 2016, 11:53:51 PM EST

From hurricanes, severe drought in California and the buzzed-about El Niño, take a look at some of's most-read stories of 2015:

1. El Niño takes over

The culprit for the current snow drought and stretch of above-normal temperatures in the eastern half of the U.S., El Niño began making headlines early in 2015.

Dubbed a "Godzilla El Niño," questions arose about what it would do to weather patterns around the world.

El Niño occurs when ocean water temperatures rise above normal across the central and eastern Pacific near the equator. This event is expected to be one of the strongest El Niños in 50 years.

While California will bear the brunt of El Niño's impacts this winter, the rain and snow is not likely to bust the drought.

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2. Hurricane Joaquin-enhanced rainfall washes South Carolina


Hurricane Joaquin taunted the U.S. in mid-autumn with an initial landfall expected in the mid-Atlantic. However, a complex atmospheric setup directed the system offshore, pushing it into the Atlantic Ocean.

Although the U.S. escaped direct impacts, the system played a role in sending waves of intense rain across the Carolinas, resulting in catastrophic and deadly flooding. The combination of tropical moisture from Joaquin and a non-tropical system from the central U.S. led to the torrential rainfall.

South Carolina was hit the hardest after more than 20 inches of rain hit parts of the state, including Columbia. The vast majority of locations in South Carolina experienced a once-in-50-years to once-in-200-years event over a three-day period. Seventeen people were killed as a result of weather-related incidents.

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3. Tropical Storm Erika batters the Caribbean

In late August, Tropical Storm Erika was brewing in the Atlantic with an eye on the Caribbean. The storm battered parts of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Leeward Islands and Cuba with howling winds and drenching rain.

The Island of Dominica was one of the hardest-hit areas.

After receiving more than 12 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, Dominica suffered severe flooding and dangerous mudslides. According to the Prime Minister, 20 people were killed as a result of the storm.

4. The Blizzard of 2015 wallops the Northeast


A major blizzard took shape over the eastern U.S. in January, and it quickly became known as "the Blizzard of 2015" due to the expected catastrophic impacts.

Travel bans were issued across the Northeast as residents were urged to stay safe and inside their homes. Thousands of flights were canceled and delayed ahead of the storm.

The storm hit with all of its fury from central and eastern Long Island to southern and eastern New England. Nearly 35 inches of snow fell in Worcester, Massachusetts, breaking the record for greatest snowfall on record for the city.

While Philadelphia and New York City missed out on the worst of the snow, Long Island was buried.


5. Relentless drought grips California

The historical drought across California continued to draw nation-wide attention in 2015 as severe conditions persisted.

For the first time in 75 years, a survey team found no snowpack at 6,800 feet in the Sierra Nevada on April 1. As a result, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued statewide mandatory water restrictions.

The mandatory restrictions are an effort to reduce water usage by 25 percent. More than six months later, efforts proved successful. Californians managed to reduce water usage by 27 percent as of mid-December. However, Gov. Brown said the restrictions could extend until October 2016 if the drought continues into the new year.


More than 92 percent of the state was experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions in early April.

Water became such a hot commodity in the state that people were stealing it out of deltas and canals.

Community members took it upon themselves to ensure their neighbors were not wasting water in a trend known as "drought shaming." Using social media and specialized websites, Californians tattled on each other for using too much water.

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