Inaugural weather can be d'icey
Washington DC may be a southern city, but it's not always the best place to hold an outdoor event in mid-January. With the second inauguration of President George W. Bush coming up next week, forecasters will be keeping a close eye on the developing forecast for Jan. 20. So far next week is looking sunny and cold, with highs in the 30s. But it can turn nasty.
Many of us remember the 1961 inauguration of President John F. Kennedy as an especially wintry one. Washington had received 8 inches of snow the night before, and by the time the festivities began it was 22 degrees, with stiff winds and wind chills below zero. Everyone worried when Kennedy showed up without a hat. Franklin Roosevelt's 1937 inauguration fell on a day that saw 1.77 inches of rain. FDR rode away in an open car with a half-inch of water on the floor.
Failure to dress properly for the inauguration had proven fatal more than once. William Henry Harrison was inaugurated in 1841, and rode back to the White House on horseback without his hat and coat. He caught a cold, then pneumonia, and he was dead in a month.
And that was back when inaugurations were held on March 4 or 5. The date was switched to Jan. 20 by a constitutional amendment passed in 1932.
After the 1853 swearing-in of President Franklin Pierce, the outgoing first lady - Abigail Fillmore - caught cold. That, too, progressed to pneumonia, and she expired a month later.
The worst inaugural weather was probably that which greeted President William H. Taft in 1909. Washington got 10 inches of snow that day. The trains were stalled and the streets were clogged. Everybody went indoors for that one.
For all the inaugural weather lore you could ever want, click here. Thanks to the National Weather Service.