Past and present: How weather impacts Presidential Inaugurations

(President Taft and wife returning to White House after the ceremony. Photo courtesy of the National Weather Service.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WIVB) — All eyes are on the Presidential Inauguration today. The speeches, the performances, the outfits, usually take center stage but the weather plays an equally important role.

This year, temperatures in Washington D.C are expected to climb into the upper 40s and rain showers will build into the region. This is very similar to what Western New York will experience today and like Buffalo will be above average by mid-January standards.

Although rain may put a damper on the mood of the ceremonies, it could be worse. On this day in 1937, 1.77” of rain fell. That was the first time in history that the inauguration was held on January 20th, and it had its problems. Thousands could not get to the ceremonies celebrating Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency because of the freezing rain, sleet, and rain that fell. Roosevelt insisted on carrying on despite Mother Nature’s wrath and rode back to the White House in an open car with a half inch of rain on the floor.

But rain is better than snow…

In 1909, former President William H. Taft was forced inside because 10″ of snow fell the day before his inauguration. Although for western New Yorkers this doesn’t seem like much, it was enough to cause significant damage in Washington D.C. Along with the snow, wind damaged telephone poles and knocked down trees. It also brought the city to a halt, stopping trains. Impressively 6,000 men and 500 wagons cleared 58,000 tons of snow from the parade route, but ultimately the ceremony had to be moved inside.

In more recent memory, 1985’s Inaugural ceremony was the coldest ever on record. For the second swearing in of Ronald Reagan, temperatures climbed to only 17 degrees. Add wind chill to the mix and it felt like -10 to -20 degrees.

For a full break down of weather on Inauguration Day, click/tap here. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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