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Weather and the Inauguration

By: Stacy Berman Email
By: Stacy Berman Email

January 19, 2009

As presidents take the oath of office at the capital, most don't even notice the weather conditions. The inaugurations have seen a variety of weather from March ceremonies of 60 plus degree temperatures to the frigid January ones with wind chills below zero.

The presidential inaugurations from 1789 to 1933 all took place in March, and while March is a warmer month on average, some of the extreme weather events occurred then.

March 4th, 1841, President William Henry Harrison was sworn into office under cloudy, cold, and blustery conditions. He did not wear a hat or overcoat while speaking outside. After the swearing in ceremony, he developed pneumonia and died one month later.

Abigail Fillmore, 1st lady to outgoing President Millard Fillmore, caught a cold as conditions for President Franklin Pierce's swearing in were chilly and snowy. that cold developed into pneumonia and she died shortly after.

1937 was the first January inauguration and it was for President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 2nd term. It was a cold day with rain, sleet, and freezing rain and a high of 33 degrees. The normal high for January 20th in Washington, D.C. is 42 degrees and normal low is 26 degrees.

The coldest and warmest January inaugurations both occurred for President Ronald Regan. In 1981, it was cloudy with temperatures around 55. In contrast for Regan's second term, it was only seven degrees at noon and wind chill readings were minus 10 to minus 20. The parade was canceled and the ceremony moved inside.

In recent years, for Bush and Clinton's inaugurations, the weather has not been too extreme, ranging from highs in the mid 30s to 40 degrees. and while there was a bit of snow during both of Bush's inaugurations, no planned events were canceled.

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