The president faced impeachment. The iconic Notre Dame cathedral caught fire. A college admissions scandal rocked the education world and left celebrities exposed.
There are plenty of stories that stick out as the defining moments of 2019. In five or ten years, you’ll likely remember those stories more than, say, that time when Baby Yoda went viral (or maybe not).
Yet, as groundbreaking as they may be, none of them cracked our list of most-read stories from 2019. From the ferocity of Hurricane Dorian to the surprise of a baby girl born on a jetway to a baseball fan’s impromptu MLB audition, here’s what piqued readers’ interest in 2019.
An arctic blast and tropical storms that formed ‘like roaches’
Earthquakes rattled parts of California and tropical weather swirled in the Atlantic, but our top story of 2019 forecasted an Arctic blast that threatened 170 temperature records across the central and eastern U.S. in November. The wintry front gave many Americans a chillier Veterans’ Day than normal. A little over a month prior, readers were focused on a flurry of tropical storms – six of them, to be exact – sprouting in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The outburst, coming just weeks after Hurricane Dorian’s landfall in the Bahamas as a Category 5, tied a record for the most named storms whirling simultaneously.
‘Game of Thrones’ ended, but left some unsatisfied
When “Game of Thrones” premiered eight years ago, it was clear that the series was something different. The iconic show captivated millions and routinely left Twitter ablaze before, during and after its episodes were released. But, as USA TODAY TV critic Kelly Lawler laid out in her scathing review of the series finale, the show left some disappointed: “[the final episode] was unrecognizable. It was hacky; it was cliched. Every character left standing received a saccharine coda. Closure is one thing, but pandering is entirely another,” Lawler wrote. The HBO series still raked in some hardware at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards in September, taking home the award for best drama series, its fourth win in the category.
A Thanksgiving-week flight landed with an extra passenger
A baby girl was born on an American Airlines jetway, an uncommon birthplace that inspired the newborn’s fitting moniker: Lizyana Sky Taylor. Nereida Araujo gave birth to “Baby Sky” after her plane landed in Charlotte, North Carolina, the day before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel weeks of the year. “Baby Sky decided to enter the world on a plane,” Araujo wrote on Facebook. “Mommi (sic) handled it well thanks to everybody who assisted us with love & care.”
Girl power: Simone Biles, USWNT transcend controversy
“Am I in a league of my own? Yes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t credit me for what I’m doing.” That’s what international gymnastics superstar Simone Biles told NBC after learning of a controversial rule that, as USA TODAY’s Nancy Armour put it, “watered down the value” of a new element Biles planned to unveil. Much like the transcendent Biles, the U.S. Women’s National Team dealt with their share of controversy at this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, headlined by a clash with President Donald Trump, who said it’s wrong that veteran player Megan Rapinoe protests during national anthem. In the end, the USWNT capped off an iconic decade with a dominating run through the World Cup that ended with its third consecutive title.
Best of the decade: US women end 2010s where they started it, as world’s best
Internet pokes fun at Trump’s appearance in front of altered presidential seal
The internet had fun at President Donald Trump’s expense when he walked onstage in front of a presidential seal that, upon closer examination, appeared to have been altered to include symbols representing Russia and golf. The seal includes a double-headed eagle, unlike the single head of the traditional presidential seal, and seems to resemble the Russian coat of arms. The eagle also appears to be holding several golf clubs instead of arrows in its claws, perhaps a reference to Trump’s affinity for golf. Instead of “e pluribus unum,” the scroll above the eagle appears to say “45 es un titere,” which appears to translate from Spanish to mean “45 is a puppet.”
Kristoff St. John, Disney Mouseketeer Dennis Day among 2019 celebrity deaths
The death of “Young and the Restless” star Kristoff St. John at age 52 snatched readers’ attention in February. St. John died as a result of a heart disease, an autopsy report later detailed. Alcohol was detected in his blood samples, and a toxicology panel detected the prescription anti-anxiety drugs Nordiazepam and Librium (chlordiazepoxide). St. John had played the character of Neil Winters since 1991 on the long-running CBS daytime soap opera. Soon after St. John’s death, readers followed the disappearance and death of Dennis Day, an original Disney Mouseketeer. Day, 76 at the time of his death, was once among the most famous child performers on American television.
Universal character makes ‘OK’ symbol on 6-year-old’s shoulder, actor gets fired
A family vacation was thrust into the national spotlight when a 6-year-old girl, who is biracial and has autism, posed for a picture with Gru, a character from “Despicable Me,” at Universal Orlando Resort. The character formed an upside-down “OK” symbol with his fingers, recognized by some as a hate symbol, on the girl’s shoulder, according to a photo and video reviewed by USA TODAY. The actor was later fired, a resort spokesman told USA TODAY. “We just wanted to take them to see the minions,” said Tiffiney Zinger, mother of the girl and 2-year-old boy shown in the video. “This person ruined that special warm feeling.”
Trump threatened to close border while Texas cities, border facilities were overwhelmed with migrants
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the border had hit its “breaking point.” Organizers at the the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, were used to handling 200 to 300 migrants a day. Instead, they were arriving at a clip of around 800 a day, overflowing the respite center and straining city resources. Mounting pressure and chaos at the border prompted Trump in March to declare a national emergency and threaten to close the U.S.-Mexico border if Mexico didn’t stop undocumented migrants from coming.
CVS closed 46 stores and people needed to know where
CVS Health announced closings for 46 of its stores in May, saying the locations were “underperforming” as the drugstore chain continued to shift more of its retail presence toward health care services. The cuts represent fewer than 1% of the about 9,600 CVS Pharmacy stores nationwide.
Other companies announcing store closures in 2019 include Sears, GameStop, GNC, Pier 1 Imports and Kmart. Bed Bath & Beyond also caught readers’ attention when it increased its number of expected store closures to 60.
Baseball fan throws 96 mph, then signs with Oakland A’s
When baseball fan Nathan Patterson paid a visit to the speed-pitch radar booth at Coors Field, he probably didn’t expect it would amount to much more than a few ooh’s and aah’s. The 23-year-old, who told MLB.com he hadn’t thrown “for a few years” before August 2018, fired off a 96-mph fastball. Two weeks later, he signed with the Oakland A’s. Patterson, who played high school baseball, but didn’t pursue it in college, logged a little over five innings pitched in Oakland’s minor league system.
Contributing: Kelly Lawler, Cydney Henderson, Nicholas Wu, Jayme Deerwester, Anika Reed, Adrianna Rodriguez, Aaron Montes, Rick Jervis, Nathan Bomey