Bitter Cold Arctic Air Sets Dozens of Record Lows in the Midwest and Plains

December 19, 2016

Dozens of record lows have been set in the Midwest and Plains since this weekend as the second of two arctic blasts in the past week invaded those regions.

Actual air temperatures fell into the 20s and 30s below zero, while wind chills plunged into the minus 30s, 40s and even a few 50s at times during the weekend.

Subzero low temperatures were observed as far south as Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle Sunday morning. Temperatures dipped below zero Monday morning from central Missouri to central Illinois and central Indiana.

Fort Wayne, Indiana, and South Bend, Indiana, both set daily record lows for Dec. 19 on Monday morning, dipping to minus 8 degrees and minus 13 degrees, respectively.

Chicago fell to minus 13 degrees on Monday, just one degree shy of tying its daily record low.


Current Wind Chills

Sunday's Record Lows

Sunday morning, daily record lows for Dec. 18 were toppled in the following cities across the Plains and Midwest (new record set is shown):

  • Iowa: Sioux City (-20 degrees)
  • Kansas: Garden City (-19 degrees); Dodge City (-16 degrees); Medicine Lodge (-11 degrees); Wichita (-10 degrees)
  • Nebraska: Valentine (-31 degrees); Grand Island (-15 degrees); Hastings (-13 degrees)
  • Oklahoma: Tulsa (3 degrees); Oklahoma City (4 degrees - tie)
  • South Dakota: Aberdeen (-37 degrees); Watertown (-37 degrees); Huron (-31 degrees); Sioux Falls (-27 degrees); Mobridge (-26 degrees - tie); Mitchell (-24 degrees - tie)
  • Texas: Amarillo (-3 degrees - tie); Dalhart (-8 degrees); Abilene (10 degrees); Lubbock (4 degrees); Wichita Falls (8 degrees)
  • Wyoming: Riverton (-11 degrees), Lake Yellowstone (-23 degrees)

Only one other December day has been colder than the minus 16 degree reading observed Sunday morning in Dodge City, Kansas, since records began there in 1874. The low of minus 10 degrees in Wichita, Kansas, tied as the third coldest December low temperature in the city dating to 1888.

Huron, South Dakota, saw its coldest low temperature since Feb. 3, 1996 on Sunday morning. The minus 37 degree reading in Aberdeen, South Dakota, Sunday morning was accompanied by a wind chill of minus 58 degrees.

Saturday's Record Lows

Daily record lows for Dec. 17 were set late Saturday night in the following cities (new record set is shown):

  • Colorado: Pueblo (-19 degrees smashed previous record of -10 degrees); Denver (-15 degrees); Colorado Springs (-14 degrees)
  • Kansas: Goodland (-15 degrees); Garden City (-13 degrees smashed previous record of -1 degree); Hill City (-12 degrees); Dodge City (-8 degrees); Russell (-7 degrees)
  • South Dakota: Aberdeen (-32 degrees smashed previous record of -24 degrees); Watertown (-29 degrees); Mobridge (-28 degrees); Rapid City (-23 degrees - tie)
  • Nebraska: Valentine (-27 degrees); Broken Bow (-18 degrees); North Platte (-17 degrees); Imperial (-14 degrees - tie); Grand Island (-13 degrees); McCook (-13 degrees); Hasting (-11 degrees - tie)
  • New Mexico: Clayton (-5 degrees)
  • North Dakota: Bismarck (-31 degrees smashed the previous record of -27 degrees)
  • Texas: Amarillo (0 degrees); Dalhart (0 degrees); Abilene (16 degrees - tie)

(MORE: What the Wind Chill Really Means)

Milder Temperatures Returning

Tuesday-Thursday:

  • Much of the Plains, Midwest and East will see temperatures rebound to near or above average as the arctic air retreats.
  • MORE: Changes Ahead This Week

Arctic Cold Round #1 (RECAP)

Great Falls, Montana, recorded its tenth straight day in a row with subzero lows on Wednesday morning. That is longest such streak there since February 1996.

Thursday morning, subzero low temperatures were recorded as far south as Iowa, northern Illinois and northern Indiana. Winds chills in the 20s and 30s below zero were widespread throughout the upper Midwest.

Chicago saw its first December subzero low temperature since Dec. 24, 2013. The mercury plunged to 20 degrees below zero in Grand Forks, North Dakota, making it the coldest December reading in the city since Dec. 23, 2013.

Temperatures held in the 20s on Thursday afternoon along the Interstate 95 corridor from Boston to Washington D.C. A large number of cities from the interior Northeast to the Great Lakes and upper Midwest saw afternoon readings in the single digits or teens, including Chicago, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh.

Friday morning was the coldest for many Northeast cities, with lows in the single digits above and below zero in parts of upstate New York, northern/western Pennsylvania and New England. A daily record low of 2 degrees below zero was set Friday in Syracuse, New York.

Wind chills were in the single digits, teens and even a few 20s below zero across the interior Northeast and New England as of early Friday morning. 

Portland, Maine set a daily record cold high temperature on Friday with a high of only 9 degrees.

Cold Perspective

  • Boston: Temperatures dropped to 4 degrees Friday morning, making it the lowest December temperature in the city since 1989.
  • Pittsburgh: The first single-digit December low temperature was reported Friday morning since Dec. 31, 2009.
  • Washington D.C.: Temperatures dropped to 17 degrees Friday morning making it the first time the mercury has dipped below 20 degrees there in December since Dec. 23, 2008. 

MORE: TripAdvisor's Top 10 Winter Destinations


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