A bitter and potentially deadly blast of arctic air is continuing to charge its way across the U.S., dropping wind chills to as low as between negative 50 and negative 70 degrees across the northern Plains and 30 below zero in the Midwest triggering rare Hard Freeze Warnings along the Gulf Coast and helping to fuel a monster blizzard that will bring those frigid temperature across the Great Lakes and into the Northeast.
The dangerously cold arctic air began its week-long journey by surging to the south out of Canada last weekend dropping low temperatures Monday morning to negative 20 degrees and lower across northern Montana.
As the arctic blast brings bitterly cold temperatures to much of the U.S. through Christmas weekend, you might be wondering how low the temperature has ever gone in your state.
All but one of the 50 states has documented a temperature below zero with Hawaii being the sole outlier having only dipped as low as 12 degrees. Nearly a dozen states have plunged to minus 50 degrees or colder.
January and February comprise the coldest time of the year for the majority of the U.S. so it should come as no surprise that’s when most of the records were achieved. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule.
Meanwhile, Hawaii’s all-time record low wasn’t even achieved during the winter. The Mauna Kea Observatory at an elevation of 13,796 feet on the Big Island of Hawaii dipped to 12 degrees on May 17, 1979.
The lowest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. was minus 80 degrees in Prospect Creek, Alaska, north of Fairbanks, on January 23, 1971.
In the Lower 48, Montana holds the record for the all-time coldest temperature at minus 70 degrees, set at Rogers Pass—on the Continental Divide at 5,610 feet above sea level—on January 20, 1954.
Illinois is the most recent state to reach its lowest temperature on record. Mount Carroll, in the northwestern corner of the state plunged to minus 38 degrees on January 31, 2019.
The longest-standing record in the U.S. is held by Mount Washington, New Hampshire, the highest mountain in the Northeast where the temperature bottomed out at minus 50 degrees nearly 140 years ago on January 22, 1885.
In the Northeast, New York can claim the coldest temperature ever recorded in the region with an all-time record low of minus 52 degrees set in Old Forge on February 18, 1979. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine all share the same record of minus 50 degrees.
All-time records in the South might be colder than you think. Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina have all dipped into the teens below zero while Alabama has been as cold as minus 27 degrees and Tennessee as low as minus 32 degrees.
The Midwest has a large range of low-temperature records with North Dakota and Minnesota claiming minus 60 degrees as their all-time record lows but states south of the Great Lakes such as Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio have only dropped into the minus 30s due to winds off the lakes keeping temperatures relatively higher.
Most of the all-time record lows in the Western states were documented in the higher elevations. California’s record of minus 45 degrees was set in the heart of the Sierra Nevada in Boca at an elevation of 5,528 feet above sea level on January 20, 1937. The record low in Arizona was achieved at Hawley Lake where the temperature plunged to minus 40 degrees at 8,200 feet on January 7, 1971.
The chart below shows the all-time record low in each state according to data from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
State Minimum Temperature Date Location
Alabama -27 degrees F January 30, 1966 New Market
Alaska -80 degrees F January 23, 1971 Prospect Creek Camp
Arizona -50 degrees F January 7, 1971 Hawley Lake
Arkansas -29 degrees F February 13, 1905 Gravett
California -45 degrees F January 20, 1937 Boca
Colorado -61 degrees F February 1, 1985 Maybell
Connecitut -32 degrees F February 16, 1943 Falls Village
Delaware -17 degrees F January 17, 1893 Millsboro
Florida -2 degrees F February 13, 1899 Tallahassee
Georgia -17 degrees F January 27, 1940 Beatum
Hawaii 12 degrees F May 17, 1979 Mauna Kea
Idaho -60 degrees F January 18, 1943 Island Park Dam
Illinois -38 degrees F January 31, 2019 Mt. Carroll
Indiana -36 degrees F January 19, 1994 New Whiteland
Iowa -47 degrees F January 12, 1912 Washta
Kansas -40 degrees F February 13, 1905 Lebanon
Kentucky -37 degrees F January 19, 1994 Shelbyville
Louisiana -16 degrees F February 13, 1899 Minden
Maine -50 degrees F January 16, 2009 Big Black River
Maryland -40 degrees F January 13, 1912 Oakland
Massachusetts -35 degrees F January 5, 1904 Tauton
Michigan -51 degrees F February 19, 1934 Vanderbilt
Minnesota -60 degrees F February 2, 1996 Tower
Mississippi -19 degrees F January 30, 1966 Corrinth
Missouri -40 degrees F February 13, 1905 Warsaw
Montana -70 degrees F January 20, 1954 Rogers Pass
Nebraska -47 degrees F February 12, 1899 Bridgeport
Nevada -50 degrees F January 8, 1937 San Jacinto
New Hampshire -50 degrees F January 22, 1985 Mount Washington
New Jersey -34 degrees F January 5, 1902 River Vale
New Mexico -50 degrees F February 1, 1951 Gavilan
New York -52 degrees F February 18, 1879 Old Forge
North Carolina -34 degrees F January 21, 1985 Mount Mitchell
North Dakota -60 degrees F February 15, 1936 Parshall
Ohio -39 degrees F February 10, 1899 Milligan
Oklahoma -31 degrees F February 10, 1911 Nowata
Oregon -54 degrees F February 9, 1933 Ukiah
Pennsylvania -42 degrees F January 5, 1904 Smethport
Rhode Island -28 degrees F January 11, 1942 Wood River Junction
South Carolina -19 degrees F January 21, 1985 Caesar’s Head
South Dakota -58 degrees F February 17, 1936 McIntosh
Tennessee -32 degrees F December 30, 1917 Mountain City
Texas -23 degrees F February 8, 1933 Seminole
Utah -50 degrees F January 5, 1913 Strawberry Tunnel
Vermont -50 degrees F December 30, 1933 Bloomfield
Virginia -30 degrees F January 21, 1985 Mountain Lake
Washington -48 degrees F December 30, 1968 Mazama and Winthrop
West Virginia -37 degrees F December 30, 1917 Lewisburg
Wisconsin -55 degrees F February 2, 1996 Couderay
Wyoming -66 degrees F February 9, 1933 Yellowstone NP
What about the Great White North, you ask?
The following is a list of the all-time low temperatures ever recorded in Canada’s 10 provinces.
Alberta -78 degrees F (-61.1 C) January 11, 1911 Fort Vermillion
British Columbia -74 degrees F (-58.9 C) January 31, 1947 Smith River
Manitoba -63 degrees F (-52.8 C) January 9, 1899 Norway House
New Brunswick -52 degrees F (-46.7 C) January 18, 1925 Chipman
Newfoundland -60 degrees F (-55.1 C) February 17, 1972 Esker
Nova Scotia -42 degrees F (-41.1 C) January 31, 1920 Upper Stewlacke
Ontario -73 degrees F (-58.3 C) January 23, 1935 Iroquois Falls
Prince Edward Island -35 degrees F (-37.2 C) January 26, 1884 South Kildare
Quebec -66 degrees F (-54.4 C) February 5, 1923 Douset
Saskatchewan -70 degrees F (-56.7 C) February1, 1893 Prince Albert
A careful study of the above chart reveals that the lowest temperature ever recorded in the United States (-80 degrees F in Alaska) is colder than the all-time low in Canada (-61 degrees in Alberta). But, how can that be?
In addition to the above 10 provinces Canada also has two far-north Territories—Northwest Territories and Yukon. The all-time low temperature recorded in Yukon was -81 degrees F (-63.0 C), 1 degree F colder than Alaska’s all-time low of -80 degrees F.
Merry Christmas! May your days be filled with peace, hope, and joy this holiday season as we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child!
Christmas is the day that holds all time together.
I’ve never gotten used to winter and never will.