The All-time Coldest Temperatures Ever Recorded in Each State

Record-breaking cold, life-threatening wind chills plunge 150 million Americans into deep freeze

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.

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Five states set their low-temperature records in late December including Nebraska, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Mount Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Record breaking cold and snow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Merry Christmas! May your days be filled with peace, hope, and joy this holiday season as we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child!

Worth Pondering…

Christmas is the day that holds all time together.

—Alexander Smith

I’ve never gotten used to winter and never will.

—Jamaica Kincaid