Whether or not you’re dreaming of a white Christmas this year, chances are you’d rather do without sub-zero temperatures on the big day. With January and February traditionally bringing the coldest temperatures of the year, Christmas day tends to be relatively mild in much of the country. In fact, the much-heralded white Christmas is little more than a pipe dream for the vast majority of the continental U.S.
But in 1983, the nation’s cold weather lovers got a little more than they bargained for. Overall, the 1980s dished out some of the coldest Decembers on record, but 1983 was king of them all, with 70% of the month colder than average over much of the country.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas day of that year, more than 125 cities east of the Rockies broke temperature records for the day, and 34 hit the record cold temperatures for the entire month of December. These punishing tempertures, which dipped below zero in many areas, were also accompanied by brutal, stinging winds. In addition, heavy snow covered the ground from the Pacific Northwest through the Great Plains and Northern Appalachians.
Havre, Montana dipped to a numbing -50°F. Chicago, where high temperatures never went higher than -10° F during the several days leading up to Christmas, reached a low of -25° F. In Sioux Falls, S.D., temperatures dropped below 0° F on December 15 and remained there for more than nine days, dropping to -23 °F over Christmas. The area also saw 60 mph winds, which brought wind chills of -70 °F. The average temperature in Minneapolis for the month of 3.7° F, the coldest on record for the city. The barometric pressure at Miles City, Mont. reached 31.42 inches, a record for the U.S. Even normally balmy Huntsville, Ala., plunged down to -1° F, while Galveston, Texas, dipped to a frosty 14° F.
With the cost of fossil fuels for home heating ever on the rise, a white Christmas may not be such a boon, after all, if it’s accompanied by these kinds of temperature extremes!