The Season’s First Arctic Outbreak

Although we’re now a week out from Thanksgiving, one of the most extreme November cold snaps on record has had many feeling like they are in the weeds of winter. Extreme cold temperatures (some 20-30 degrees below normal!) blanketed the eastern third of the country last week.

The Arctic air mass shattered low temperature records from Texas to Maine, and over 400 records were tied or broken across the country last week. On Veterans Day 2019, temperatures plummeted across much of the southern & eastern US behind a cold frontal passage with some areas dropping over 40 degrees in 24 hours! The coldest temperature observed across the US was -30 degrees Fahrenheit at 21 miles north of Rudyard, Montana. The following day, an estimated 120 daily record lows were reported by National Weather Service offices across the country.

24 hour temperature change from 7 AM November 11 to November 12.

Temperatures nosedived below zero from the Northern Plains into the Midwest, while temperatures in the single digits were observed as far south as Texas. Temperatures in Nashville, Tennessee failed to rise out of the twenties, for the first time on record this early in the season. Watertown, New York fell to 8 degrees, breaking the record for the coldest date so early in the fall on record. However, it was coldest in Skibo, Minnesota and Cotton, Minnesota, where the national low temperature of -16 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded on November 12. As folks at NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center began noticing that several of the records being broken had been in place for almost 100 years, they dug up the old weather maps. Very cool – literally!

On November 13, over 110 record lows were tied or broken from Texas all the way into the Northeast! Temperatures at Mount Washington in New Hampshire fell to -17 degrees Fahrenheit (the lowest temperatures recorded in the US that day). Burlington, Vermont, recorded its earliest-in-fall single-digit low, two days earlier in the calendar than the previous record from 1933. Several towns in southern Mississippi and Louisiana recorded low temperatures that were colder than any day the prior winter!

Glens Falls, New York fell to a record low of 3 degrees Fahrenheit, shattering the old record of 13 degrees (from 1920, 1981, and 2001). Poughkeepsie also fell to 15 degrees, breaking the old record of 16 (from 2013). Record low highs were set across New York in Binghamton, Albany, Glens Falls, and Poughkeepsie that day as well. Albany reached a high of 26 degrees Fahrenheit, five degrees colder than the prior record which had been in place since 1911. Over three dozen record-cold high temperatures for November 13 were observed, including:

  • Hartford, Connecticut (32 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Boston, Massachusetts (33 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Roanoke, Virginia (37 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Charleston, South Carolina (47 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Savannah, Georgia (50 degrees Fahrenheit)

Freezing temperatures were even reported across the Gulf Coast, from Houston, Texas to Panama City, Florida. Sea smoke, a phenomenon that only occurs when there is a sharp air and water temperature difference, was observed in Pensacola, Florida.

By Thursday, November 14, the Arctic air mass had worked its way across most of the nation, although those in the Northeast weren’t quite in the clear yet. The coldest temperature in the United States (-10 degrees Fahrenheit!) was recorded in both Estcourt Station, Maine and Big Black River (23 miles northwest of Clayton Lake), Maine. Furthermore, at least four towns in Maine recorded their coldest morning so early in the season: Houlton (-3 degrees), Caribou (3 degrees), Bangor (8 degrees), and Millinocket (10 degrees).

By November 15, temperatures began to moderate, although some records had already been set! Chicago and Rockford, Illinois both had their coldest first half of the month on record, with average temperatures of 31.2 degrees and 29.2 degrees, respectively. But they weren’t alone….abnormally cold temperatures were experienced across much of the central to eastern US. Quincy, Missouri recorded their 4th coldest start to November on record. Albany, New York experienced their fifth coldest November 1-15, with an average of 37 degrees Fahrenheit (-5.3 degrees below normal!). Although temperatures have begun to moderate across much of the country, this is a great reminder to always be prepared for cold weather! Be sure to check out our recent winter weather preparedness blog, and always stay tuned to your local forecast at weather.gov.

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