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Weather Wise: Historic Cold

Weather Wise: Historic Cold
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jan 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-23 11:20:46-05

HELENA — This past weekend was the 70th anniversary of the coldest temperature ever in the contiguous United States, when it reached -70 at Rogers Pass in 1954.

It was so cold that some people had never before experienced and might never again feel temperatures that low. From January 12 through January 15, records were shattered across most of Montana. Not just records for the day, but all-time records were broken making it truly historic.

Record-cold high temperatures and record-cold low temperatures were set for many places in Montana, not just by a few degrees. Record cold high temperatures during the daytime in the -10s and -20s occurred with record cold low temperatures at night falling into the -30s, -40s and even -50s across Montana. Wisdom bottomed out at -55 with Chester hitting -54.

For the second year in a row, temperature reading equipment failed at both Elk Park and Newlan Creek at -50. At the time of failure, there were several hours still of likely falling temperatures so we may never know how cold these locations could have reached.

Saco set its all-time record low temperature of -51. Hamilton had its second coldest temperature ever recorded at -38.

Havre had three consecutive days of -40 or colder which tied a record previously set in late January 1916, early February 1905, and early February in 1887. It rarely gets this cold for this many days in a row, even in Havre.

The Billings National Weather Service compiled data for January 11 to the 19 and it was the coldest that stretch has ever been for most of southern and southeast Montana.

I haven't even mentioned wind chill yet, with most of the state falling to between -50 and -60, the coldest readings were -71 at Scobey and Plentywood.

At the onset of the cold, there was little to no snowpack on the ground which makes the severity even more extreme since deep snow aids in assisting arctic air masses.

Temperatures have since warmed and you may be trying to purge that memory, but what Montana just endured was truly historic.