Arctic Cold Surge Smashes Over 400 Mid-November Records in the Plains, Midwest, South and East

weather.com meteorologists
Published: November 14, 2019

An arctic cold blast has shattered hundreds of mid-November cold records across the central and eastern U.S. this week, and will slowly relent over the next several days.

While the cold has backed off a bit in the nation's mid-section, it is still setting daily records in the Northeast Thursday morning, including New York's JFK Airport (24 degrees) and Trenton, New Jersey (20 degrees).

Houlton, Maine, had its coldest morning so early in the fall, plunging to minus 3 degrees Thursday morning.

(MAPS: Current Temperatures | Current Wind Chills


Current Temperatures

Culling through National Weather Service record statements, over 400 daily mid-November cold records, including record lows and record-cold high temperatures, have been tied or set across the nation since Veterans Day.

Some of these daily records eclipsed those set during the infamous 1911 Great Blue Norther cold front, one of the most extreme cold fronts in U.S. history.

We have a recap of some of the most notable cold factoids from this arctic outbreak in the recap section below.

Forecast: Any Relief Ahead?

There is relief from the cold for some, but reinforcing cold on the way for others.

Friday into Saturday, a reinforcing cold front will sweep into the Northeast. In general, widespread record cold is not expected, but a few daily record lows might be set from this cold reinforcement.

(MAPS: 10-Day Forecast Highs and Lows


Forecast Highs

Meanwhile, parts of the Rockies and High Plains are already starting to feel some relief from the cold.

From Friday into at least early next week, highs in the 60s should become more widespread in the Plains from Nebraska to Texas and Oklahoma. Even the recently shivering upper Midwest should rebound into the 30s and 40s for highs, an improvement from the January-like cold this week.


Long-Range Temperature Outlook

Record Cold Recap

Veterans Day

Among daily record lows set Monday included minus 21 degrees in Turner, Montana, 13 degrees in Chicago and 16 degrees in St. Louis. Record-cold highs set Monday included 8 degrees in Dickinson, North Dakota, and 18 degrees in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Temperatures on Monday afternoon stayed well below freezing as far south as the mid-Mississippi Valley and Central Plains. These were daytime highs more typical of January than November.

Tuesday, Nov. 12

About 120 daily record lows were reported by National Weather Service offices on Nov. 12.

Temperatures plunged into the single digits as far south as the Texas Panhandle, with some subzero lows in parts of the Northern Plains and upper Midwest.

Among the subzero lows setting daily records:

-Hibbing, Minnesota: Minus 13 degrees

-Norfolk, Nebraska: Minus 7 degrees

-Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Minus 6 degrees

-Des Moines, Iowa: Minus 1 degree

It was only the fifth time Des Moines had dipped below zero during the first half of November in records since 1878.

Indianapolis plunged to 8 degrees, the earliest in the fall it had ever done so in records dating to 1871. It was also the coldest so early in the fall on record in Watertown, New York, bottoming out at 8 degrees.

Even South Texas was involved, where a Monday heat index in the lower 90s was followed by a record low of 38 in McAllen. While Tuesday's high temperatures in the Lower Rio Grande Valley were in the upper 40s just after midnight, daytime temperatures in the 30s were thought to be the coldest so early in the fall, there, similar to a 1907 outbreak.

Chicago only topped out at 17 degrees Tuesday afternoon, a record-cold high for the date, smashing the previous record of 28 degrees from 1995. The high in St. Louis Tuesday afternoon was only 21 degrees, also smashing its previous record-cold high for the date of 34 degrees from 1940.

Highs in the mid-20s Tuesday afternoon in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and Paducah, Kentucky, were their record-earliest-in-season such occurrences of subfreezing high temperatures – something more typical in mid-December – according to the National Weather Service.

Nashville, Tennessee, failed to rise out of the 20s Tuesday, their record earliest-in-season such occurrence.

(MORE: Cities With Their Most Miserable Start to Winter

Wednesday, Nov. 13

Over 110 record lows were tied or set from the Northeast to Texas.

In the Northeast, Watertown, New York, tied its all-time November record low (minus 7 degrees) set last November 22 and 23. According to Alaska-based climatologist Brian Brettschneider, this was the coldest temperature on record so early in fall in New York state since 1900.

Burlington, Vermont, recorded its earliest-in-fall single-digit low, two days earlier in the calendar than the previous record from 1933.

De Graff, Ohio, about 40 miles north-northeast of Dayton, plunged to minus 1 degree.

Indianapolis set a daily record low just after midnight, plunging into the single digits. Single-digit temperatures stretched as far south as Clarksville, Tennessee, Wednesday morning.

Memphis, Tennessee, had its coldest low temperature so early in fall, plunging into the upper teens.

Daily record lows were also tied or set Wednesday morning in Cincinnati (10 degrees), Pittsburgh (12 degrees), Baltimore (22 degrees), New York's Central Park (23 degrees) and Philadelphia (23 degrees).

Freezing temperatures were recorded along parts of the Gulf Coast, including Houston, New Orleans and Panama City, Florida. The sharp contrast of cold air flowing over the warm nearshore Gulf waters produced plumes of sea smoke in Pensacola, Florida, Wednesday morning.

According to the National Weather Service, lows in southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi Wednesday morning – ranging from the mid-20s to the mid-30s – were colder than any day last winter there.

Among over three dozen record-cold high temperatures for Nov. 13 were Binghamton (21 degrees) and Albany, New York (26 degrees), Hartford, Connecticut (32 degrees), Providence, Rhode Island (32 degrees), Boston (33 degrees), Newark, New Jersey (35 degrees), Roanoke, Virginia (37 degrees), Charleston, South Carolina (47 degrees), and Savannah, Georgia (50 degrees).

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.