Weather Blog: 2014 cold outbreak facts

Cold w Penquin

The recent cold outbreak is one that we will remember for years.  It certainly lived up to and even exceeded expectations.

The cold started pouring into the area on Monday, Jan. 6th and by midnight we were already down to 10°.  By daybreak Tuesday morning, Jan. 7th, we had dipped to 5° and this broke the record of 14° set in 1988 and 1912.  Most records in January are much lower in the single digits and even sub-zero.  So it was fortunate to survive for as long as it did.  This low of 5° was the coldest low since we had dropped to 4° on January 28, 2000 (this was days after the big snow).

After the morning low of 5° and a high of 23°, this produced a mean temperature of 14°.  The last time we had a day with a mean that cold was February 5, 1996 when the morning low was +1° and the high was 22°, this produced a mean of 11.5°, making that day 2.5° colder.  There was a little snow and ice on the ground that time and it made the difference.

There were some in North Carolina even colder,  Mt. Mitchell dipped to -24° and Grandfather Mtn. down to -17°.  While we saw Wind Chills dip to near -10° in the Piedmont, most mountain areas saw wind chills closer to -30°.  In the coldest spots above 5000 feet these chills were at times more than -50.

The last time the Triad area officially dipped below 0° was January 19, 1994 when we dropped to -1°

Our coldest recorded temperature on record was January 21, 1985, when we dipped to -8°. That same morning, Mt. Mitchell dipped to -34° setting the all-time mark for the state of North Carolina.

Coldest Temps on Record Jan 1985

Many of our coldest temperatures ever recorded, including the all-time outbreak, came with some snow on the ground. If this outbreak had occurred with snow, it would have been colder than we observed, but would not likely have beaten 1985. Still, this was a very impressive cold outbreak.

Credit to Jonathan Blaes at the NWS in Raleigh for helping pull some of these temperatures together for me.