National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


A potent and persistent outbreak of Arctic air affected our region from February 6th through 17th. The coldest days of the outbreak for many occurred on Sat, Feb 13th when Minnesota set a preliminary daily state record low temperature of -50 F (25 mi E of Ely) and Sun, Feb 14th (Valentine's Day) when local low temperatures dropped into the -20s and -30s F. Minimum wind chills of -35 to -55 F were recorded on several mornings as well. All of this, abruptly on the heels of what had been one of the mildest winter seasons on record up through the start of February. 

The magnitude of the cold during this outbreak is fairly rare when compared to the past 50 years, at least in terms of the persistence of the Arctic air, more closely resembling outbreaks from the late 1800s and the first half of the 1900s in some locations. This is especially impressive considering the lack of deep, fresh snow cover across the majority of the area. If there had been widespread deep, fresh snow pack ahead of this Arctic outbreak, low temperatures would have been more severe and more often approaching record territory. 

Impacts from this extreme and persistent cold include many frozen and/or broken water pipes (the limited snow depth did not help in this regard) and froze-over home sewer vents, dead vehicle batteries, school delays, church cancellations, and significant strains to the power grid as demand spiked both locally and across several other states. Thousands of customers were at least briefly without power locally, particularly during the morning of Tue, Feb 16th. Concerns for rolling blackouts lingered for several days in this regard, due to the continued extreme demand/strain, and folks were repeatedly asked to conserve energy however possible. 

The scope of this Arctic outbreak was wide-reaching, well beyond Minnesota and South Dakota. In fact, heavy snow, ice and relatively extreme cold reached well into Texas, having devastating effects. Over 3,000 daily cold records were set across the country, with around 80 all-time record cold readings (and at stations with at least 75 years of weather data). Much more information here. On the whole across the country, this Arctic air outbreak and the accompanying snow and ice will likely become a billion-dollar weather and climate disaster (overview on billion-dollar disasters here). 

Average temperature (high and low combined) departures across the region for each day of the Arctic blast, beginning Feb 5th and ending Feb 18th, courtesy of the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. Values were well below 25 F below average for many through much of the outbreak.
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