Monday was Oklahoma's coldest day in more than a century
Before this week, the coldest day in Oklahoma's recorded history happened in December 1989, when the averaged statewide temperature dipped to a chilly 1.9 degrees.
But the massive blast of arctic air that forced its way down through the Great Plains to the Gulf of Mexico broke that record when the statewide average low reached half a degree below zero.
That's just one of several records set this week by a deadly storm that threatened several states' power grids and left millions of people scrambling to stay warm.
"To me, this is certainly one of the biggest impact winter storms that we've seen in a long time here," said Rick Smith, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Norman. "The prolonged cold and all the side impacts of power outages and boil water orders, and all the horrible stuff that's happening with that, this had wide-reaching impacts that touched a whole lot of people and it just seems like it's been going on forever."
While Monday holds the record for lowest statewide average temp, Tuesday's average low was 0.6, more than a degree lower than the 1989 record.
Reliable statewide average temperature records go back to about 1915.
The storm also brought snow. Although the snowfall wasn't as bad as other storms that have blanketed Oklahoma, the 3.6 inches that fell Tuesday, Feb. 16, at Will Rogers World Airport was officially the most for that date.
Daily records for low temps also were set Monday and Tuesday in Oklahoma City, with Tuesday's negative 14 degrees breaking the previous record of 4 degrees set in 1903.
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It was also Oklahoma City's second-coldest low temperature on any date since 1889. The coldest reading ever recorded in Oklahoma happened in 2011 at a Nowata monitoring station, when the temperature reached minus 31 degrees.
The arctic air found its way south and stayed so long partly because of a disruption in the jet stream, State Climatologist Gary McManus said. The jet stream shapes much of the weather experienced in the United States based on where it moves and how strong it is.
"The low-pressure system that's semi-permanent over the polar region, it got disrupted and the blob of cold air that's normally over the arctic got displaced and moved over the North American continent," McManus said.
Because the cold air began to move out later in the week with temperatures going above freezing Friday, the Oklahoma record for number of consecutive days below freezing remains intact. The longest stretch on record was 13 days.
The state also set wind chill records, even though the storm briefly froze wind-measuring equipment at some sites.
Oklahoma City tied the record low wind chill value of minus 29 degrees Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service. The previous record was set in 1947.
Fort Sill broke its lowest wind chill record at minus 26 degrees. The previous wind chill record of minus 22 also occurred in 1947.
The statewide wind chill record of minus 47 degrees set during the 2011 freeze still stands, based on data from Oklahoma Mesonet. The lowest wind chill reported Monday was minus 36 in Boise City.
Despite the cold rush, McManus said there's still a chance this could be a warmer-than-normal winter. North America is experiencing La Nina, a climate cycle that brings warmer and dryer winters that's the opposite of the more famous El Nino climate phenomenon.
"When we expect a warmer-than-normal winter, we can't really account for the extreme events," he said.