Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 1983

The past few weeks have featured well below average temperatures across most of the eastern United States and snow is on the ground as far south as northern Alabama and northern Georgia (as of early today). Around Lincoln, snow cover is somewhat minimal and temperatures, while chilly, aren't much below average and are warmer than last year at this time. But in terms of bone chilling cold, nothing holds a candle to December 1983.

The fun actually started after Thanksgiving when a cold rain turned into heavy snow. Stories of Husker fans getting stranded on Highway 81 upon return from Oklahoma are still told to this day. Snow stayed on the ground through the rest of November and got deeper with successive snows in December, reaching a depth of 15 inches just before Christmas. Temperatures were cold all month but perhaps the cold should be put into 3 categories (inspired by the movie Spaceballs): Cold, Ridiculous Cold, and Ludicrous Cold.

In the cold category are the dates December 1-15 and New Year's Eve when average daily temperatures (average of the high and low) were generally between 15 and 20 degrees. Ridiculous cold goes to December 16-17 and December 26-30 when average daily temperatures were in the single digits. Ludicrous cold goes to the period from December 18-24. In this glorious stretch of weather, the warmest temperature was -2. No, that's not a misprint. The temperature in Lincoln fell below 0 late on December 17 and didn't go above 0 again until Christmas Day. Also during this stretch of Ludicrous cold was a 6 inch snowfall on December 20. The worst day in this stretch is debatable but a strong candidate is Christmas Eve when the high was only -10. Of course, this stretch of Ludicrous cold wasn't just unique to here. Most of the Great Plains and north central states were just as bad, if not worse, in December 1983. The table below shows the monthly average temperature for December 1983, the maximum temperature on December 24, 1983, and the snow depth on Christmas Day 1983.

Topeka KS 14.4 -3 7
Dodge City KS 18.4 1 3
Lincoln NE 8.1 -10 15
Scottsbluff NE 12.4 -7 3
Sioux Falls SD 2.1 -13 12
Rapid City SD 8.1 -13 5
Williston ND -4.5 -20 6
Fargo ND -0.3 -6 10
Duluth MN 1.8 -11 28
Minneapolis MN 3.7 -10 20
Des Moines IA 9.8 -12 9
Moline IL 14 -10 9
Chicago IL 14.3 -11 4
Madison WI 10.8 -8 14
Indianapolis IN 20.1 -7
St. Louis MO 20.5 -5 3

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