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January 9, 2014

Five facts about Iowa's winter weather

n The coldest recorded temperature in Iowa history was 47 degrees below zero. It happened twice, the first, on Jan. 12, 1912, in Washta and the most recent on Jan. 3, 1996, in Elkader.

The coldest recorded temperature in Clinton was minus 31 degrees on Jan. 16, 1888.

n The most recent major temperature change in a 24-hour period in the state of Iowa was 65 degrees in Sioux City on Dec. 28, 2013, and Dec. 29, 2013. The high for Dec. 28 was 62 degrees, a record high for that day, and then overnight, the temperature dropped to minus 3 degrees on Dec. 29.

The largest, daytime temperature difference in Clinton was May 13, 2013, with a record low of 33 degrees, and a record high of 93 degrees on May 14, 2013, the largest day-to-day temperature increase in 121 years.

n Although not a record-setting figure, the state of Iowa experienced similar weather conditions Monday because of the high winds that came with the Arctic blast. Typically cold fronts come with light winds, presenting major differences between the highest points and lowest points of the state, but on Monday those strong winds kept the entire state of Iowa at 10 degrees below zero or colder.

The lowest recorded temperature on Monday in Iowa was 23 degrees below zero in Northwood, Cresco and Postville.

n The theory “too cold, to snow,” has a little truth to it. Since 1893 there have been 74 days, including Monday, with a daily, high temperature of zero degrees or below.

Out of those 74 days, 69 of them recorded no precipitation whatsoever and the highest accumulation of snow was 1.4 inches on Jan. 15, 1979.

n The winter of 1978-1979 is the worst recorded winter in the history of Clinton. December 1978 recorded 31.6 inches of snowfall and January 1979 recorded 32.8 inches of the snow, totaling more than 60 inches of snow between the two months.

On Jan. 13, 1979, approximately 18 inches of snow fell onto a blanket of more than 20 inches that had already accumulated, amounting to about 3 feet of snow total on the ground. Couple that with 30 mile-per-hour wind gusts and massive snow drifts, and the city of Clinton was essentially shut down during the winter of 1978 and 1979.

Sources: State climatologist Harry Hillaker, Clinton-area weather observer Jim Blaess and the Clinton Herald archives.

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