On January 1st, 1970 the biggest mid-winter snowfall accumulation in two decades paralyzed traffic across portions of the north Black Hills. Three to four feet of new snow accumulated over the New Year's Holiday. For the three day period ending on January 1st, a few accumulations included 37 inches at Lead, and 46 inches at Deadwood. Gusty winds of 25 to 40 miles an hour produced additional problems by creating widespread drifting which blocked roads.
A strong winter storm affected nearly all of South Dakota as well as much of Minnesota on January 1st and 2nd, 1976. Snow began across western South Dakota on New Year's Eve and continued into portions of Minnesota on the second. Northerly winds at 40 to 50 miles an hour created blizzard conditions in many areas. Snow depths varied from 4 to 12 inches in most areas with nearly two feet piling up in the northern Black Hills. In southwest Minnesota the highest amounts occurred in the Marshall area where 12 inches was received.
After the storm moved off to the northeast skies cleared out and a very cold air mass settled into the area. The combination of fresh snow cover (which is a tremendous radiator of low level heat) and clear skies allowed morning low temperatures to plunge to 20 to 35 degrees below zero for the next several days.
For 15 consecutive days in 1991/1992 the Sioux Falls area was blanketed with fog. From December 25th, 1991 to January 8th, 1992 Sioux Falls reported fog on each day. During one stretch in that streak Sioux Falls had dense fog reported on 9 consecutive days. The 15 days in a row with fog is not the record however. In 1983 the Sioux Falls airport reported fog on 18 consecutive days from February 7th to February 24th.
You think it's cold here in the northern plains? Vostok, Antarctica is the coldest recording station on the planet. In August (that's during the southern hemisphere's winter) the average low temperature is around 100 degrees below zero. The daily highs climb all the way to 80 degrees below zero. That's an average and that's without counting the effects of the wind chill.
On January 5th, 1992 Sioux Falls was mired in dense fog with visibilities under 1/4 of a mile...again. For 9 consecutive days from December 31st, 1991 to January 8th, 1992 Sioux Falls had dense fog at one time or another on each day. That set the record for the most consecutive days with dense fog in Sioux Falls. The old record was 8 days set from February 16th to February 23rd, 1957.
On January 6th, 1988 the morning low temperature was 29 degrees below zero in Sioux Falls. That tied for the coldest day of the year (the other day was February 11th). On June 21st, 1988 the high temperature reached a scorching 110 degrees, tying the all-time record high temperature in Sioux Falls. In other words, in a 6 month period Sioux Falls experienced temperature extremes that were 139 degrees apart. There's not a lot of places in the country that can say that.
During the evening of January 7th, 1992 a thunderstorm with vivid lightning dumped .37 of an inch of rain in Sioux Falls. Not only is thunder in January very unusual this was the first recorded occurrence of thunder in January in Sioux Falls since 1939. That's a total of 53 years between January thunderstorms.
On January 8th, 1945 Sioux Falls had a little measurable snow. While not all that extraordinary in itself the fact that it was the first measurable snowfall of the season is. That is the latest "first" snowfall on record for Sioux Falls.
Significant amounts of light, fluffy snow piled up across southwest South Dakota on January 8th and 9th, 1993. Amounts were generally in the 4 to 13 inch range. Very icy roads, blowing snow, and severe cold contributed to more than 75 accidents in Rapid City alone where one foot of snow fell. Snowfall amounts included: 14 inches at Keystone, 13.3 inches at Custer, and 12 inches at Rapid City.
On January 10th, 1982 much of the Northern Plains was in the midst of one of the ground blizzards that the area is notorious for. While only 1 to 3 inches of snow fell from January 9th through 12th, 1982 winds at 20 to 40 miles an hour led to widespread areas of blowing snow. The blowing snow reduced visibilities and drifted snow to five feet deep closing many roads. For three days extremely cold temperatures (as low as 30 degrees below zero) combined with the 20 to 40 mile an hour winds to produce extremely dangerous wind chills of 50 to 100 degrees below zero.
As a strong storm moved from the Rockies and across the Plains on January 11th and 12th, 1993 snow piled up across much of South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. A train was derailed near Beresford, South Dakota during the storm spilling 10,000 bushels of grain. Amounts of over 6 inches occurred in southeast South Dakota while portions of northwest Iowa had 8 to 12 inches.
January 11th, 1990 was a little breezy across the Northern Plains. Northwest winds of 30 to 45 miles an hour with higher gusts ripped across South Dakota...Iowa...and Minnesota in the wake of a strong cold front. Wind gusts in South Dakota included 75 MPH in Yankton, 67 MPH in Sioux Falls, and 61 MPH at Pierre. The strong winds flipped a plane at the Pierre airport and felled trees and power lines across eastern South Dakota.
Across southern Minnesota conditions were no better with gusts approaching 70 miles an hour. The winds downed signs, blew high profile vehicles off of roads, and whipped up large amounts of blowing dust. Across northwest Iowa several walls were leveled at construction sites, roofs were damaged, and blowing dust reduced visibilities to a few hundred feet at times. In some open farm areas soil erosion was estimated at a devastating two to three tons per acre.
January 10th through the 12th, 1975 one of the worst blizzards on record had a strangle hold on the central and Northern Plains. The blizzard affected all of eastern South Dakota, North Dakota, Eastern Nebraska, northwest Iowa, and Minnesota and is often referred to as the "Blizzard of the Century" because of the duration, sustained high winds, and extreme cold.
Snow amounts of 6 inches to well over a foot accumulated and was blown into huge drifts. Sustained winds approached 45 miles an hour with gusts over 60 miles an hour. The temperatures were near thirty degrees at the start of the storm, but had fallen to 5 to 10 degrees below zero by the morning of January 11th, 1975. Wind chill temperatures were in the 50 to 70 degree below zero range. In some areas...visibilities were reduced to under 1/4 of a mile for over 24 hours, creating white-out conditions across the area. A broadcast tower nearly 2000 thousand feet tall collapsed during the storm with an estimated damage at 1.5 million dollars. Livestock losses in South Dakota alone were estimated at 10,000 to 15,000 head.
On January 13th, 1911 Rapid City residents were likely talking about yesterday's weather events. On January 12th, 1911 an incredible temperature drop affected Rapid City. At 6 am the temperature was a pleasant 49 degrees, however, over the next two hours the temperature plunged an amazing 62 degrees to 13 degrees below zero. This 62 degree drop is the U.S. record for a two hour temperature change.
Of course, this was business as usual in Rapid City. Two days earlier, on January 10th, 1911 the temperature at 7 am was 55 degrees and in just 15 minutes the temp fell 47 degrees to a chilly 8 degrees above zero.
One of the more spectacular cold-weather atmospheric optical effects is referred to as an ice-pillar. On cold, calm nights when ice crystal fogs begin to form, or there is an abundance of ice crystals in the air, light from point sources such as street lamps sometimes appear to illuminate a narrow column extending upwards hundreds or thousands of feet above its source.
January 15th and 16th, 1982 the Northern Plains were struck with a severe ground blizzard for the second straight weekend. As with the previous storm only a few inches of new snow fell but northwest winds to 45 miles and a few gusts to 60 miles an hour caused widespread blowing snow reducing visibilities to near zero. Drifts as high as 10 feet were reported in northern Iowa. Extreme wind chills of 50 to 100 degrees below zero made any trip outdoors dangerous. Numerous deaths resulted for the second weekend in a row due to the extreme cold.
The only day of the year (through 1993) that a tornado touchdown has never been reported and confirmed somewhere in the United States is January 16th. Every other day of the year has at least one confirmed tornado report somewhere in the country.
Back to normal January weather on this date in 1967. January 16th, 1967 started out with unseasonably mild temperatures for January in the Northern Plains. But, a strong front quickly changed all of that. Rain was falling across much of northern and eastern South Dakota before a strong cold front blasted through dropping temperatures 30 degrees in around two hours. The quick drop in temperatures following the day's rains led to extensive icing problems on area roadways.
Strong winds also belted the area with 50 to 55 mile an hour gusts across the west and up to 75 mile an hour gusts reported in the east. The wind and icing led to the toppling of a 250 foot radio tower near Aberdeen and of a drive-in theater screen near Vermillion.
A massive winter storm drilled portions of the Northern Plains from January 18th through the 20th, 1988. A strong area of low pressure moved northeast across the area producing widespread precipitation. Snow amounts of 6 to 20 inches were reported in south central and southeast South Dakota...4 to 8 inches was common in northwest Iowa...and 8 to 12 inches fell in southwest Minnesota. Snow amounts included: 20 inches at Tripp, SD...18 inches at Yankton...13 inches at Worthington...and 10 inches in Sioux Falls. As is so common with strong winter storms in the Plains high winds produced blowing snow greatly reducing visibilities and the widespread drifting blocked many roads across the area.
A narrow band of heavy, wet snow buried portions of southeast South Dakota on January 19th, 1990. Snowfall amounts of 8 to 12 inches extended from Bon Homme county through Yankton and Clay counties. The greatest amount was 12 inches at Vermillion. The band of snow also extended across northwest Iowa with totals of 6 to 12 inches common. The heavy, wet snow broke many tree branches and power lines across the area resulting in a messy cleanup.
On January 20th, 1954 the morning low temperature plunged to -70 degrees fahrenheit at Roger's Pass, Montana. This is the coldest temperature ever recorded in the lower 48 states. The low of -70 broke the old record of -66 degrees which was set Yellowstone National Park on February 9th, 1933. The high temperature that day at Roger's Pass was a pleasant -22 degrees.
From January 17th to January 21st, 1970 a major cold spell affected eastern South Dakota. Record low temperatures were set at Brookings four days in a row. On the 18th Brookings' temperature of -33 broke the old record low of -26 set in 1940...on the 19th -35 broke the record of -32 set in 1943...on the 20th -33 broke the record of -29 set in 1962...and on the 21st -32 broke the record of -31 set in 1952. Daytime high temperatures failed to climb above zero for the 5 days from the 17th through the 21st. That's over 100 straight hours with temperatures below zero.
Huron and Sioux Falls failed to reach zero for the four days from the 17th through the 20th. On January 19th, 1970 the temperature at the Sioux Falls airport fell to -36 degrees. That was the coldest temperature recorded at the site since the old Weather Bureau re-opened in 1946.
January 22nd, 1943 was a wild day in Spearfish, South Dakota. In a 2 minute period the temperature shot up an incredible 49 degrees in just 2 minutes. At 730 AM the temp was -4 degrees and by 732 AM the temp had shot up to 45 degrees. The temperature then climbed to 54 degrees by 9 AM before plunging 58 degrees in 27 minutes to 4 degrees below zero. The wild temperature fluctuations were likely due to cold air and warm air sloshing back and forth along the plains at the base of the Black Hills. A similar effect would be to pour warm water into a shallow bowl of cold water. The water would slosh back and forth a few times before settling down. This is likely what happened with the warm and cold air along the Black Hills.
A strong Arctic front brought a blast of high winds and plummeting temperatures to the Northern Plains on January 23rd, 1988. As the winds and snow swept across the Plains some described it as a "wall of white" as visibilities plunged to near zero in white out conditions. Six to eight inches of snow fell in southwest Minnesota with lesser amounts elsewhere. Wind chills plunged to around 50 below zero in many areas. Winds of 25 to 40 miles an hour with gusts over 50 MPH blew the snow into a frenzy with the drifting closing many roads. The strong winds tore the roof off of a hospital in Fort Meade where winds topped 70 miles an hour.
On January 23rd, 1971 the temperature at Prospect Creek, Alaska fell to 80 degrees below zero. That is the coldest temperature ever recorded in the United States. The high temperature that day was just 64 degrees below zero.
On January 24th, 1981 the temperature at the Sioux Falls airport climbed to a toasty 66 degrees. That is not only very unseasonably warm, that is the warmest January temperature on record in Sioux Falls. Huron climbed to 62 degrees that day placing them just 1 degrees short of tying their warmest January afternoon on record.
On January 25th, 1916 residents of Browning, Montana were still adjusting to the largest 24 hour temperature change on record in the U.S.. On January 23rd and 24th, 1916 the temperature fell from a pleasant 44 degrees above zero to a bitter -56 degrees in 24 hours. That's a temperature change of an amazing 100 degrees in 24 hours and that's a record that still stands as the largest 24 hour temperature fluctuation in the U.S..
On January 26th, 1982 residents across the Northern Plains were still cleaning up from the third consecutive weekend of severe winter weather. On January 22nd through the 24th, 1982 a record breaking snowstorm thrashed much of South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. Amounts across South Dakota ranged from 6 to 20 inches. The heaviest snow, at Elk Point, was accompanied by a rare January thunderstorm. Sub-zero temperatures across the area combined with 30 to 50 mile an hour winds to produce wind chill values of 50 to 80 below zero. Travel became impossible in the height of the storm as over 90% of roads in central and eastern South Dakota were blocked. Snow plows couldn't make any headway until the storm had passed.
Drifts as high as fifteen to 20 feet buried the area. Sioux City piled up 18 inches of snow as all roads in northwest Iowa were closed on January 22nd, 1982. Conditions were no better in Minnesota. Minneapolis set, what up to that point was, a single storm snowfall record with 18.5 inches of new snow. Incredibly, the record that this storm broke had just been set two days earlier when 17.4 inches buried the Twin Cities. That's nearly 36 inches of new snow in just over 3 days.
What's the coldest city in the lower 48 states? That dubious distinction belongs to our friends in International Falls, MN which has a yearly average temperature of 36.4 degrees. Minnesota and North Dakota each had three cities in the top 10, while South Dakota had none. Some cities on the list include... #2 Duluth, MN at 38.2 degrees fahrenheit a year...#3 Caribou, Maine at 38.9...#6 Fargo, ND at 40.5 degrees...and #9 Bismarck at 41.3 degrees. Sioux Falls average annual temperature is around 45.5 degrees.
In the early 1900's Sioux Falls went two consecutive January's without recording measurable precipitation. In January 1900 and 1901 the Sioux Falls recording station recorded only a trace of precipitation. These months tie as the second driest months on record. Sioux Falls averages around one-half inch of precipitation in January.
The wettest January on record in Sioux Falls occurred in 1922 when 2.33 inches of water equivalent was accumulated. The snowiest January on record was in 1929 when 22.2 inches of snow piled up. The average water equivalent for the month of January is around one-half inch with an average snow accumulation of 6.5 inches.
Many people think of January as a snowy month while in actuality it isn't too bad. In an average January, Sioux Falls will receive around 6 and one-half inches of snow. That makes it the fourth snowiest month on average behind March, February, and December.
In fact, of the Top 27 24-hour snowstorms on record in Sioux Falls only 3 occurred in January. The heaviest 24-hour January snowstorm was the 12.0 inches that buried the city on January 3rd and 4th, 1897. That storm is only good enough for a tie for tenth on the all-time list for Sioux Falls winter storms.
You've probably heard of the "January Thaw", but January of 1990 was a little ridiculous. The Northern Plains received an extended reprieve from the harshness of winter with a pleasant and unusually warm start to the year. January 1990 is the warmest January on record in Sioux Falls. The average temperature for the month was 28.2 degrees...that's a whopping 15.8 degrees above normal. The old record was set in 1931 when the average temperature was 27.8 degrees. The average high for the month in 1990 was 39.5 degrees with the warmest day being coming on the 10th when the high climbed to 56 degrees.