Thursday, January 30th is the 54th anniversary of the coldest temperature on record in Huntsville: -11°F. If you think that’s cold, New Market plunged to an almost-unbelievable -27°F!

Huntsville hasn’t had a sub-zero temperature since December 23, 1989: 10,995 days ago (30 years, one month and seven days). That’s the longest stretch on record going back to 1907.

Alabama’s Coldest Day:

Lucille Hereford, postmistress and town volunteer weather observer, recorded a minus-27 degree temperature on the morning of January 30, 1966.

Alabama State Climatologist Dr. John Christy interviewed Ms. Hereford by phone in 1988 to get her story. The following account was published in the December 2010 Alabama Climate report:

I interviewed Ms. Hereford by phone in 1988 to get her story. She remembered that the sun was out on the morning of Jan. 30, 1966, and the ground was covered with 8” of new snow (Huntsville measured 7.3”). It was terribly cold. She walked out to the instrument shelter and opened the door. She couldn’t believe what she saw so she called an acquaintance who happened to be trudging by and asked him to read the little indicator that rested at the coldest temperature since it was reset the day before. He said it looked like -28° Fahrenheit, but she thought it was closer to “only” 27 below. Since she was the official reader, the observation was reported as -27° F – Alabama’s coldest ever recorded temperature.

The official story has a twist: For some reason the value was officially recorded as -17° that morning, not -27°. That was a bit warmer than the -24° F reported at Russellville that day.

Alabama had the coldest temperature in the lower 48 states that day, so it was reported nationwide that Russellville, at -24° F, was the coldest spot in the nation. A U.S. Army officer serving in Vietnam remembers hearing the news that day that his hometown of Russellville earned the coldest-spot honors.

That distinction was not to last, however. Years later a Birmingham reporter was digging for a news story on Alabama’s coldest periods. This was back in the day when official reports were all on paper, often buried in dusty archives. He discovered the mistake and the National Climatic Data Center corrected its records to show Alabama’s record low temperature was -27° F set at New Market on Jan 30, 1966.

Here’s the daily weather map for Sunday, January 30, 1966:

(Click to enlarge) Daily Weather Map for Jan. 30, 1966 via NOAA: https://library.noaa.gov/Collections/Digital-Collections/US-Daily-Weather-Maps

Looking forward from here:

The projections for the remainder of this winter aren’t looking good for snow fans or fans of cold weather for that matter. Each time our long-range guidance has hinted a flip to ‘major’ cold weather it has turned out to be a flop (with the exception of that brief cold snap between Jan. 19th and 22nd).

Amazingly enough, Wednesday’s midday American-run GFS model projected an historic ice storm with days of sub-freezing (and even some sub-zero) temperatures. Thursday’s run of the same model? Highs in the 70s with rain and thunderstorms in the same February 10-12 time period.

Given the pattern, the latter is much, much more likely than the former!

It’s still winter for another six weeks or so, and we can have snow and cold even in March and early April. We’ll see how it works out, but right now, the prospects of wintry weather are very, very dim.

The latest outlook through mid-February paints a mild picture (if not a downright warm one at times):

CPC NOAA

The “EC” on this map represents a statistical ‘equal chance’ of above average or below average temperatures through the middle of the month. That doesn’t tell us a lot about the daily weather, but it tells us that the pattern doesn’t support prolonged cold outbreaks or threats of significant winter storms.

We’re at 1,800 days and counting since the last 1″+ snowfall in Huntsville.

Looks like we’ll be adding a few hundred more to that unless something weird happens late in the winter or early spring!

Looking for the rest of the forecast? It’s always online at WHNT.com/Weather and in the “Daily Forecast” section on Live Alert 19!

-Jason
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