The snow is rapidly melting across the southern Plains, with temperatures from Texas to Oklahoma running about 40 to 50 degrees above what they were just a few days ago, during the deadly cold snap that gripped the central United States for more than a week.

Bottineau, N.D. broke a cold temperature record set in 1893

Bismarck

N.D.

S.D.

Pierre

Wis.

Neb.

Iowa

Lincoln

Denver

Kansas City

Colo.

Kan.

Wichita

Okla.

Oklahoma City

Ark.

El Paso

Dallas

Tex.

La.

Austin

Houston

All-time low

temperature

records set

Feb. 10-19

Battiest, Okla. was 10ºF colder than its previous record

1

5

10ºF colder than previous record

Source: National Centers for Environmental Information

Bottineau, N.D. broke a cold temperature record set in 1893

Bismarck

N.D.

S.D.

Pierre

Wis.

Neb.

Iowa

Lincoln

Denver

Kansas City

Colo.

Kan.

Wichita

Okla.

Oklahoma City

Ark.

Dallas

El Paso

La.

Tex.

Austin

Houston

San Antonio

All-time low temperature records set Feb. 10-19

Battiest, Okla. was 10ºF colder than its previous record

1

5

10ºF colder than previous record

Source: National Centers for Environmental Information

Bottineau, N.D. broke a cold temperature record set in 1893

Bismarck

N.D.

S.D.

Pierre

Wis.

Neb.

Iowa

Lincoln

Denver

Kansas City

Colo.

Kan.

Wichita

Battiest, Okla. was 10ºF colder than its previous record

Okla.

Oklahoma City

Ark.

Dallas

El Paso

La.

Tex.

Austin

San Antonio

Houston

All-time low temperature records set Feb. 10-19

Corpus Christi

1

5

10ºF colder than previous record

Source: National Centers for Environmental Information

Bottineau, N.D. broke a cold temperature record set in 1893

All-time low temperature records set Feb. 10-19

Bismarck

N.D.

S.D.

Pierre

Wis.

10ºF colder than old record

1

5

Neb.

Iowa

Lincoln

Denver

Kansas City

Colo.

Kan.

Battiest, Okla. was 10ºF colder than its previous record

Wichita

Okla.

Oklahoma City

Ark.

Dallas

El Paso

La.

Tex.

Austin

San Antonio

Houston

Corpus Christi

Source: National Centers for Environmental Information

Bottineau, N.D. broke a cold temperature record set in 1893

All-time low temperature records set Feb. 10-19

Bismarck

N.D.

S.D.

Pierre

10ºF colder than old record

1

5

Wis.

Neb.

Iowa

Lincoln

Denver

Kansas City

Colo.

Kan.

Wichita

Battiest, Okla. was 10ºF colder than its previous record

Okla.

Oklahoma City

Ark.

Dallas

El Paso

La.

Tex.

Austin

San Antonio

Houston

Corpus Christi

Source: National Centers for Environmental Information

The frigid weather and related storminess brought much of Texas to a standstill. Residents went without power and potable water for days, and more than 30 people died in the Lone Star State alone.

While the cold snap was in many ways historic, it wasn’t completely unprecedented based on climate data going back many decades; some past cold waves, such as one in 1899, surpassed it in severity. Still, this winter weather event, which is expected to be on the list of most expensive U.S. natural disasters of 2021, set thousands of records.

Where more than 3,000 daily low temperature records were tied

or broken

Feb. 10

Feb. 11

Feb. 12

Feb. 13

Feb. 14

Feb. 15

Feb. 16

Feb. 17

Feb. 18

Feb. 19

Where more than 3,000 daily low temperature records were tied or broken

Feb. 10

Feb. 11

Feb. 12

Feb. 13

Feb. 14

Feb. 15

Feb. 16

Feb. 17

Feb. 18

Feb. 19

Where more than 3,000 daily low temperature records were tied or broken

Feb. 10

Feb. 11

Feb. 12

Feb. 13

Feb. 14

Feb. 15

Feb. 18

Feb. 16

Feb. 17

Feb. 19

Where more than 3,000 daily low temperature records were tied or broken

Feb. 10

Feb. 11

Feb. 12

Feb. 13

Feb. 14

Feb. 15

Feb. 16

Feb. 17

Feb. 18

Feb. 19

Where more than 3,000 daily low temperature records were tied or broken

Feb. 10

Feb. 11

Feb. 12

Feb. 13

Feb. 14

Feb. 15

Feb. 16

Feb. 17

Feb. 18

Feb. 19

Some of the records set were not just for a single calendar day or month of the year, but the lowest ever recorded, “all-time” benchmarks. In parts of the Plains and the South, the cold was particularly noteworthy for its duration.

Here is a roundup of the most notable milestones.

  • Oklahoma City set a record for its longest straight period of temperatures at or below 20 degrees: 210 hours between Feb. 9 and 17 beat its previous record in 1983. The temperature dipped to minus-14 degrees on Feb. 16, the city’s lowest since 1899.
  • Dallas experienced its second-longest streak of temperatures at or below freezing and at or below 20 degrees, and reached its third-coldest temperature on record: minus-2 degrees.
  • Houston, which was placed under its first wind chill warning, observed a wind chill of 1 degree, its lowest since at least 1990, according to meteorologist Alex Lamers. Its high temperature of 25 degrees was its fourth coldest on record.
  • Kansas City set a record for the longest stretch with temperatures at or below 15 degrees, at 10 days.
  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center (WPC), 20 percent of U.S. weather observing sites set record low temperatures and 30 percent set record low maximum temperatures between Valentine’s Day and Feb. 16.
  • The WPC found that Texas’s coldest day during the Arctic outbreak was Feb. 15, when the state’s average temperature was just 11.8 degrees.
  • At least 3,000 preliminary daily record cold temperatures, including cold daily highs and cold overnight minimums, were tied or broken at sites that have at least 75 or more years of data during the Feb. 12-16 period, NOAA found. Of these, there were 79 all-time cold records.
  • As an example of the all-time cold temperature records, Tyler, Tex., bottomed out at minus-6 degrees on Feb. 16, its coldest temperature on record since 1883, according to meteorologist Alex Lamers.
  • Spearfish, S.D., hit an all-time record low of minus-33 degrees on Feb. 14, while Hastings, Neb., tied an all-time record low of minus-30 degrees on Feb. 16, according to Lamers and the National Weather Service.
  • When measured by the temperature departure from the average on the coldest day of the event, the 2021 cold snap beat the severity of similar events in Texas during 2011 and in 1989.

Temperature difference from normal on Feb. 16.

Powerful winter storms, packed with snow and ice, ushered in the cold.

On Valentine’s Day, the largest area of the continental United States was covered by winter storm warnings in at least 16 years. The extent of the warnings encompassed all of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and nearly the entire state of Mississippi.

Amid one of the storms associated with the cold snap, Abilene, Tex., received its biggest snowfall on record: 14.8 inches. (That’s more than double what Washington, D.C., has seen all winter so far.)

On Feb. 16, snow covered 73 percent of the Lower 48 states, the highest percentage in records dating back to 2003.


During the past two weeks, in addition to the cold, numerous snow milestones were also set, from the Pacific Northwest to the South:

  • Portland and Seattle, which received 9.4 and 11.1 inches, saw their largest two-day snowfalls in about 50 years, while Boise, which posted 9.9 inches, had its most since 1996, according to Lamers.
  • Austin had its largest two-day snowfall since 1949, with 6.4 inches on Feb. 14 and 15, according to Lamers.
  • Salt Lake City had its seventh-snowiest day on record on Feb. 17, receiving 11.7 inches.
  • Little Rock had its second-snowiest day on Feb. 17 — 11.8 inches — and observed its highest snow depth on record on Feb. 18, reporting 15 inches.
  • Del Rio, Tex., near the border with Mexico, was buried under 11.2 inches on Feb. 18, its snowiest day on record. It had not even seen an inch of snow in a single day since 1993, according to Lamers.
  • Chicago has had at least a foot of snow on the ground since Feb. 9, its longest streak since 1979 and fourth-longest on record. The Windy City has had at least 10 inches on the ground for 24 days in a row, since Jan. 31.

Traffic is sparse on snow-covered Interstate 45 in The Woodlands, Tex., on Feb. 15. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle/AP)