A polar vortex in February delivered the coldest temperatures in that month to the lower 48 states since 1989, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report released Monday.
Temperatures in the contiguous U.S. were about 3.2 degrees F colder than the average for that month in the 20th century, NOAA said.
It was the 19th-coldest February among 127 years of record keeping, and for December through February, the three months that constitute meteorological winter, temps in the contiguous U.S. actually were 1.4 degrees F above average, among the warmest one-third on record.
The middle of the month saw a major Arctic air outbreak in much of U.S., leading to frigid temperatures and several snowstorms. A blocking pattern in the jet stream prolonged the outbreak.
Six states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma — had one of their 10 coldest Februarys ever recorded, NOAA said. Texas and Illinois each had their 11th coldest.
According to the report, 62 all-time daily low temperature records were broken, with much of Texas enduring its coldest air temperatures since December 1989. Millions in Texas lost power and were without water for extended periods.
“This,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Houston ABC station KTRK, “is the winter version of Hurricane Harvey.”
The major Arctic blast also caused a very active weather pattern that included numerous winter storms loaded with snow and ice. Nearly three-quarters of the lower 48 states were covered by snow on Feb. 16, a new daily record since that data first was recorded in October 2003.
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