Snowiest, coldest winters on record

January one of coldest, snowiest on record

The Miami Valley experienced a mix of snow and cold in January nearly unmatched in the past 60-plus years.

Through Thursday, the area saw the fourth-most snow (21.2 inches) and sixth-coldest average low temperature (10.8 degrees) in any month since 1948, when records began at Dayton International Airport. The month’s final day lurched into the 30s on Friday, but that wasn’t much relief for residents who experienced nine days of temperatures below zero and and average high temperature below the freezing point of 32 degrees (31.1) in the month’s first 30 days.

The weather drained school calamity days, taxed electrical systems and sent repair industry employees scrambling to fix cars, pipes and structures affected by the cold and snowy mix.

“It was a month of everything coming together,” said Storm Center 7 meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs.

The month’s weather included:

  • At least nine days with temperatures below zero for just the third time in the past 794 months.
  • At least a trace of snow on 18 of the month’s 31 days.
  • Temperature averages lower than the 30-year normal on 21 days.
  • A low of -13 degrees on Jan. 28, just the 25th day of the past 24,119 with a low temperature that cold.
  • A high of 5.2 inches of snow on Jan. 2, a daily level reached 38 times in the previous 66 years.
  • A 64-degree difference between the highest high (51 degrees on Jan. 11) and the lowest low (minus-13 on Jan. 28).


The continuing severe winter weather sent residents searching for comparable months. It was colder in January 1977, when the average temperature for the month was 11.5 degrees and the average low temperature was 2.8 degrees. There was just one day that month with a temperature above freezing, and that was by a single degree.

There also was more snow in January 1978, when 40 inches fell throughout the area. That included a 12.2-inch barrage on Jan. 26, still the highest single-day total in the past 66 years, referred to as the “Blizzard of ‘78.”

But those are the only months that had a similar mix of both snow and cold. At times during the month, the weather halted activities, caused Gov. John Kasich to support a one-time expansion of calamity days, worsened potholes, surged calls for help to AAA, and cost communities millions in road salts and street crews.

The first stretch of those cold temperatures, which saw lows of minus-10 and minus-9 on Jan. 6 and 7, was caused by a mesh of cold, dense air known as a “polar vortex.” That produced numerous problems, including two days of closures at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, water main breaks, pipe bursts and other damage aided by wind gusts. The rest of the month saw regular departures from normal temperatures as well.

The upcoming forecast calls for milder weather today with more snow arriving on Tuesday. Beyond that, temperatures will likely return closer to the norm and snap out of the frustrating cold that has covered the Miami Valley.

“When you get out of a very cold pattern,” Vrydaghs said, “you get back to what would be the normal.”