30 years ago when the Polar Vortex really came to the U.S.

30 years ago the U.S was about to endure what was called the “Freeze of the Century”. Chances are no matter where you lived at the time you remember this. I was a young child and remember the -24° in Akron, Ohio, which was the coldest in the entire U.S. for that date. I had  an indoor soccer game and ran inside with shorts on! This was a memorable outbreak for the Southeast as both North and South Carolina set all-time state record lows. Charlotte set its all-time record low of -5° on the morning of Jan 21st, 1985. The high that day was just 24°. This was after -2 the morning before. 

Florida lost 90% of its citrus crop and almost every citrus tree was killed in Central Florida. The inauguration of President Ronald Regan was forced indoors.

Surface Map shows a 1048 mb Arctic high over the middle of the country. Jan 20th, 1985.


This was a legit piece of the Polar Vortex which dropped in over the Great Lakes at 7am Jan 21st 1985.


The next day the piece of the Polar Vortex was over Maine.


Highs and Morning Lows Jan 21st, 1985. January_21,_1985_temperature_map

State records set during this arctic outbreak.

  • Colorado: −61 °F (−52 °C) Feb 1
  • North Carolina: −34 °F (−37 °C) Jan 21 atop Mount Mitchell
  • South Carolina: −19 °F (−28 °C) Jan 21
  • Utah: −69 °F (−56 °C) Feb 1
  • Virginia: −30 °F (−34 °C) Jan 22

Check out how cold North Carolina was that morning, numerous All-time record lows.



What was interesting about this event it was preceded by record-breaking warmth in December for the eastern half of the U.S. Then it was  followed by another cold blast in February. Ferocious cold in February 1985 set two more state record lows in the Mountain West. Utah’s −69 °F (−56 °C) was the second-coldest temperature ever recorded in the “lower 48” states, just above Montana’s record of −70 °F (−57 °C) in 1954. Colorado’s −61 °F (−52 °C) broke the old record of −60 °F (−51 °C), also on February 1.

January 1985 in Charlotte, NC.