We Have Proof That This is Not the Worst Winter Ever

Think we’ve got it bad now? Wait ’til you see the city’s coldest temperature on record. Hint: It more than bests our little 2014 Polar Vortex.

Photo by Dave DiCello


Just when we thought we were in the clear, there was more snowfall. And below-freezing temperatures. This winter has surpassed last year’s snowfall of 57 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

We’re more than over this constant battle with the cold and precipitation. As perpetual optimists, we continue to have high hopes that we’ll soon experience a steady period of balmy weather (looks like tomorrow could be the start of something wonderful — 50 degrees!). 

As we cross our fingers that the worst indeed is behind us, let’s look back on the cold weather of years past, as reported by the National Weather Service.

Here’s a collection of Pittsburgh’s chilliest superlatives:

Coldest temperature ever recorded in the ’Burgh

This award goes to Jan. 19, 1994, when the mercury dropped through the floor, hitting a record -22 degrees Fahrenheit, which according to Business Insider, could cause frostbite in about 10 minutes. It also was the coldest overall day on record — staying at an average of -13 degrees. We assume the line to get into Pamela’s that morning wasn’t very long.

Latest instance of a “killing frost”

In 1894, regional farmers likely received a nasty shock when a bout of “killing frost” — which usually is defined as 28 degrees or below, low enough not just to damage but kill many plants — struck on May 29. According to records, that is more than a month later than average. 1894 also was the year with Pittsburgh’s shortest growing season on record — 131 days compared to an average of 182.

Coldest overall winter

While the Steelers’ loss to archrival Oakland Raiders in the 1976 NFC Championship was heartbreaking, the abysmally cold winter only added insult to injury. During the ’76-’77 winter, the average temperature was 20.7 degrees. Super Bowl misery probably wasn’t helped much by the fact that January 1977 also was the coldest on record — with an average of 11.4 degrees. Also, we set a record for having the longest streak of days below 32 degrees — from Dec. 26 until Jan. 27. That year also turned out to be less than ideal for cookouts, with the city’s coldest average temperatures for summer (67 degrees) and autumn (46.3 degrees) on record.

(The frozen steps of the Hillman Library 1977; photo via Historic Pittsburgh collection.)

Longest streak of days with temperatures below 0 degrees

This streak puts our recent polar vortex to shame. In 1899, the temperature remained below 0 degrees Feb. 8-14. It stayed there, hitting a low of -20 degrees along the way. As if that weren’t enough, this frigid spell also coincided with the great blizzard of 1899, when parts of Florida experienced sub-zero temperatures and snowfall.

(Two trolley cars diverge on a snowy Pittsburgh day, circa the 1890s; photo via Historic Pittsburgh collection.)

— John Lavanga; Gideon Bradshaw contributed to this post.


#Props: Dr. Fu receives major medical award for ACL research


Congrats to Dr. Freddie Fu, who won the Elizabeth Winston Lanier Award (pretty much the Nobel Prize of orthopaedic research) for his work on anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction and advances in patient care.

Football players across America salute you, Dr. Fu. There’s no telling how many careers have been saved by advances in ACL surgery.

Dr. Fu currently is the David Silver Professor and Chairman of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and founder of the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.

Fu’s research also will be recognized by:

  • ESSKA (the European Society of Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery and Arthroscopy), who will make Dr. Fu a lifetime honorary member and member of its hall of fame this May.

  • JOSKAS (the Japanese Orthopaedic Society of Knee, Arthroscopy and Sports Medicine), who will bestow Dr. Fu with the Masaki Watanabe Award for international achievement in arthroscopic surgery in July.

Dr. Fu, we bow to your smartness. We’re not worthy.


— Alex Antonacci; photo by Frank Walsh


#Data: This Google Map tracking lightning strikes across the U.S. is enlightening

Aha! So we’re not just scaredy-cats. Allegheny County does indeed have a relatively high concentration of lightning strikes, according to this interactive Google Map that tracks strikes and property damages across the country.

Allegheny County recorded 10 strikes from 1995-2009, which racked up property damage costs of $5.6 million.

Tim Betler captured this crazy lightning strike in July from his view at the USX Tower.

Categories: The 412