On This Day...Dec 18, 1983

On This Day....

December 18, 1983

At 7 am, the temperature at D/FW Airport fell below freezing, and then remained below freezing for the next 295 hours. This remains the longest period with consecutive hours below freezing on record for the Metroplex.
(Freeze Summary For D/FW)

In North Texas, at least six people died as a result of the cold during this bitter cold period at the end of the month. Most of the fatalities were the elderly that froze to death in their homes. At least two persons died of exposure, while one person died in an auto accident in Denton on ice covered roads on the 21st.

Scores of people were injured during the cold spell when drizzle coated the ground on the night of the 18th, and during the day on the 21st and 27th. While amounts were very small, such as .03 inch liquid precipitation at DFW on the 21st, the ice coating made not only driving hazardous, but simply walking outside became nearly impossible. One hospital in Tyler admitted over 70 people for injuries on the 27th, most being broken bones sustained in falls on ice.

Utility companies were hard pressed to meet consumer demands during the siege of cold air. Gas and electric companies had to curtail commercial usage, closing a number of plants and businesses for several days. Water systems suffered tremendous problems from the cold. The Fort Worth Water Department had nearly 1000 water line breaks, with some customers being without water for three days. Some smaller rural systems were shut down entirely for days until frozen pumps could thaw.

Damages from broken water lines alone amounted to millions for dollars. The cost of repairing broken city lines in Fort Worth was estimated at least $1.5 million, which excluded repairs to homes and business. Several million dollars more damage occurred when lines broke inside buildings and ruined walls, ceilings, floors, and furnishings.

Agricultural losses were extremely high, with estimates in the tens of millions of dollars. Insurance adjusters said initial claims for the state were in excess of $50 million and could easily pass $100 million. 1

The bitterly cold temperatures were not confined to North Texas, as the eastern two-thirds of the country endured record low temperatures and extreme wind chills during the last half of the month. Nationally, the abnormally cold temperatures were responsible for at least 151 deaths between Dec 15-31. Most of the deaths were concentrated in the southern states where people are unprepared for such a long period of freezing temperatures. 1

 1 Data Source: Storm Data Publication - December 1983

Return to Latest News

USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.