The Middle Tennessee Cold Front of January 23, 1963

Cold fronts are given that name because they usually introduce a colder air mass into areas through which they pass. But middle Tennesseans have never experienced a cold front quite like the one which plowed through the mid state on January 23, 1963.

Meteorological records from middle Tennessee's cooperative observer network show that temperatures were rather mild before the dramatic frontal passage, with the thermometer peaking in the 40's and 50's at most locations. Kingston Springs' was the cold spot, with a maximum temperature of 38 degrees, and Pulaski was the warmest at 63. Nashville registered a more typical 48 degrees.

The cold front brought snow to the region as temperatures went into a free-fall. Six-plus inches of snow were measured along a corridor which extended from Kingston Springs (southern Cheatham County) northeastward through the Nashville metropolitan area, and into Kentucky. Lafayette recorded the most snowfall -- 6½ inches. Nashville measured 6.2 inches. Lesser amounts occurred at other mid state locations, primarily north of Interstate 40, while stations near the Alabama border received no snowfall.

But the big story was not the snow, but the nasty drop in temperatures. By the next morning, the thermometer read several degrees below zero, with Kingston Springs establishing a middle Tennessee record of -30 degrees. Several other stations reported low temperatures on the morning of January 20 of -20 degrees or colder, and Nashville checked in at -15 degrees. Locations nearer the Alabama state line were mainly in the single digits below zero.

The overall temperature drop during the initial few hours following the cold frontal passage is amazing. Waverly, which had enjoyed a pleasant 54 degrees on January 23, saw it's temperature drop an astonishing 80 degrees before hitting bottom at -26 degrees on the morning of January 24. Other temperature drops are as follows: Cheatham Lock & Dam, 79 degrees; Centerville and Dover, 74; Linden, 73; Portland, 72; Celina and Springfield, 71; Dickson, 70. Nashville's 63 degree drop is a record for that city.


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