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The Cold Air Outbreak of December 1983

Introduction

Air Temperature Anomaly for December 1983 for the Continental United StatesA series of bitter cold, arctic air masses began penetrating the midsection of the United States on December 15, 1983, causing record low temperatures and extreme wind chills over much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation through the remainder of the month. The abnormally cold temperatures were responsible for at least 151 deaths throughout the country, including 4 deaths in Oklahoma. Although the northern states encountered colder temperatures for a longer period, most of the deaths were concentrated in the southern states where people were unprepared for such a long period of freezing temperatures. Many of the victims were elderly people who died of hypothermia in their unheated homes.

A total of 4 deaths occurred in Oklahoma during this frigid period. During the morning of December 19th, a man who was living in a truck in Tulsa, OK was found frozen to death. During the morning of December 22nd, a 73-year-old woman died of exposure when she apparently left the doors to her home open in Muskogee, OK while a 63-year-old man slipped outside his home and died of exposure in Oklahoma City, OK. On the morning of December 25th, a man was found dead in his yard from hypothermia in Tulsa.

December 15-16, 1983 Winter Storm

Storm Total Snowfall for the Winter Storm of December 15-16, 1983 in the South Central U.S.As the first wave of cold air pushed southward, a winter storm dumped up to 10 inches of heavy snow in the south-central states on the evening of December 15th and into the morning of the December 16th. The snow fell in an east-west band extending along the Red River Valley, over extreme southern Oklahoma, much of northern Texas, southern Arkansas, northern Louisiana, and northern Mississippi. The snow greatly disrupted area transportation since snowfalls of any significant accumulation are rarely received in this region.

Some of the highest snowfall totals in southern Oklahoma from this winter storm included Hollis, Sulphur, Marlow, Duncan and Snyder with 1 inch, Chattanooga and Comanche with 2 inches, Ardmore with 3.5 inches, Frederick with 4 inches, McGee Creek Dam with 4.5 inches, Madill with 5 inches, Durant with 5.5 inches, and Marietta with 8 inches. In western north Texas Lake Kemp reported 3 inches, Seymour had 4.5 inches, Wichita Falls recorded 5.6 inches, and Archer City totaled 7 inches.

Daily Precipitation and Temperature Records for Oklahoma City and Wichita Falls for December 15-31, 1983

Daily temperature and precipitation data for Oklahoma City, OK ande Wichita Falls, TX are available from December 15-31, 1983 in the following table. December 1983 ranks as the coldest December for both Oklahoma City (25.8 °F average temperature) and Wichita Falls (30.5 °F average temperature).

Oklahoma City, OK
Day Max Min Avg Pcpn SF SD
15 35 24 29.5 0.00 0.0 0
16 37 18 27.5 0.00 0.0 0
17 35 19 27.0 T T T
18 19 8 13.5 0.05 0.5 T
19 9 3 6.0 0.03 0.3 T
20 21 4 12.5 0.05 0.5 T
21 11 -2 4.5 T T 1
22 9 -3 3.0 0.00 0.0 1
23 10 1 5.5 T T 1
24 3 0 1.5 0.00 0.0 1
25 13 -1 6.0 0.00 0.0 0
26 25 11 18.0 T T T
27 26 19 22.5 0.15 0.6 T
28 23 8 15.5 T T 1
29 20 3 11.5 0.00 0.0 1
30 29 3 16.0 0.00 0.0 T
31 40 20 30.0 0.00 0.0 T
Month 34.0 17.6 25.8 0.70 1.9 0.2
Wichita Falls, TX
Day Max Min Avg Pcpn SF SD
15 36 24 30.0 0.45 5.6 0
16 34 19 26.5 T T 4
17 34 18 26.0 0.00 0.0 3
18 33 13 23.0 T T T
19 16 11 13.5 T T T
20 27 10 18.5 0.01 T T
21 27 4 15.5 0.02 0.2 T
22 13 1 7.0 0.00 0.0 T
23 16 6 11.0 0.00 0.0 T
24 11 6 8.5 0.00 0.0 T
25 14 5 9.5 T T T
26 32 13 22.5 T T T
27 29 18 23.5 0.04 T T
28 27 10 18.5 0.07 1.3 T
29 25 2 13.5 0.00 0.0 T
30 33 4 18.5 0.00 0.0 T
31 46 21 33.5 0.00 0.0 T
Month 40.4 20.6 30.5 0.89 7.1 0.2

 

Daily Weather Maps for December 15-31, 1983

Source: NOAA Central Library U.S. Daily Weather Maps Project

Daily Weather Map for December 13, 1983
December 13, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 14, 1983
December 14, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 15, 1983
December 15, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 16, 1983
December 16, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 17, 1983
December 17, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 18, 1983
December 18, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 19, 1983
December 19, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 20, 1983
December 20, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 21, 1983
December 21, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 22, 1983
December 22, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 23, 1983
December 23, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 24, 1983
December 24, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 25, 1983
December 25, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 26, 1983
December 26, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 27, 1983
December 27, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 28, 1983
December 28, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 29, 1983
December 29, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 30, 1983
December 30, 1983
Daily Weather Map for December 31, 1983
December 31, 1983
Daily Weather Map for January 1, 1984
January 1, 1984

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