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South Dakota's Top Ten All-Time Coldest Temperatures

Wikipedia Commons

South Dakota is known for its vast landscapes and picturesque views but the state also bears witness to some bone-chilling cold temperatures that can leave residents and visitors reaching for extra layers. The state has experienced frigid conditions throughout its history, with communities enduring extreme cold snaps that etched their names into the National Weather Service record books.

Number 10: 41 Below Zero
Four communities share the record for reaching a chilling 41 below zero. Tyndall (Feb. 2, 1905), Faulkton (Jan. 12, 1912), Turton (Jan. 16, 2009), and Milesville (Jan. 1, 2018). The 2018 cold nap also produced record cold temperatures of 21 below in Pierre, minus 30 in Mobridge, and 32 below zero in Aberdeen.

Number 9: 42 Below Zero
Sioux Falls (Feb. 9, 1899), Menno (Feb. 2, 1905), and Martin (Dec. 23, 1983) have faced temperatures as low as 42 below zero. Ear muffs were a hot commodity due to the cold in 1983. The Argus Leader reported seven Aberdeen stores were sold out of the popular ear warmers. The Plymouth Clothing Store noted four dozen ear muffs were sold in a 24-hour period the week of Christmas.

Number 8: 43 Below Zero
Huron (Jan. 12, 1912), Cottonwood (Feb. 9, 1944), Oral (Feb. 24, 1983), and Custer (Jan. 19, 1963) have seen temperatures plummet to 43 below zero. The January 21, 1963 edition of the Rapid City Journal details high winds, blowing snow, and severe cold halting traffic in western South Dakota. Three commercial buses carrying the Rapid City high school basketball teams from a game in Spearfish pulled over in Sturgis due to conditions. Students split the night between a hotel and the armory.

Number 7: 44 Below Zero
Five communities, including Centerville (Jan. 12, 1912), De Smet (Jan. 12, 1912), Britton (Jan. 13, 1912), Elm Springs (Jan. 22, 1927), and Mobridge (Feb. 19, 1929), have touched the bone-chilling mark of 44 below zero. The Rapid City Journal noted in their February 19, 1929 edition that the day marked day 33 of the last 36 during which the weather bureau temp was recorded below freezing.

Headline from the February 8, 1936 edition of the Lead Daily Call
Lead Daily Call
Headline from the February 8, 1936 edition of the Lead Daily Call

Number 6: 45 Below Zero
Six communities, including Columbia (Feb. 8, 1994), Lemmon (Feb. 16, 1936), Eureka (Dec. 10, 1917), Kennebec (Feb. 9, 1899), Highmore (Jan. 12, 1912), and Ipswich (Feb. 12, 1912), have reached the icy low of -45 below. The February 17, 1936, edition of the Lead Daily Call describes new storms reaching blizzard proportions in western South Dakota drifting shut highways and stranding trains in the snow.

Number 5: 46 Below Zero
Forestburg (Feb. 9, 1899), Howard (Jan. 19, 1916), Timber Lake (Jan. 12, 1912), and Aberdeen (Jan 12, 1912) have experienced temperatures as frigid as -46 below zero.

Number 4: 47 Below Zero
Canton reached the record-low of -47 below zero on February 2, 1905. The Argus Leader recorded that businesses were suspended, railway traffic was impaired, and schools closed during this severe cold snap.

Number 3: 51 Below Zero
The 481 residents of Pollock, South Dakota, felt the brunt of a bone-chilling -51 below zero on February 16, 1936.

The Rapid City Journal article details South Dakota's all-time record low temp.
Rapid City Journal (Feb. 20, 1936)
The Rapid City Journal article details South Dakota's all-time record low temp.

Number 2: 57 Below Zero
Camp Crook in Harding County endured the second coldest temperature at -57 below on January 12, 1916. Despite the extreme cold, newspaper reports say stockmen and ranchers in the area were well-prepared.

The Coldest Temperature Recorded in South Dakota: 58 Below Zero
McIntosh, near the North Dakota border on the Standing Rock Reservation, holds the dubious honor of recording South Dakota's coldest temperature at -58 below on February 17, 1936.

The record-breaking cold temperatures experienced in South Dakota are a stark reminder of the unpredictable and extreme nature of the Mount Rushmore state.

Brent is the Digital Content Curator at South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He came to SDPB after spending over 20 years broadcasting on radio stations in Aberdeen, Pierre, Milbank, Sisseton, and Watertown as Brent Nathaniel. An Aberdeen area native, Brent is based in Watertown with his wife Bri and their cat Allie.