From February 4-6, 2016, a large area of cold air, powered by the breakdown of the Polar Vortex, reached much of the Eastern and Midwestern United States. After a band of thunderstorms moved throughout much of the U.S. on February 3-4, the cold air followed with record low temperatures being set in many American cities.


On February 3, a large storm system, producing thunderstorms and even isolated severe weather, formed over Texas. This storm system would move over the Eastern United States the next day. The system brought very mild air with it, with high temperatures over 60 degrees Fahrenheit for much of the Eastern United States. However, there was an Arctic blast from the Polar Vortex right behind it. Many areas saw large temperature variances on February 4th. For instance, Richmond, VA saw a high temperature of 63 and a low temperature of 17. Even greater, Raleigh, NC saw a high temperature of 66 and a low of 12.

The Outbreak

On February 5th, record cold temperatures were observed in much of the United States. The low temperature of 2 degrees Fahrenheit in Raleigh, NC was one of the coldest lows on record for the city. The high temperature of 16 degrees, however, set the record for the coldest high temperature on record for the city. The cold stretched to Florida. Even Orlando, Florida saw a low temperature of 24 degrees and an unusually low high temperature of 41. Most days saw clear skies on February 5th, as the cold outbreak was in full force.


By February 6th, the cold began to retreat as the Polar Vortex began to return to its proper configuration. February 6th was at least 10-15 degrees warmer than February 5th in most areas. The following week, a mild air mass took hold upon much of the United States, with temperatures in the 50s, 60s, and 70s dominating much of the Eastern US.