An arctic blast of cold air blowing this week through Middle Tennessee will plunge Nashville temperatures into the single digits — before wind chill. That’s chilly enough to stiffen the spiciest Nashville-style hot chicken. And just in time for Wednesday, the first day of winter.
But will it mark the coldest day on record in Nashville?
Not even close, despite temperatures expected to hover around 8 and 9 degrees. The coldest day on record for Nashville occurred nearly 37 years ago — Jan. 21, 1985 — according to records at the National Weather Service: minus 17 degrees in Music City.
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The second-coldest day on record in Nashville: minus 15 degrees on Jan. 24, 1963.
The third-coldest day on record in Nashville: A tie at minus 13 degrees on Feb. 13, 1899, and Feb. 2, 1951.
The fifth coldest day in Nashville was Jan. 17, 1982, at minus 11 degrees.
But none top Jan. 21, 1985, when it was a blistering minus 17 degrees. That week in Nashville, when water pipes froze and burst at the Third National Bank building, it left the downtown offices without heat, so Bill Wade worked at this desk with his hat and coat on, The Tennessean reported. Also, Tommy Frist, Todd Cato and Brad Fuson shared a sled ride off Chickering Road. And brothers Phillip and Colt Goodrum lent a hand to a stranded motorist, pushing an automobile out of an icy winter jam.
At least for another year, the 1985 temperature record in Nashville will likely stand as a warmer-than-expected winter is likely ahead for Nashville, thanks to La Niña. The weather phenomena is marked by cooler-than-average water in the central Pacific Ocean, the driving force of weather across the country.
But, chill out. Cooler water does not mean cooler temperatures; instead, an enhanced risk for an active, severe weather season.
What to do:5 things to know to prepare for Nashville’s upcoming deep freeze
Look back:When was the last time Nashville had a white Christmas?
The last time Nashville hit a high of 1 degree for a low temperature was January 2003 — seven inches of snow also fell.
Nashville’s cold weather over the Christmas holiday will not be accompanied by that much snow, but snow flurries are expected Friday.
Nashville last bottomed out at 5 degrees in January 2009.
The last below zero-temperature reading for Nashville dates back to Feb. 5, 1996, when the city bundled up at minus 3 degrees.
Reach reporter Craig Shoup by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Craig_Shoup. To support his work, sign up for a digital subscription to www.tennessean.com.