December 28, 1917: Duluth’s coldest December day on record 

On this day in Duluth in 1917, temperatures dropped to 35 degrees below zero, setting a record for the coldest temperature in December since Duluth temperatures were first officially recorded in 1871. The record low temp was taken at 7 a.m.—one degree colder than the previous record, set on Christmas Day in 1879. The severe cold caused the Minnesota Steel Plant in Morgan Park to “layoff” several yard workers because it was too cold to work outdoors, but streetcar and railroad traffic kept moving. To keep railyard workers from freezing their extremities, they were issued “salamanders”: buckets of burning coals. At that point, the newspaper reported, Duluth had experienced only two colder days, January 7 and 10, 1912, when the mercury dropped to -36 degrees. But according to the National Weather Service, January 2, 1885, saw the temperature lower to -41 degrees. We have since been colder than -35 degrees, but not in December: On February 2, 1996, and January 15, 1972, the air was -39 degrees, and Duluth reached -38 degrees four times, most recently on January 17, 1982.

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