Essay

Discover Idaho’s Coldest January on Record

Idaho, a state in northwest America, is renowned for its untamed wilderness regions and breathtakingly beautiful scenery. The state is home to a number of mountain ranges, one of which is the Bitterroot Mountains, which naturally divide Montana and Idaho. Idaho’s terrain consists of mountains as well as lower-elevation plains, gorges, and high desert valleys. Idaho’s distinct geography and geographic location make it susceptible to extremely frigid winter temperatures. To find out more about the coldest January ever recorded in Idaho, continue reading.

Average January Weather in Idaho

The lower elevation in the southern portion of Idaho results in milder average temperatures. The average low temperature in January in Sandpoint, in the northern panhandle of the state, is 22 degrees, and the average high temperature is 35 degrees. Boise, located further south, experiences average January lows of 25 degrees and highs of 38 degrees.

Snowfall is typical in Idaho’s winters. Pocatello receives nine inches of snowfall on average in January, compared to five inches in Boise. Shoshone County experienced almost 500 inches of snowfall in one year!

The Great Winter

Because of the heavy snowfall and extremely cold weather during the 1948–1949 winter, Idahoans refer to it as “The Great Winter.” The state has never experienced a colder January than 1949, with record-breaking low temperatures recorded across the entire state.

The day following Thanksgiving in 1948 saw the start of the snowfall, which lasted for the next 13 weeks with few pauses. From late November through early February 1949, the Pocatello region experienced significant snowstorms every week, according to the National Weather Service.

Art Hoult, the Maintenance Supervisor for the Idaho Highway Department, kept a notebook detailing the department’s struggles to make the roads usable during the unprecedented winter. Throughout December 1948, Hoult and his team dealt with successive snowstorms. Through the end of the year, the workers managed to keep at least one open lane on the state’s interstate highways with a great deal of effort.

Snow continued to fall until January 1949. Idaho Highway 28 was buried by four inches of ice in early January due to flooding caused by Birch Creek. To remove the ice from the road, Holt’s workers would need a couple bulldozers and several weeks. Later, on January 25, the temperature in Pocatello, Idaho, dropped to 31.4 degrees below zero, making it the lowest January temperature ever recorded.

Other Record-Setting Idaho Winters

Idaho experienced historic circumstances during The Great Winter, but on January 18, 1943, in Obsidian, the state recorded the lowest temperature ever. At 6,780 feet above sea level, Obsidian had a low of 60 degrees below zero that day.

Idaho Falls recently saw a low temperature of 32 degrees below zero on January 30, 2023. The previous record low temperature for that date in the city, which was 27 degrees below zero in 1985, was surpassed by this.

Idaho Wildlife

Many different plant, animal, and bird species can be found in Idaho. Large species like moose, mountain lions, grizzly bears, and bighorn sheep have habitats in the state’s wilderness regions and national parks. Furthermore, the state is home to a variety of smaller mammals, including beavers, prairie dogs, coyotes, and rabbits.

The grasslands and rocky outcroppings of Idaho are home to a wide variety of amphibians. Western rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, Great Basin collared lizards, and desert horned lizards can all be found in the state. White sturgeon, rainbow trout, and snapping turtles all call Idaho’s rivers home.