On Veterans Day Monday, the low temperature of 13 degrees set a new record – beating a record 15 degrees in 1950. On Tuesday, the low of 7 degrees in the morning set a new record minimum, beating 8 degrees in 1986.
The record low maximum temperature for Nov. 12 was also likely to be shattered Tuesday. The record is 28 in 1995, while Chicago has been stuck in the teens all day 24 years later.
It might come as a relief to know that neither the winter of 1986-1987 nor that of 1995-1996 wound up being exceptionally cold.
The National Weather Service notes that the average seasonal mean temperature for 1995-1996 was 25.2, while for 1986-1987 it was 30.1. In 2018-2019, for comparison, the average seasonal mean temperature – factoring in a warm December and the polar vortex deep freeze in late January – was 26.7.
As to snowfall, the total for 1986-1987 was 17.7 inches, while for 1995-1996 it was 16.1 inches. Both of those seasonal totals are considerably smaller than the single-day blizzards that famously socked the city in 1967, 1979, 1999, and 2011.
The coldest mean winter temperature on the records was 18.3 in the winter of 1903-1904. One of Chicago’s most tragic and infamous disasters happened that winter – though it was not related to weather. A total of 602 people died when the Iroquois Theatre in the Loop caught fire on Dec. 30, 1903.
The greatest seasonal snow total was in 80.6 inches in 1978-1979. The famous blizzard of ’79 dumped 18.8 inches on the city from Jan. 12 to 14 of that year – on top of 7 to 10 inches that had fallen on New Year’s Eve. That snowstorm and Mayor Michael Bilandic’s response to it is widely credited with leading voters to turn on Bilandic and elect Mayor Jane Byrne later that year.