WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)

Record Cold Thanksgiving, Weather History 2005-2018

By Jesse Ferrell
11/21/2018, 11:27:07 AM

(Originally published Nov. 19, 2018, updated Nov. 20 & 21)

As I do every year, I'd like to take a look at how the weather affected Thanksgiving and Black Friday on a national basis and see where Turkey Day 2018 stacked up locally here in State College, Pennsylvania. Nationally, the big story this year was the unusual cold in the northeastern United States, while a snowy November in parts of the East, and the California wildfires, were closeby in memory.

Thanksgiving Turkey GIF

Thanksgiving Day is currently forecast to be frigid in the Northeast, making for the coldest Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade in history. In fact, only a few years featured low or high temperatures colder than the current forecast (21 & 27 as of Monday; 19 & 28 as of Tuesday's forecast) for New York City, and those were a long time ago -- before 1902.

New York City Thanksgiving Temperatures 1870-2018 (Corrected)

NOTE: The graph above has been corrected based on a correction by the NWS in New York City that I brought up on Twitter. See below.*

Adding high winds, Thursday afternoon AccuWeather RealFeel temperatures will be below zero in interior New England, single digits in Boston, and in the teens in State College, Philadelphia and New York City, and some record temperatures will be set.

Thanksgiving RealFeel Temps

In other news, parts of the Northeast were still recovering from a major early season snowstorm, including New York City. There was some respite forecast for the worst wildfire in California history, the "Camp Fire," which, to date, has killed over 80 people, with nearly 1,000 missing.

Below is what our forecast Thanksgiving map looked like on Monday; animations of our Thanksgiving and Black Friday forecasts are also available.

Feature graphic hd23

ABOUT THE NYC CORRECTION: The NWS in New York City had previously quoted Thanksgiving being on November 25, 1871, with a high of 49 degrees in their PDF. I pointed out to them on Twitter that this disagreed with WPC's assertion that the coldest Thanksgiving in NYC was 22 degrees. Regardless of the weather data, their date for Thanksgiving in (at least) 1871 (Nov. 24th) appears to have been in error. That would have been a Friday.

Furthermore, based on the text below from WikiPedia, Thanksgiving would have been 11/30 that year, and that’s where WPC told me on Twitter they had pulled their high temp from xMACIS of 22. Part of the problem is that Thanksgivings were celebrated on the final Thursday before 1939, and the next to last Thursday after 1939. NWS has since corrected their PDF.

“Abraham Lincoln's successors as president followed his example of annually declaring the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. But in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with this tradition. November had five Thursdays that year (instead of the more-common four), Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving rather than the fifth one. Although many popular histories state otherwise, he made clear that his plan was to establish the holiday on the next-to-last Thursday in the month instead of the last one. With the country still in the midst of The Great Depression, Roosevelt thought an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas.”

Central Pennsylvania Thanksgiving Weather History

Locally here in State College, Pennsylvania, it will also be the coldest Thanksgiving since I've been keeping track for my blog (2005). Our current forecast of 11/24 for a low and high temperature on Thursday will far break the previous record from 2013, when we were in the 20s, and as mentioned above, last week's snowstorm will make this the snowiest November in my records (in fact it was the third highest snowfall in anyone's records for State College). Here are the official readings from my 2005-2017 Thanksgiving Weather spreadsheet:

State College Thanksgiving Weather 2005-2017

For the record, here are my best Instagram pictures from the last five Thanksgiving weeks in Pennsylvania:

Instagram Thanksgiving Week Best of - 2013-2017

Here are the 14-year record Thanksgiving events for State College, Pennsylvania:

  • COLDEST: 2018
  • WARMEST: 2007
  • RAINIEST: 2010
  • SNOWIEST: 2005*

*2014 was a runner-up for daily snow, the most snow during the period for November and a tie for snow cover -- both days had several inches of snow on the ground Thanksgiving morning.

National Thanksgiving Weather History

In 2017 the weather on Thanksgiving nationwide was fairly tranquil with the exception of extreme heat in the Southwest. Last year we also published an interesting article about U.S. Thanksgiving storms past, detailing famous storms in history: 10 notorious Thanksgiving storms that wreaked havoc, including...

Famous Thanksgiving Storms in History

+ 1898 - Infamous Portland storm
+ 1921 - New England's worst ice storm
+ 1926 - Thanksgiving Day tornado outbreak
+ 1945 - Severe nor'easter disrupts Thanksgiving
+ 1950 - The Great Appalachian Storm
+ 1971 - Snowfall blankets northeastern U.S.
+ 1982 - Hurricane Iwa disrupts Hawaii's Thanksgiving
+ 1988 - Historic tornado twists from Raleigh to Jackson, North Carolina
+ 1992 - 93 deadly tornadoes rip through Gulf Coast states
+ 2010 - Tornado outbreak slams Deep South

Here are links to my previous blogs about past Thanksgiving weather:

Thanksgiving 2016 Header

We had considerable snow in the West in 2007 and a swath of snow through the Midwest (see my blog entry from Nov. 20, 2007). Here in Central Pennsylvania, I did a video outside on Thanksgiving morning when temperatures were in the 60s, but they plunged later that day. There was also a surprise snow in Texas and tornadoes in Florida.

In 2006, after it snowed on Tuesday in Florida, I took a bunch of great weather photos on Thanksgiving Eve, and on Thursday it rained so hard that the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade was almost canceled. I about busted my butt on Black Friday black ice here in Central Pennsylvania.

And back in 2005 on Thanksgiving Eve, Tropical Storm Delta (the 25th named Atlantic system that year) formed. My first year of blogging for, we had a White Thanksgiving here at AccuWeather HQ, and over 2 feet of lake-effect snow fell in New York state, along with high winds over the entire Northeast (waves even flooded the streets of Lake Erie). It was frigid on Black Friday with wind chills below -25 here.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.

WeatherMatrix (Jesse Ferrell)