While the average high on Christmas is 39, many St. Louisans know it can get really cold around the holidays.
But Christmas in 1983 went several frigid steps beyond “really cold.”
An unwelcome icy surprise greeted last-minute shoppers, starting on Dec. 23. With most secondary streets still snow-packed from a previous storm, a brutal cold front dropped the temperature to 9 below zero and brought wind, leaving the wind chill well below that.
Christmas Eve was no better. Santa brought the area a heaping dose of Arctic chill. The low temperature hit 13 below, which broke a 101-year-old record, and the -41° wind chill marked the third-lowest recorded value in St. Louis history, according to the National Weather Service.
On Christmas, the high reached all of 7 below, still the lowest high temperature recorded on that date.
And if the cold weren’t bad enough on its own, at least 10 people died in cold-related fatalities, including three on Christmas.
In St. Louis, a Fire Department spokesman said it had received at least 80 reports of pipe breaks by sunset on Christmas in all parts of the city, and thousands of homes in the region had no heat or electricity.
A water sprinkler sstem bursting at a gym sent 6 inches of water pouring onto Dorsett Road, forcing St. Louis County police to close that road near Interstate 270 for several hours on the day after Christmas.