When the last degree was counted just before midnight Saturday, it wasn’t even close.
February 2015 reset the standard by which Buffalo measures winter cold, and now officially owns the all-time record as the city’s coldest month.
The average monthly temperature in February – 10.9 degrees – shattered the previous mark of 11.6 degrees set 81 Februarys ago, in 1934.
“That’s by a huge margin,” said Jeff Wood, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Buffalo. “Clearly, it’s unprecedented. It’s the coldest ever recorded.”
As the month headed into its final week, February ran neck-and-neck with the all-time mark, and it became apparent the record was in sight. Another week of subzero temperatures and frigid daytime highs averaging in the teens eliminated any doubt.
By Saturday, the high temperature would have had to reach 57 degrees for this year’s mark just to slip back into second place.
That wasn’t happening – Buffalo won’t be seeing temperatures that warm for a while, forecasts show.
By dawn Sunday, a storm system was expected to start dropping up to 6 more inches of snow across parts of the region through early Monday.
The first break above the freezing barrier since Jan. 29 could come Tuesday, with another storm bringing a wintry mix of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow before temperatures head back down well below normal for the balance of the week.
“That pattern isn’t going to be changing much for a while,” Wood said of the upcoming month. “It’s going to be a bit of a roller coaster but that roller coaster is going to be skewed toward the colder end.”
But still warmer than February.
When all was said and done, February’s temperature finished 15.3 degrees below the average monthly temperature of 26.2 degrees.
And, there were several other statistically significant marks established last month:
• The temperature never made it above freezing. The only other time that has happened was 1978.
• Ten days during the month, the thermometer dipped below zero – another all-time record for Buffalo. There were nine such days in 1979.
• Twice, the mercury plunged to minus 10 degrees – on Feb. 15 and 16. They were the coldest readings in Buffalo since 1996.
On top of all of that bitter cold, there was much more.
It was the third-snowiest February on the all-time list, with 46.2 inches of snow. The sizable snowfall helped eclipse the 100-inch mark for the season, on Feb. 21.
Measuring the snowpack on the ground was equally as impressive.
Not only has it been present for 55 days and counting as of Sunday, but it has been at least 20 inches deep – as measured at Buffalo Niagara International Airport – since Feb. 5.
That’s the longest and deepest it has been since a 34-day run in 1977, from Jan. 10 to Feb. 12.
Call it what you want: Coldest ever. The eternal freeze. Buffalo’s longest shortest month.
No superlative does justice to what Western New Yorkers have lived through those 28 days.
There were frozen water pipes. Dead car batteries. Furnace trouble. Icy driveways. Biting wind chills.
It’s a month the likes of which many might never witness again.
And, many are glad for that.
“We’re ready for it to be over,” said Nicki Sokol of Hamburg, who was ice skating Saturday at Canalside with her husband, Mike, in February’s waning hours. “We’re happy we lived through something that’s that historic.”