Mount Carroll lays claim to state record low: -38

State climatologist to lead panel to certify new record as town tries to reclaim top spot for bottom reading

The frigid temperatures brought on by the most recent polar vortex may have produced a new state record low at Mount Carroll Thursday morning. (Twitter/Illinois State Climatologist)

The frigid temperatures brought on by the most recent polar vortex may have produced a new state record low at Mount Carroll Thursday morning. (Twitter/Illinois State Climatologist)

By Ted Cox

In all of Illinois recorded history, it’s never been colder than the temperature reading of 38 below zero registered in Mount Carroll Thursday morning.

But will a formal review confirm that?

“The temperature in Mount Carroll may be a new state record, if officially confirmed,” said Brian Kerschner, spokesman for the Illinois State Climatologist’s Office at the Illinois State Water Survey, in a news release posted Friday.

The current state record low is minus 36 recorded at Congerville on Jan. 5, 1999. Rochelle claimed a reading of 37 below 10 years later. “However, that observation came from a small airport station designed for aviation purposes and was not part of the climate network in Illinois,” according to an internet post on state weather records by Jim Angel, who was the state climatologist while serving 34 years at the Illinois State Water Survey years before retiring at the end of 2018.

According to Kerschner, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cooperative weather observer at Mount Carroll reported the reading of 38 below zero Thursday morning. “A state climate extremes committee reviews the observations to assess its validity,” his post added. “This team typically includes the State Climatologist’s Office, the Midwestern Regional Climate Center, and federal climate experts, such as from the National Weather Service and the National Center for Environmental Information.”

The National Weather Service in the Quad Cities tweeted that the process usually takes a week or two.

Mount Carroll, which had 1,717 residents in the 2010 census, is a few miles inland from Savanna, which no doubt benefits ever so slightly from the water temperature in the Mississippi River, akin to Lake Michigan’s effect on Chicago extremes. By contrast, Congerville is even more central, between Peoria and Bloomington, and Rochelle is just to the southeast of Mount Carroll, due south of Rockford.

Mayor Carl Bates said Mount Carroll was actually out to reclaim the state record, having held it for decades with a reading of minus 35 in 1930 until Congerville stole it away.

“It was plenty cold,” he said Friday, adding that the town was excited at the prospect of reclaiming the record. “It’s interesting to have it back.”

Bates said otherwise Mount Carroll weathered the latest polar vortex fairly well. “It was a lot of being prepared,” he said, with schools and other local facilities closed. He sent City Hall staff home early on Wednesday, expecting them to return for work the next day. “I didn’t know that the next morning it was going to be colder than the day before.”

Moline set a new all-time record with a low of minus 33, and Rockford registered a new record low of 31 below, breaking its old mark of minus 27, according to the State Climatologist’s Office, which added, “Some other notable temperatures included minus 35 degrees at Elizabeth, minus 32 at Galena, minus 30 at Rochelle, minus 33 at Aledo, minus 26 at DeKalb, minus 22 at Joliet, minus 21 at Galesburg, minus 17 in Champaign, and minus 16 in Decatur.”

Carbondale got down to 4 degrees, and even Cairo, at the southern tip of Illinois, south geographically of Richmond, Va., recorded a low of 12 degrees.

Bates said weather officials had already been out to inspect the equipment at the town’s water treatment plant, where the reading was taken, and “everything looked good,” so the reclaimed record would appear to be in the bag — if not the ice bucket.

Having lived most of his life in the area, Bates said, “I remember the winter of ‘79, and it seems it was cold then, but as a kid it’s a different cold. Mom’s just yelling, ‘Get more stuff on if you’re gonna go outside.’”

Now, he added, “It’s official, and it was cold, and hopefully we don’t see that anymore this year.”