Long streaks of cold weather occasionally happen in our Northern Plains winters, but they are actually difficult to compare. One measure often used is to count the number of consecutive days below zero, but this method sounds better than it works. For example, the longest streak of continuously below-zero weather in Fargo-Moorhead was 17 days ending Feb. 18, 1936. However, if days as warm as 0 degrees are allowed, the streak stretches to 37 days from Jan. 15 through Feb. 20 of that year. In Grand Forks, the same 37-day streak includes three days with a high temperature of 1 degree. If only subzero days are allowed, the streak is 19 days.
Periods of three days or less of continuously subzero weather are quite common in most winters. Fargo-Moorhead has only had nine winters without any subzero days since 1881, and Grand Forks has recorded five since 1893, most recently in the winter of 2011-12.