SPEARFISH | One window-shattering, record-setting extreme temperature fluctuation in Spearfish still has people talking.
Today is the 75th anniversary of a weather event that put Spearfish in the record books for the fastest-recorded temperature change. On the morning of Jan. 22, 1943, temperatures suddenly shot from -4 to 45 degrees F in just two minutes. The temperature continued to rise to 54 degrees and later that morning plunged back to -4.
Grace Balloch Memorial Library is hosting a free special event at 5:30 p.m. tonight to mark the anniversary of that weather event. Meteorologist Susan Sanders from Rapid City National Weather Service will explain the causes of the temperature swings and will answer questions. Everyone is welcome. Anyone who experienced the 1943 temperature rise and fall, or who has family stories about it, is invited to share their recollections during the library's special event. The library is located at 625 N. Fifth St. in Spearfish.
"We hope people come out and learn a little bit about what makes our weather the most variable in the entire country," Sanders said. "I hope it gives them some appreciation of how hard it is to forecast."
The cause of the startling weather change in 1943 "was much more than a Chinook," Sanders said. "There was a combination of really cold air off to the north and east of the Black Hills, and warmer air starting coming in from the west."
The heavier cold air and lighter warm air masses sloshed back and forth, she said. "Warmer air came in and pushed (cold air) away. When the winds let up, the warmer air retreated and the cold air came back. It went back and forth several times that day," Sanders said.
Surrounding Black Hills communities experienced similar temperature changes, but none quite as extreme as what occurred in Spearfish. The sharp temperature changes cracked plate glass windows, while instantaneous frost appeared on car windows and forced drivers to stop and park, according to the National Weather Service. Sanders will show photos and graphics related to that weather event, and she'll talk about the publicity the unusual temperatures received.
The extreme weather had people talking in the Black Hills and throughout the nation. At the time, Spearfish's weather event was featured in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” and “Strange as it Seems” cartoons printed in newspapers nationwide.
"There were newspaper stories from all over the country. It got a lot of attention," Sanders said. "At that time, World War II was going on. I'm sure there wasn't a lot of other news that was light-hearted. It was something unusual that caught people's attention."