Another surge of arctic air is due here this weekend. But it won't compare with the "Great Arctic Outbreak" of February 1899. That one was so bad that ice flows in the Mississippi River made it all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Here's how the National Weather Service remembers it:
"February 1899: The Great Arctic Outbreak of '99 and the Great Eastern Blizzard of '99 occurred this month. It was an incredible sequence of back-to-back snowstorms sandwiched by an extreme cold wave.
"On February 5 to 8, a great blizzard struck the Mid-Atlantic Region. Baltimore received almost a foot of snow and Washington 14 inches over 4 days. As the storm moved out on the 8th, temperatures fell below zero on the 9th. Record cold settled in by the morning of the 10th, Laurel recorded a low of -18° F and Washington -8°. On the 11th, Washington, DC recorded a record minimum of -15° F and a record low maximum of only +4°F. Fallston (Harford County) recorded -8°F on the 9th and -14°F on the 10th and 11th. Charlotte Hall in Southern Maryland reached -19°F and Princess Anne -10°F. A second blizzard struck on February 11.
"Temperatures near the start of the storm ranged from -15° to +11°F. The storm dropped an additional 20 inches on Washington, 21 inches at Baltimore, and 9 in Solomons. An amazing 34 inches fell on Cape May, NJ. Snow depths reached 34 inches in DC and Baltimore, 24 inches in Princess Anne and as much as 41 inches at Cape May!
"Northwest winds of 48 mph created blizzard conditions and drove the snow into 10 foot drifts! These blocked transportation lines to the cities causing a major coal shortage that resulted in rationing. Food was also rationed, though not as severely as the coal.
"On February 16, an ice storm hit. Washington recorded its greatest monthly snow total with 35.2 inches and its greatest seasonal snowfall total with 54.4 inches. Frederick recorded 34 inches for the month. Baltimore had a record 33.9 inches for the month with a record 51.1 inches for the season. (This record stood for nearly a century until 1996).
(Ed.: The snowfall in 1995-96 totalled 62.5 inches at BWI. The 1898-99 mark was eclipsed again in 2002-03 when 58.1 inches fell. The 1899 snow record for February toppled in 2003, when 40.5 inches fell.)
"The winter of 1898-1899 was so cold over a large part of the US that ice flowed from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico! This has only been recorded one other time. On February 13, 1784, ice flows blocked the Mississippi River at New Orleans and then passed into the Gulf of Mexico."