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February 3 was the coldest day in North American history.

February 3 was the coldest day in North American history.

The winter of 1946-47 was a bitter one for Canada, but in the little town of Snag in the southwestern corner of the Yukon Territory in Canada, it was particularly awful. Snag pretty much consisted of an auxiliary military airfield, and in 1947 there were only a handful of residents—about 20 military personnel and 8 to 10 fur traders. On Groundhog Day, February 2, 1947, the themometer plunged to −80° fahrenheit, which marked a record low for the continent. The people of Snag thought it couldn’t get any worse. But it did.

On February 3, 1947, a little after 7am, weather officer-in-charge Gordon M. Toole ran out to the instrument shed to check on the thermometer. To his shock, the mercury had gone below the lowest mark on the thermometer. Since there were no numbers that low on the thermometer he couldn’t accurately tell what the temperature was, so he marked the place on the thermometer where the mercury had dropped and sent it to the Canadian Weather Service in Toronto for verification. They officially verified that the temperature had hit −81.4° fahrenheit, a new record for North America, and one that still stands today.