Billings had its sixth-coldest December on record in 2016, the National Weather Service said.

The average temperature for December of 18.7 degrees was the sixth-coldest and about 7.8 degrees colder than normal.

The coldest year was 1983, when December’s average temperature was 8.6 degrees, said meteorologist Joe Lester, who compiled the December statistics.

Billings sunk to minus 32 on its coldest day that month, Lester said. December 1983 had “eight straight days when temps did not get above zero at all. That will drive down your average,” he said.

Billings’ third-coldest December was in 2009, when the average temperate was 16 degrees.

Winter continued its grip on the region for the opening days of 2017, with West Yellowstone being the cold spot in the nation with a minus 36 degrees at 7 a.m. on Thursday. By early afternoon, West Yellowstone had warmed to minus 2 degrees.

Heavy snowfall in Billings last month also made December 2016 the snowiest on record for the city, according to the National Weather Service.

Billings received 30.4 inches of snow in December, an increase of 22.2 inches from normal, Lester said.

More than half of the snowfall happened on Dec. 15 and 16, when the Billings airport picked up 16.9 inches, making the snow depth 20 inches on the morning of Dec. 16. The 20-inch snow depth was the highest since 1978.

Outside Billings

Elsewhere, Livingston’s average December temperature of 18.8 degrees was its fourth-coldest month, with 1983 also being its coldest ever with an average temperature of 12.2 degrees.

December 2016 for Sheridan, Wyo., was its 10th coldest month with an average temperature of 15.4 degrees. December 1983 also was the coldest for Sheridan, which had an average temperature of 6.8 degrees.

December 2016 in the Billings area began with mild temperatures but turned cold on Dec. 5 and remained very cold through Dec. 18 as snow cover increased across the area, the NWS said.

The heavy snowfall in Billings at mid-month also dropped heavy snow west of Billings, with Big Timber getting up to 23 inches.

Regional temperatures on Dec. 17 dropped to the minus 20s and 30s while ground blizzards from blowing and drifting snow on Dec. 18 and 19 led to the closure of Interstate 90 from Livingston to Park City for about 27 hours. Peak winds at Livingston hit 83 mph.

Another heavy snowfall of eight to 12 inches over Christmas Eve and Christmas caused more blowing and drifting snow across southeastern Montana and Sheridan County, Wyo.

And there is no immediate relief from cold and snow.

‘We’re going to warm up just a little in the next few days,” Lester said.

But a colder weather pattern is expected through next week.

“No thaws,” he said.

The outlook for January is for an increased probability of below normal temperatures.

“The odds are weighted on the colder, wetter side,” Lester said.

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Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.