Iowa has held the Republican caucuses every four years since 1976 in either January or February, putting them at risk for cold, but nothing like what happened Monday.
Iowans woke up on Monday to temperatures in the minus 10s with wind chills as low as minus 40.
With wind chills this extreme, frostbite is possible on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.
Monday’s caucuses were the coldest ever with high temperatures below zero across much of the state and widespread wind chills in the minus 30s.
The high temperature on Monday in Des Moines was 15 degrees colder than the previous coldest caucus day on January 19, 2004.
The record caucus cold spans the rest of the state, including other cities like Sioux City, Cedar Rapids and Davenport.
Much of the state did not climb above zero degrees Monday afternoon, something it’s been dealing with since blizzard conditions and then brutally cold Arctic air surged in Friday and Saturday.
Des Moines had been below zero since Saturday afternoon and didn’t climb above it until Tuesday afternoon, when it hit 1 degree. The city hadn’t been below zero since February 2021 before this brutal cold spell.
High temperatures have been nearly 40 degrees below average in recent days.
Even though temperatures rose in the afternoon hours Monday, they fell again as the caucuses kicked off at 7 p.m. Central Time.
Caucus-goers also dealt with slick roads from leftover snow from the weekend blizzard. Back-to-back storms brought nearly 2 feet of snow to Des Moines from Monday to Friday last week, the second-snowiest five-day stretch on record for the city.
Road conditions were improving across much of the state, Iowa DOT maps showed, but there were still partial and fully snow-covered roads across southern Iowa Monday.
The extreme cold in Iowa will moderate a bit by Wednesday as high temperatures hit the mid-to-high teens, before another shot of cold air arrives Thursday and drops high temperatures back into the single digits.
CNN meteorologists Rob Shackelford and Mary Gilbert contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the year that the Iowa Republican caucuses began. They started in 1976.
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