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Coldest Month Ever: Northeast Bids a Bitter Goodbye to February

Image: People walk during low temperatures at Lower Manhattan in New York

People walk during low temperatures in Lower Manhattan on Feb. 20. EDUARDO MUNOZ / Reuters

You weren't imagining things. It really was the coldest month ever.

At least if you live in a handful of cities in the shivering Northeast. They just weathered the coldest month since reliable records were first kept, which for most places means a century or more of weather data.

Topping the misery index: Bangor, Maine — that's pronounced "bang-or," not "banger," if you can stop your teeth from chattering long enough to say it.

The average temperature there should come in at 6.2 degrees for this month, said Corey Bogel, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. That's about 15 degrees below normal and easily beats the old record of 8.4 degrees, from January 1994.

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Blame a stubborn jet stream, which for most of the month has acted as a superhighway for cold air, persistently funneling it from Canada or even Siberia into the eastern United States.

Sometimes these things have explanations. Powerful typhoons can alter the jet stream, for instance. Not this time. Not in this winter of air cold enough to freeze part of Niagara Falls and turn the gentle waves of Nantucket into Slurpees.

This winter is just one of those things.

"It's luck of the draw," Bogel said from the weather service office in Caribou, about 150 miles to the north Bangor, where it's been even colder — 2.5 degrees on average this month. "Usually these patterns last for a week or so. In this case it's been the whole month."

For cold comfort, the good people of Bangor can look to Syracuse, New York, which was on pace to set its own coldest-month record with an average of 9.2 degrees through Thursday morning.

Buffalo and Islip, New York, also get the distinction, as do Hartford and Bridgeport, Connecticut.

You might guess that Boston would be on the list, but not quite: 18.8 degrees on average, good for the second-coldest month on record.

Spare a thought for Beantown anyway: The snow total for this winter, also No. 2 all time, is 102 inches. Crews are still working to remove all the snow that fell there in a relentless series of storms.

The Northeast woke up to another frigid morning on Saturday. And the first day of March should feel — well, a lot like the end of February. The forecast low for Sunday is 15 in New York, 2 in Buffalo and an even zero in Albany, New York.

"I know you're totally sick of hearing about the cold," Ari Salsalari, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, said Friday before delivering more bad news.

The forecasting company Weather Services International calls for colder than normal temperatures in March in the Northeast, but the worst of the cold is expected to shift west, toward the northern Plains.