UPDATE: Will 2021 set a new record for coldest Mardi Gras day?
It was a near miss for the lowest recorded temperature on Mardi Gras night. This year is unofficially one degree from being the coldest recorded Fat Tuesday according to meteorologist Donald Jones with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles.
Historically Fat Tuesday and Valentine's Day have combined for some of the coldest Mardi Gras in Louisiana's history.
Lafayette Airport reached 16 degrees last night Jones said. The coldest recorded temperature was 15 degrees in 1899, the year of the St. Valentine's Day Blizzard. The lowest high on Tuesday is expected to be 33. The lowest high was 30 degrees in 1899.
Also known as the Great Blizzard of 1899 or the Great Arctic Outbreak of 1899, the St. Valentine's Day Blizzard created the coldest Mardi Gras on record. On Fat Tuesday, which fell on Feb. 14 in 1899, the high in New Orleans was 38 degrees with the low being 22 degrees. The city experienced three inches of snow and ice on the ground according to the National Weather Service.
In Lafayette, proper Mardi Gras parades were just forming as the coldest Mardi Gras on record hit. In 1896, the first city-wide celebration was hosted. A year later, the city had it's first carnival ruler — King Attakapas, named for Lafayette's first residents.
Across the country, record low temperatures were being set. February 1899 was the second-coldest February in the contiguous U.S., behind only 1936. The average temperature was 25 degrees, only 0.27 degrees warmer than in February of 1936.
The coldest March Mardi Gras was set in 2014 in New Orleans. The high on March 4 was 42 degrees and the low was 35 — 10 degrees warmer than expected tomorrow.
What about the warmest Fat Tuesday?
Only 18 years later, in 1917, the warmest Fat Tuesday was recorded. On Feb. 20, the high was 83 degrees, with a low of 68 degrees, giving a mean temperature of 75.5 degrees in New Orleans according to the National Weather Service.
The high is tied with 1932's Mardi Gras, which also reached 83 degrees on Feb. 9. However, the low that day was 67, bringing the mean temperature down to 75 degrees.
Records for Mardi Gras with the National Weather Service go back to 1874, five years after the earliest surviving printed account of Lafayette's Mardi Gras was recorded in the Lafayette Advertiser.
It was Fat Tuesday, Feb. 13, 1869, at Lafayette's Old Parish Courthouse.
"Last Tuesday was a festive day to all, the old had grown young, and the young were merry over the coming travesties, rapidly succeeding each other," an unknown author wrote for the newspaper, the early version of The Daily Advertiser.
"The party was quiet, was gay, and we believe gave satisfaction to all and so did the old and young trip on the 'light fantastic toe' until 3 o'clock owning to the disordered state of all watches present.
"Well Mardi Gras and Ash Wednesday comes but once a year. What's the difference. The only thing we regret is that Mardi Gras does not occur a little oftener."
The Mardi Gras party got so out of hand the parish police jury passed a law the following year — the courthouse would no longer host balls, concerts and parties. In 1871, the law was scrapped and the courthouse once again was open to free party-goers.
Contact Victoria Dodge at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Victoria_Dodge