December 1989 was the coldest December in over 100 years in the Lake Erie snowbelt of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Mean temperatures of −9°C were 7°C lower than average and extreme minima reached −30°C. Snow fell on 20 to 25 days of the month and snowfall totals of 100 to 200 cm were twice the December average. Some locations reported record snowfalls and the greatest snow depths of this century. Several segments of society were studied to assess the impacts of this severe winter weather.
The severe weather had minimal impacts on school districts. Over half (54%) of the districts had no closures due to snow but costs for snow removal increased for schools. Ski centers reported a 50% to 100% increase in revenues over December 1988 and the best December skiing in many years. Lake ports had higher operating costs and loss of shipments. Costs for snow and ice control on Interstate 90 (I-90) in the snowbelt increased at least $1326 km−1 over December 1988, but traffic flow was maintained. Person-hours spent on snow and ice control on I-90 increased 59%. An average of 111 000 kg km−1 (200 tons mile−1) of salt and grit was spread on I-90, an increase of 50 000 kg km−1 (89 tons mile−1) over December 1988. Colleges, airports, agriculture, hospitals, urban mass transit, electric utilities, and government agencies had only minor disruptions due to the severe winter weather.