So You Think This is Cold?

Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2008 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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“Boy it sure got cold last night.”
“How cold was it?”
“It was so cold that the town flasher ran up to a woman and described himself.”
 
As I sit here at my computer desk looking out the window, it’s hard to realize that on the other side of the glass, just a couple feet from my face,  lies certain death if I were to venture out there without my insulated boots and my KELO parka on.
Even then, I wouldn’t last more than an hour or two before turning into a pillar of ice.
Flirting around with temperatures in the 20 below zero range is deadly dangerous so I’m stayin’ real close to the heat register until it warms up or the furnace gives out or Linda and I run out of wine.
 
Truth is, folks, if you think this is cold…as Britany Speers said to the paparazzi just before she got out of the car, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
 
The coldest temperature I’ve ever been exposed to (no pun intended) was in the winter of 1966. I was working for the R.L. Polk Company and had been sent to Williston, North Dakota to update information for the new city directory.
The weather guy on TV in my motel said it was 46 below zero and advised viewers to avoid going outside if possible.
Well, I had a job to do and decided to try starting my 1949 Ford flathead V/8 that was parked just out the door.
The engine groaned but actually turned over a couple times. To my amazement, the thing fired and roared to life. It took a few seconds for the fan belt to get a grip on the water pump and stop squealing but before long, the heater was pushing out little puffs of warm air and I was set to show everybody in town that neither I nor my old car could be intimidated by this obscenely frigid North Dakota morning.
I pushed-in the clutch and managed to get the gear shift lever, stiff from the cold, into reverse.
The engine was running, the transmission was engaged..but when I let out the clutch the car wouldn’t budge.
I stepped out and discovered the reason why; all four cord tires were frozen into position..slightly flat on the bottom and unable to roll.
I took two days of waiting inside that Williston motel before it warmed up enough to allow people and machinery to thaw out and move again.
 
So, 20 below? Ha, that’s nothing. In fact, at the risk of encroaching on Trobec, Karstens, Mundt and Barlow weather territory, I did a little research into the lowest temperatures ever recorded in each of the 50 states.
As you might expect, Alaska rings the bell at the coldest reading; minus 80 at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971. Second coldest was at Rogers Pass, Montana in 1954 when it dipped to 70 below. Tower, Minnesota has that state’s cold record of 60 below in 1996.
It got down to 58 below zero in McIntosh in 1936 for South Dakota’s coldest reading.
Incidentally, South Dakota’s hottest temperature of 120 degrees also occurred in 1936 at GannValley.
Ah, the land of infinite variety.
Somewhat surprisingly, every state in the union except Hawaii has recorded below zero temperatures. It got down to minus 2 in Tallahassee on February 13th 1899. That same year it dropped to 16 below in Minden, Louisiana. 
So you see, there’s really no real escape so we might as well make the best of it where we are and sing a cheerful little song like this one written by Garrison Keillor to the tune of Singin’ in the Rain.
 
We’re singing in the snow, just singing in the snow, What a glorious feeling, it’s twenty below,There’s three feet of snow,So lovely and white,And the weatherman says,We’ll get more tonight.Some folks may head south,That’s fine, let ‘em go,But I’m singin, still singin in the snow.
 
Got any cold weather stories you’d care to share?
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