So far, the 2010s have been quite a cold decade

Published 8:05 am Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cold enough for you?

That question never gets old. We love to ask it when the air is clean and the temperature is sharp. We brag about the cold.

Cold weather is the time of mittens, wool socks and ugly hats. It was so cold this year that our fireplace flew south. I kid. We don’t have a fireplace. It would be nice. On a cold day, we could move into the fireplace. I don’t have a fireplace because of something my father said on a cold January day. The wind gained speed as it blew through the cracks in our old house. I built a fire in the living room and my family gathered around the flickering flames for warmth. It was then that my father said, “I wish we had a fireplace.”

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My neighbor Crandall has a case of the miseries. Whenever the temperature hits 20 degrees below zero gesundheit, he catches a cold. He has one of those colds that spreads easily like soft butter. To others, his cold would be, at best, a minor irritation. To Crandall, it’s the bubonic plague. His self-pitying rants remind me that when men catch colds, they’re more severe than any cold a woman could ever contract. Men’s colds are the worst in the class. If you don’t believe me, ask any man. Crandall used enough facial tissues that the pile of them equals his total body weight. He tossed the tissues onto the floor because he didn’t have the strength to place them into the wastebasket. Crandall is glad that he is ill. He reasons that he’d hate to be well and feel the way he does. He’ll survive. He is in the second stage of a bad cold. His colds go through two stages: First, he was sure he was going to die. Then he was worried he wasn’t going to die. If he had a fever, it would help heat his house. It’s so cold that the sweat equity in his home froze.

Here in Hartland we have a Winter Carnival. It consists of trying to get all the cars started on a cold day and of all the farmers to drive to town after a blizzard.

It’s so cold that if a highway patrolman pulled you over, he’d refuse to get out of the squad car.

It’s so cold that when I went to the mailbox, I bumped into my own frozen breath on my way back to the house.

As cold as it is, I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m bored with the cold.”

Herman Melville wrote a letter to his sister. “The weather here has been cold as ever. Other than the weather I know not what to write about.” My father told of a man who after he had talked about the weather, was lost for words.

The coldest temperature recorded in the United States was registered at Prospect Creek, Alaska. It was -79.8 degrees Fahrenheit on Jan. 23, 1971. Prospect Creek is a pipeline camp about 20 miles north of the Arctic Circle. I can imagine how much joy anyone in that camp derived from asking others, “Cold enough for you?” The lowest temperature recorded in the contiguous 48 states, -69.7 degrees F, occurred on Jan. 20, 1954, at Rogers Pass in Lewis and Clark County, Montana. This location is in mountainous and heavily forested terrain below the summit of the Continental Divide.

The coldest temperature ever in North America was at the Snag Airport in Yukon, Canada, on Feb. 3, 1947. On that day, the temperature dropped to 81 degrees below zero F. Canada is the coldest country in the world based upon average annual temperatures.

Barrow, Alaska, has an average annual temperature of 9.4 degrees. That’s not just winter. That’s for the entire year. It averages 321 days annually wherein the minimum temperature is below freezing. When a Frenchman visits Barrow, he is wearing a brrrrrrrrret. Barrow receives less than 5 inches of precipitation annually.

The coldest temperature ever recorded is 129 degrees below zero in Antarctica on July 21, 1983. The ice-fishing tournament was canceled. Weather has a mean streak.

The average January temperature in Yakutsk in Siberia, which claims to be the world’s coldest city, averages 42 degrees below zero. If glasses are worn outside, they could freeze to faces.

The state record low temperatures are:

Iowa: -47 on Feb. 3, 1996, at Elkader

Minnesota: -60 on Feb. 2, 1996, at Tower

North Dakota: -60 on Feb. 15, 1936, at Parshall

South Dakota: -58 on Feb. 17, 1936, at McIntosh

Wisconsin: -55 on Feb. 4, 1996, at Couderay.

Residents of these communities had only three things to say. “At least the sun is shining,” “It could be worse,” and “Cold enough for you?”

Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.