But, knowing I WON'T be in Florida, Arizona or on a Caribbean island, this or ANY winter, I offer some meteorological thoughts about the cold and how you can best prepare for it (if you haven't already), I'll share some personal cold weather history with you, to wit:
- The coldest air temperature I ever experienced (actual temperature, not wind chill) was 54 degrees below zero Fahrenheit in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, at 8 in the morning. It was in February, 1960. I was working at a television station there as their weatherman. I knew the night before, because of the extreme cold, I would have to plug in my car's headbolt heater to keep the engine warm and able to start in the garage. The next morning, knowing it was 54 degrees below zero, thanks to the radio weather report I heard that morning, I got into my car, turned the key and nothing happened except a grunting sound. I lifted the hood and found my engine covered in ice. The headbolt heater worked for part of the night, but the power went out during the night and froze the moisture on the engine. Long story shortened: A fellow broadcaster who lived a block away had no problems starting his little car and drove me to the TV station to start my shift. (For those who might not remember or know about headbolt heaters, they're a rod that fits into a spot normally reserved for one of the bolts that helps hold the car's engine together and actually reaches into a safe part of the engine itself, attached to an electric plug that, when plugged in, heats the rod that warms the engine, enabling a fast engine start-up on the coldest mornings, if the electric power doesn't shut down!)
Most important to know, in my opinion: That 54 degrees below zero morning was typical for sky conditions and atmospheric pressure. The sky was clear (with small ice crystals dancing in the air at the surface) and the barometric pressure very high. High pressure in winter ALWAYS means it's accompanied by colder air. High pressure, because of the heaviness of the colder air, moves away much slower than low pressure, thus, when we have high pressure dominating our part of the country during the winter, we can expect the cold air to remain for longer periods of time.
- The coldest wind chill I ever experienced was 66 below zero while walking two blocks to the campus of The University of Minnesota in the early 1970s. I was the weatherman on KSTP-TV, on my way to give a class a "weather talk". I was walking to the class building from a parking garage, but forgot to bring or wear a hat and coat. I had forgotten my own forecast from the night before and had to keep my eyes open while the wind was coming straight at me. When I got to the classroom, it took the full hour of that weather talk to thaw myself out, then walked back to the parking garage, but with the wind at my back. Truthfully, what I did was potentially life-threatening, thus I never again forgot one of my forecasts.
For YOU: Common sense should prevail when dealing with winter weather conditions. One can actually freeze to death or experience hypothermia (reduced body temperature) if skin is exposed even five minutes in temperatures below 32 degrees above zero. IF you have to be outside in winter weather, please remember the following common sense:
- When driving, in your car's trunk should be at least one blanket, a flashlight, a box of matches, a shovel (preferably one that folds in half), rubber high-boots and a tightly-sealed one gallon can of gasoline. Obviously, you should be wearing the most protective winter clothing, too and have a fully-charged cell phone to make possible emergency calls.
- When not driving and you find it necessary to be outside, try to wear the warmest clothing possible, in layers. Outer coats should preferably be down-filled. Thermal underwear is also strongly recommended. Again, these are all common sense suggestions, but we can never be reminded too often about their importance.
In regard to this coming winter, late autumn has already provided a preview of what we can expect in Minnesota and Iowa this coming season. Best advice for this winter, in my opinion: Don't leave the comfort of your living quarters if you don’t have to. Keep safe and warm.
Thanks for reading, as always.