Monday, February 15, 2021

When cast iron heating stoves froze ...

Still in the icebox here this morning, although it looks as if the temperatures might claw their way briefly above zero on Tuesday and soar to 16 (F) on Wednesday. Intense cold is nothing new here in the south of Iowa, but this year's timing seems a little off. 

It's now 5:47 a.m., by the way, and the temperature has dropped to minus-11. Up in Mason City, my former home, the temperature is reported at minus-20, small comfort there but some consolation here, three hours south.

Back in 1875 that intrepid reporter and editor Dan Baker reported upon a cold spell in Lucas County that commenced in mid-January and then continued into early February. Here's his initial report from The Chariton Leader of Jan. 17, 1875.

THE WEATHER --- It makes us shiver to talk about it, but since our last issue it has reminded us forcibly of the Arctic regions. On Friday of last week, one of the worst snow storms that has been seen for years visited us, and the following Saturday was as cold as Norway, the thermometer indicating 25 degrees below zero in this city; since then it has been quite cold, but on Wednesday night and Thursday morning another severe attack alarmed the people, the thermometer indicating about 28 degrees below zero. Norway, Siberia, and Kamschatka would have been considered tropical by most of us.

Icicles hung suspended in the air glittering like burnished silver. The ringing music of the spheres was like unto a brass band; huge icicles hung pendent from travelers' eye-lashes, while a man's voice could be seen but not heard. Cast iron heating stoves froze and bursted on the outside, while red-hot within. Cisterns exploded, blowing themselves inside out, boiling oil thrown in the air came down frozen bullets; ninety-eight percent alcohol could be heard throughout the day blowing up barrels while pure bourbon whiskey and fourth proof brandy were retailed by the pound and carried home in gunny sacks. Jehu! but it was cold.

And here's the follow-up, published on Feb. 6.

The weather for the past week up to Tuesday morning has been moderately cool but not disagreeably cold. On Tuesday, snow began falling, the wind changed to the Northwest and all creation was again enveloped in another fearful snowstorm. The night was intensely cold and windy while the snow drifted in huge banks. Wednesday was quite windy and cold but the snowing had ceased. The thermometer marked 14 degrees below zero. Thursday was calm and clear and the sun rose brightly, but the mercury indicated 22 degrees below zero. Thursday, however, was far more agreeable than Tuesday and Wednesday. The prospect now is good for mild and gentle zephyrs from the land of canebrakes and orange blossoms.

No comments: