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    Cold  Waves                


    Dr. John Lining's "Sudden Change" of 1745  

         January 10, 1745 was a warm day at Charleston, South Carolina with a maximum temperature of 70 degrees at 2:00 p.m., according to Dr. John Lining.  That night, an arctic cold front swept through and dropped the temperature to 26 degrees by next morning - a 44 degree drop in 17 or 18 hours.  Another 24 hours, morning of the 12th, found the temperature down to 15 degrees.


    Severe Cold Wave of 1748

         An arctic cold front blustered its way through southern New England sometime prior to morning of February 17, 1748.  The 17th was a bitterly cold day throughout New England.  This cold front swept off the Atlantic coast probably before the 18th, for the thermometer on the 18th hit a low of 10 degrees at Charleston, South Carolina.  Governor James Glen found some birds frozen to death due to the cold.  He also lost 300 orange trees in that cold wave, and all the orange groves in the surrounding area were wiped out.  Governor Glen also lost an olive tree one and one-half feet in diameter.


    Cold Wave of January, 1754

         At Salem, Massachusetts the thermometer registered 48 degrees on January 21, 1754 according to Edward A. Holyoke as quoted by David Ludlum.  However, an arctic cold front was bearing down on the region, and after a brief shower of rain between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. that evening the wind switched to northwest.  This frontal passage ushered in very cold air.  Before morning of the 22nd, the thermometer sank to 12 degrees F ? a fall of 34 or 35 degrees in less than 12 hours.


    Southern Cold Waves of 1766 and 1768

         Two more southern cold waves hit in January of 1766 and January of 1768.  The temperature was measured at 26 degrees on January 3 of 1766 by John Bartram on the St. Johns River in northern Florida.  T. Frederick Davis later gave an interpolated 20 degree reading for Jacksonville, Florida that day.  The cold of 1768 killed orange trees in Louisiana.  On January 17 and 18 of 1768, ice was seen floating in the Mississippi River at Natchez, Mississippi.  Ice also formed a few yards from shore at New Orleans at that time.  At Pensacola, Florida, the thermometer dipped into the teens. 


    December Cold Wave at Natchez in 1800

         Just south of Natchez, Mississippi on December 11, 1800, the morning temperature stood at 37 degrees.  Light snow fell that day, and the mercury sank to 20 degrees by evening.  By next morning, the thermometer registered a low of 12 degrees at one location and 11 degrees at another and never rose higher than 32 degrees all day of the 12th.


    February, 1899 Cold Wave



     Surface Weather Maps for 8:00 a.m. (top) and 8:00 p.m. February 11, 1899.

    Notice the deep low pressure area pulling away at top right over

    New Brunswick, Canada and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

    Then notice the huge high pressure area coming down over the

    Northwestern United States from Canada.  The deep low with its

    center off the map to the northeast is what paved the way for the

    huge arctic high pressure area and record-setting cold wave.

       From February 5-8, 1899, the Middle Atlantic region of the United States was in the grip of a blizzard as a powerful storm made its way up the Atlantic Coast.  Over that four day period, Baltimore, Maryland got nearly a foot of snow, while Washington, D.C. received 14 inches.  As the powerful low pressure area which brought the blizzard began to move away on the 8th and 9th, temperatures east of the Mississippi River began to fall rapidly, for that low had opened the arctic air flood gates, and some of the coldest air ever known in the United States began to pour down from the arctic regions of Canada.  Early afternoon of February 8 brought below zero temperatures to all of Ohio.

         However, already on February 7 temperatures had sunk to -61 in Montana and -59 in Minnesota.  February 8 saw the thermometer struggle to reach a "high" of -39 degrees at Roseau, Minnesota - the second lowest high temperature ever registered in the contiguous 48 states.  Morning of February 9, 1899 saw the temperature at Toledo, Ohio (Lucas County) down to -15 degrees, and that city's high temperature for the day was -2.  Cleveland (Cuyahoga County) registered -14, Youngstown (Mahoning County) had -12, downtown Columbus (Franklin County) had -13, and the thermometer at Cincinnati's Abbe Observatory (Hamilton County) showed a low temperature of -17 degrees. Still the coldest air was far to the west.  Huron, South Dakota recorded a low of -46 degrees on February 9, while the temperature sank to -63 degrees at Norway House, Manitoba, Canada.

         As the heart of the cold air moved overhead during the night of February 9-10, the intensity of the cold increased.  By morning of the 10th, the arctic air had dropped temperatures at Republic, Michigan to -50 degrees, while White River in Ontario, Canada plunged to -54 degrees.  Meanwhile schools in Athens (Athens County) closed as the thermometer went to 30 degrees below zero.  In the Zanesville area of Muskingum County, thermometers registered between 20 and 30 degrees below zero.  Ironton, Lawrence County, reported -27 degrees that morning.  At Caldwell in Noble County, a low of -40 degrees was recorded, while some people in Jackson (Jackson County) reported -42 degrees.  Some people reported frozen thermometers, which is not surprising since mercury freezes at -39 degrees.  Officially, the coldest temperature in Ohio was set that day at Milligan, which was in Perry County, as the official thermometer there registered -39 degrees. Factories and schools throughout Ohio closed due to the cold. The cold was so intense that it froze the ears on hogs in the stockyards at East Liberty, Pennsylvania, causing them to fall off at the least touch.

         By February 11, the atmospheric pressure rose to 31.42 inches at Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Canada, but the cold wave in Ohio had passed its peak.  In fact, the low temperature at Indianapolis, Indiana was a mere -16 degrees on the 10th, and temperatures were beginning to rise at the rate of two degrees per hour.  Out west, however, cold weather still prevailed.  At Leadville, Colorado, 1000 men went to work with picks and shovels clearing snow and ice off the tracks of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad so coal could be transported to the smelters and miners could continue to work.

         The Potomac River froze solid from bank to bank.  Tug boats were kept out of port for four days on Lake Michigan because of ice.  In Pennsylvania, The Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at Pittsburgh were frozen, and the Ohio river also froze.  Numerous tow boats were stuck in the ice with an estimated 8,000,000 bushels of coal marooned between Pittsburgh and Louisville.  Pittsburgh reported that, "an almost impenetrable fog hangs over the city", and a dense steam fog also rose from the Ohio River at Cincinnati so that objects could not be seen.  At least two people in the towns around Pittsburgh froze to death.

         Back in Ohio, frostbitten ears, noses and feet were fairly common.  Water pipes and natural gas pipes ruptured.  Telegraph and telephone lines snapped in the cold air, disrupting communications.  At East Liverpool, Columbiana County, the potteries had to close due to frozen clay and burst steam pipes.  Buildings and trees in the Zanesville area filled the night of the 10th-11th with cracking sounds.  Large numbers of quail were found frozen to death along the roads near Chillicothe, Ross County.

         All 48 states then in the Union registered below zero readings during this cold wave.  Tallahassee, Florida recorded -2 degrees on February 13, 1899, and Minden, Louisiana registered -16 degrees -both state cold records which still stand today.  Camp Clarke, Nebraska had a low of -47 degrees on the 12th - also a state cold record which still stands.  There was sleigh riding in Montgomery, Alabama for three consecutive days.  Ice floes floated down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico on the 17th.  Snow flurries were seen at Fort Myers, Florida, and Lake City, Florida received three inches of snow.  Freezing temperatures went all the way to Miami.  Half of the Georgia peach crop was estimated to have been killed with the other half partly killed.   





    Copyright ? 2006 Ronald Hahn. All Rights Reserved.