Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Brrrr -26 in Junction City

With the arctic blast we got last week many may think that this is the first time that this area has ever experienced such extreme cold. However in the museums scrap book collection there is an article dated January 4, 1947 that reports the temperature reached twenty-six degrees below zero that morning.

 “This almost-unbelievably cold temperature was reached about 7 a.m. after a steady drop throughout the night, according to L.W. Sargent, local weather observer.”

 The Sargent family had for many years been the local weather observers.  It had started with Linden who was famous throughout the state for his “goose bone” weather forecasts. He claimed that he could tell the severity of approaching storms by the markings on the breast bone of a freshly butchered goose. His obituary states “The secret to reading these bones was learned from the Indians in the early days in Junction City.”  

His son Les, also known as L.W., was also interested in weather patterns. At the age of 18 Les started keeping weather information. In 1947 Les had served as Junction City’s official U.S. Weather Bureau observer for around 20 years. Les owned all of his own equipment except for a rain gage on loan from the U.S. Weather Bureau. Every day he would record the wind, maximum and minimum temperature, and the precipitation including in what form the precipitation fell.     

            The article notes that this weather beat the previous record low in recent years of twenty below in 1943.

Near zero weather all day on Friday set the stage for the record temperature. The highest temperature reading Friday afternoon was 8 degrees Fahrenheit. By 5 pm the temperature had dropped to zero and was falling fast. At 6pm “the mercury stood at 3 below, 12 below at 9 pm, 18 below at 10:30 pm, 24 below at 5” that morning. The coldest measurable temperature was 26 below zero at 7 am.

            The temperature slowly started to rise as the sun came out. By 8:30 am the temperature had risen by 1 degree and by 9:30 am it was 17 below zero.

            Accompanying the cold was a relatively calm day which mitigated the cold to some extent. At 8:30 am it was observed that there was not even enough of a breeze to move the smoke from the chimneys.        

            This was observed by many as they tried in vain to start cars that refused to budge in the frigid temperatures. It was noted that “taxis did a flourishing business” as they hauled passengers to work and other errands.

            “Plumbers, who have been kept on the run all week with frozen water pipes, had a new flood of call this morning.”

            Mechanics were “kept busy thawing frozen motor cars and conditioning them for the Artic-type weather.” Tow trucks were much in evidence around town that day also.

            Many old timers were not much impressed with the frigid temperature as they remembered lows of 30 below zero in 1911 and 1898.

            The article concludes that all main roads were open in Junction City but that the county engineer’s office reported a few side roads were still blocked by drifts in eastern Geary County. Some areas were cleared only enough for a single car to pass and it would take several more days before they will be completed. Plow operators had been clearing the roads up until 4 am and were back on the job today.