Measuring the Greatness of the Winter of 2014
It has been a wild and woolly ride the past 3 months but now it is time to bid a "not so fond" farewell to the Winter of 2014.
While astronomical winter began just a few days before Christmas, to understand the true legacy of the season one has to go way back to Veterans Day. I spent the day in Olive Hill Kentucky as the Vietnam War Memorial was re-dedicated on a blustery and cool November day.
The next morning the first of what would be more than 40 snow days graced our presence with a coating of white greeting the school bell. Who knew back then what we would soon endure?
Two weeks later, we all figured something big was up when the first White Thanksgiving in 24 years provided early morning hunters with a tracking snow on November 28th.
So I am going to take the next several days to recount the winter season of 2013-2014 as I build the case for its GREATNESS.
Let’s start with the intense cold!
If a winter is going to make a name for itself it has to start with cold weather. In recent years, temperatures have struggled to get as low as 10 degrees even in the dead of winter. So when the mercury bottomed out at 8 above zero on January 3rd, Old Man Winter established his bone chilling intentions!
By Monday the 6th the now infamous Polar Vortex (aka the Meteorological North Pole) had nestled from its typical position on the Arctic Ocean to the Great Lakes, a displacement of several thousand miles.
That noontime, I recall reporting along side Hattie Cheek outside our Huntington studios. The mid day temperature hovered near 10 degrees with the wind chill even more frightening.
That night Keith Dickess across the river from Huntington at the Christmas tree farm near Myrtle Ridge in Lawrence County Ohio reported an 11pm temperature of -5 (as in 5 below zero) as photojournalist Dalton Hammons and I braved the near zero downtown chill for our live shot.
Tuesday morning dawned with arctic sea smoke on our rivers and a glistening rime ice coating our trees.
It was the coldest day of the still young 21st century as the sunrise temperature hovered at -3 in Charleston and -4 in Huntington. Meanwhile rural reports of -15 to -20 in Ohio were rather pedestrian.
For 4 solid weeks, cold wave after harsh cold wave swept through our region accompanied by blinding whiteouts, thunder and lightning and even a phenomenon known as snow rollers (tumble weeds of snow blown into balls in open fields).
By month’s end, the temperature had fallen to zero or below on 5 separate nights including the newest cold standard of the winter; namely 5 below on January 29th.
It was now the coldest in 18 years and while the biiter air was about to ease up, it would soon come at the expense of more snow!
January as a whole earned its way into the record books as one of the top 10 coldest in history.
Our rivers froze thinly bank to bank in spots, though old timers recounted stories of the great river freezes of the late 1970s!
More to come in the nights ahead but suffice it to say, for the first time in a decade (last time being 2003) even Klondike Tony is glad spring is here.