It’s been cold in Columbus the past few days, and the weather app advises that the temperature outside right now is a bone-chilling 13 degrees.
It seems to be cold pretty much everywhere in the U.S. right now. Because our weather app also keeps track of temperatures in other areas that we care about, we know that it has been unseasonably cold in Austin, Texas, too, where people are struggling with a balky power grid and Richard and Julianne have been huddled with their dog and cats when the power has gone out. The champions of the February Cold Contest, though, are Russell and Betty up in Brewer, Maine, where the current temperature is -18 and the wind chill is a ridiculous, and dangerous, -40. Fortunately, the Maine power grid is more dependable than what the Austin area has to offer, and Russell and Betty have heat.
As a kid, I don’t remember my parents talking about specific temperatures or the wind chill factor; at most they might chat with the neighbors about it being an especially cold winter. The only temperature I really cared about was 32 degrees, because I hoped for consistent freezing temperatures to allow for snowfalls, sledding, building snow forts, snowball fights, and other winter activities. It may have fallen below zero from time to time, but the approach back then–by parents and kids alike–was to just bundle up some more, perhaps wrap another scarf around your neck, hitch up your snow pants, fasten the metal buckles on your rubber galoshes, and deal with it, because the weather was simply the weather.
More recently, gadgets like weather apps on phones and thermometers in cars remind us of the specific temperature all the time. The coldest official temperature in the Columbus area is 25 below zero, recorded at Rickenbacker Air Base on January 19, 1994; that day it was -22 at Port Columbus Airport (now John Glenn International). I’m sure I was in town on that day and dealing with the cold, but I don’t remember that day, specifically. It was a cold day, obviously, but there have been many cold days.
The coldest cold I recall experiencing occurred in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on a wintry day where we decided to go snowmobiling and the temperature was well below zero. It was so cold that it was difficult to take a breath outside, and the outfitter for our snowmobile trek emphasized that you needed to make sure that every square inch of exposed skin stayed completely covered, because otherwise it would freeze virtually instantly and you’d be dealing with frostbite. I took that advice very seriously, and was glad indeed to be supplied with lined coveralls, enormous mittens that extended up to your elbows, and multiple neck gaiters, along with my helmet.
Cold comes and cold goes. I’m glad to see that the temperatures in Austin, and Columbus, and Brewer are supposed to warm up, relatively speaking, today and tomorrow.