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Johnson County and cold weather

Two weeks ago I wrote a column about the unusually cold weather we were experiencing in this section of the country. It wasn’t that it was all that cold, it was just that the temperature stayed below 32 degrees so long — about 13 days I believe I heard someone say. I did a double take when I saw 2 degrees on my thermometer one morning during that time.
Since I’m not getting any younger, the below freezing weather didn’t agree with me very well. So, when moderate temperatures began to prevail, It felt as if a heat wave had come through. Now I know that many other sections of the country had it much worse than here. But on the other hand many of those people are used to it. For many it is just a fact of life that deep snows and bitter cold will prevail during the winter months.
For us it wasn’t just the cold. Snow was pretty deep for a few days recently and it melted off rather slow. The cold and snow sure threw the school and basketball schedules out of whack. Hopefully everything has gotten back to normal. Its almost a sure bet that we’re going to have more winter weather, I’m hoping that the worst is over. The last few days haven’t been so bad.
I’m reminded of a cold spell during the late ‘70s when it stayed below freezing for several weeks. The asphalt on the roads buckled and many people were burdened with frozen and burst water pipes. That is one memory I wouldn’t mind to forget. We were living in the Neva area at the time and I was in my early days of employment with The Tomahawk. Tire chains were necessary just to get out of our driveway. And, of course, the chains had to be removed after getting out to a cleared road.
My memory of younger days includes how we coped with the cold. We didn’t have central heating unless you call a roaring fire in a fireplace in the center of one wall central heating. That fireplace and the wood stove that my mother cooked on were the extent of our heat.
For those of you who think it just can’t get cold here in Johnson County, you might want to think again. The official record shows that on December 6, 1962, Mountain City recorded a temperature of 25 below zero Fahrenheit — the coldest spot in the nation. I was serving in the Army at Fort Eustis, Virginia at the time.
As I began to research the low temperatures that have occurred in this area, I found that on December 30, 1917, the temperature in Mountain City was minus 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrr, now that’s cold. And, that was a time when there was no electricity and probably few homes with indoor plumbing. I doubt too that home insulation was a main concern in that day.
By the time cold weather rolled around folks had already cut, hauled and piled their wood that would keep out the cold. A wood burning stove or fireplace produced uneven heat. To get warm it was necessary to get close to the heat. It wasn’t so warm when you got away from the stove or fireplace. A good memory was baking a potato in the coals of the fireplace or popping popcorn in the flames.
Moreover, the wood stove or fireplace didn’t heat the whole house. Back bedrooms would often be icy cold with the windows frosted over. It took three or four quilts to keep warm.
I must be quick to point out that extremely cold temperatures are rare in Johnson County. Most of the time winters are mile and summers are relatively cool compared to some other sections of the country. Good folks keep coming here from other areas to experience the changing seasons and they welcome the occasional cold and snow. It has been said that if you don’t like the weather in Johnson County, just wait a while and it will change. I’m waiting.