Commonwealth Journal

January 7, 2014

Pulaski seniors remember blistering cold temperatures in 60s

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Senior citizens around here don’t get as excited about the current cold snap as do youthful meteorologists who give forecasts on television.

The temperature dropped to 4 below zero early Tuesday morning but this is really small potatoes compared to the 28 below on January 24, 1963, or 32 below on January 19, 1994.

Charlene Cundiff well remembers that cold January morning in 1963.

“I lived behind what is now Calvary Baptist Church on East Mt. Vernon Street and worked at the old Somerset City Hospital on Bourne Avenue,” Cundiff recalled. “My car wouldn’t start ... and I had to get to work. In those days, if you had a job you were expected to be at work.

“I walked all the way from my house to the hospital,” said Cundiff. “It was really cold. I only saw one other car moving, and that was a cab taking someone else to work.” There were about 7 inches of snow on the ground.

 Wind chills were not in vogue during the early 1960s. There is no official record of how cold Cundiff felt as she walked to the hospital. However, she made it to work and is still around today to recall the incident. Cundiff lives at Somerset Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility on Gover Street.

Dorothy Muse, a resident of Ard Ridge “ about 11 miles out of Nancy,” remembers even colder weather in times past.

“I lived on the Cumberland River where Cumberland Point is now for 10 years before they put the lake in,” Muse said. “I can’t remember exactly ... it was 1938, ‘39 or 40 and it stayed 20 below zero for three weeks. Ice on the river was 14 or 15 inches deep ... my husband walked across the river down at Faubush Creek. She said the ice didn’t break up on the river until March.

“We had about 100 leghorn chickens,” Muse said. “We’d heat water on the stove and tried to keep water thawed for the chickens. It was so cold in our house that water in the teakettle would freeze if we left it overnight on the stove,” she said.

Muse’s place currently overlooks Lake Cumberland. She also remembers the winters of 1977 and 1978 when Lake Cumberland froze solidly with ice 8 to 10 inches deep.

After these memories, it seems almost shameful to mention the current brief cold snap in the same breath as those big chills of the past. Muse wonders why weather reporters on television don’t report these severe cold spells when they look back at weather history.

Frankly, we had gotten spoiled with about two decades of relatively mild winters. The Arctic blast that moved in Sunday night was a shocker.

According to records at Somerset-Pulaski County -J.T. Wilson Airport, the temperature reached zero about 11 p.m. Monday; dropped to 4 below about 3 a.m.Tuesday morning and struggled upward to 1 degree about 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Meteorologists said a “polar vortex” was the cause of the cold weather. The jet stream dipped southward, they said, allowing frigid air from up where Santa Claus stays, to dip southward.

 The latter part of this week is supposed to get warmer. Not warm, but warmer.

However, the warmup is slow. The temperature was still a frigid 12 degrees at 3:30 yesterday afternoon.