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The cold old days

February 2, 2019

This week was definitely no picnic in the park. The -13-degree reading Wednesday set a record for that date. But ask anyone who’s lived in Fort Wayne for awhile : it’s been worse.

How about early Christmas morning 2004? It was -15 here then.

And there was Jan. 19, 1994, when it reached -18 here. That was the day they logged -36 degrees in New Whiteland, a tiny town south of Indianapolis : said to be the coldest temperature in state history.

For chilling news, you couldn’t beat the early 1980s. The record low high temperature for a day was -11, on Jan. 20, 1985. In 1983, a record 66 hours of continuous below-zero readings was logged at the airport between Dec. 23and 26. And who would not like to forget the infamous winter of 1981-1982? The low spots included a reading of -18 on Feb. 10.  At one point that day, the Associated Press reported, Fort Wayne was the coldest spot in the United States : including Alaska. Meanwhile, snow was piling up on the frigid ground : until a fast thaw in early March led to the Flood of 1982.

Fort Wayne’s coldest recorded temperature was -24, on Jan. 12, 1918. Storms and cold caused four days of “unprecedented suffering,” according to The News-Sentinel, and it could have been worse if the city’s fuel supplies hadn’t been replenished by the arrival of  20 rail cars of coal on the morning of Jan. 16.

Feb. 2, 1905, must have been memorable, as well. At 7 that morning, the temperature had dropped to -12. By midnight, it had climbed to -5. But, a Journal Gazette writer reported, “that failed to express just how cold it really was, for the air was damp, instead of dry, and a sharp wind blew through the frigid atmosphere through the thickest garments and almost froze the marrow in one’s bones.”

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