“Makes a man’s blood run cold. When it’s springtime in Alaska, it’s 40 below.” Billy Ray Nunley and other old timers will remember this hit song “North to Alaska” by the late Johnny Horton.
January 2014 probably felt like Alaska to our young whipper snappers, newcomers to the area, and fans of the good ole days who all got a taste of what an old fashion Grundy County winter is like. We do have a Grundy County connection to Alaska but more about that later.
Let’s get some official stats from our friends at the Big Creek Utility District dam in Coalmont. The year 2014 started out pretty nice on New Year’s Day with a high of 46 degrees and low of 27 with .33 inches of rain. The January rainfall total was 6.62 with 3.9 inches of snow for the month. January’s high temperature was 56 on January 20 and 8 below zero on January 6.
One major freeze a month is bad enough on cold natured people like me but three will about do you in unless you can tap your reserve of good luck from that New Year’s Day dinner of hog jaw, black-eyed peas and turnip greens.
Freeze number one started on January 5 with a high of 49 and low of 5 along with .7 inches of snow and .32 inches of rain. On January 6 the high was 8 degrees and the low was 8 below zero. On January 7 the high was 17 degrees with a low of 6 below zero. On January 8 the high was 41 with a low of 7 degrees.
Freeze number two started on January 21 with a high of 36 and low of 2 degrees with 2.5 inches of snow. January 22 had a high of 24 with a low again of 2 degrees. January 23 had a high of 20 and low of 5 below zero. It was probably that bad on January 24 but Big Creek’s temperature sensor malfunctioned so we don’t have a reading. No wonder!
They say the third time is a charm and what better way to kiss January goodbye than with yet another freeze. On January 28 the high was 13 with a low of 7 below zero and .5 inches of snow. January 29 had a high of 26 with another 7 below zero. A heat wave hit January 30 with a high of 38 degrees and a low of “only” 1 below zero.
Here in “rainy Palmer” I was afraid to even look at the thermometer but did have 4.0 inches of rain in my gauge. Our friend Danny Crabtree said about the cold, “I worked on construction several years in Chicago before moving to Arizona and it was this way in Chicago from October to March.”
We think of our valleys in Grundy County as warmer but not this January 2014. At 9:13 p.m. on January 28, Mr. David Taylor of Pelham had 4 degrees. The next morning, January 29, he had 10 below zero!
And, now, our Alaska connection to Grundy County: Kenneth H. Sissom was born in Palmer, Tennessee n February 7, 1931 and died in Palmer, Alaska on July 5, 1998. He had been stationed in Alaska and after retiring from the U.S. Air force made it his home where he became a well-known artist. Kenneth was a son of Howard “Dillinger” Sissom and to our knowledge Kenneth’s widow Carolyn Conry Sissom still lives “way up north” in Alaska.
This weather report may be viewed soon on the Grundy County Historical Society website at www.gchs.homestead.com.