Recent cold temperatures are hardly unprecedented

Re. the Advocate’s Dec. 15 front-page story, headlined Chilled to the bone: The last several days have seen some pretty harsh weather, worse than we have experienced in the past several years. However, speaking as a historian, it is difficult to describe the conditions as truly record breaking or unprecedented.

Re. the Advocate’s Dec. 15 front-page story, headlined Chilled to the bone:

The last several days have seen some pretty harsh weather, worse than we have experienced in the past several years. However, speaking as a historian, it is difficult to describe the conditions as truly record breaking or unprecedented.

For example, the blizzard which struck Red Deer on Dec. 14 and 15, 1964, was literally life-threatening.

The storm began on Monday, Dec. 14, with wind chill factors reaching -40C.

Overnight, conditions turned much worse.

By morning, temperatures had plunged to -35C with winds gusting up to 70 km/h.

That created wind chills factors at an astonishing -73C, the worst ever recorded in Alberta.

With the resulting huge surge in natural gas consumption, gas pressure began to drop.

Some people’s furnaces began to go out.

There were tragedies from the storm.

Clem Trimming, a resident in North Red Deer, was found frozen to death in his house after his heater went out.

A woman in Edmonton was found frozen to death in a parking lot after she fell and no one initially noticed her on the ground.

Another very brutal blizzard struck on Dec. 13, 1924.

Nearly 60 cm of snow fell in three days and high winds created enormous drifts.

By Dec. 15, temperatures plunged to -46.1C and the following two days dropped even further to more than -50C.

It was difficult to tell what the actual temperature was in the city as most thermometers stopped working.

Towards the end of the week, things had improved slightly.

On Dec. 18, the low for the day was only -45.6C.

So, while the weather has been miserable this year, it is not unprecedented.

And, as we are now experiencing, eventually a nice chinook comes along.

Michael Dawe

Red Deer