January Thaw

HERD ABOUT IT? by ana grarian

It was 40 degrees at 6 o’clock this morning, and the weather service is calling for highs around 50 for the next several days. Nothing unusual really, maybe a couple of weeks early for a traditional January Thaw, but otherwise not out of the ordinary. We’ve always looked forward to this break in winter weather in CNY. Of ten it gave kids an opportunity to play in huge snow drifts, build snow people and forts and go sledding without freezing their little faces off.

 

I remember one year when the daytime thaw, nighttime freeze, and a little rain, left a hard, shiny crust on the snow. My daughter and her friends spent so much time playing and sledding inside our bunk silo, they got a sunburn from the reflected sunlight.

My Mom and I would turn off the heat and open doors and windows for a few hours in the middle of the day while we cleaned, to air the house out and chase away some germs. It might only get to 50 degrees out, but folks would be outside in t-shirts and sometimes shorts.

January thaw could be a dangerous time for livestock held in barns. The dampness caused by the thawing and the animals would gather inside the now warm barn, creating a perfect incubator for illness. Respiratory illnesses were common. The rapid changes in temperature and wind direction, made it difficult to manage air quality in a barn that had been sealed up against the more typical zero degree with wind weather of winter.

And THAT is what is different!

In an area where water pipes are buried 4 foot in the ground to prevent freezing (and sometimes that isn’t enough). Where folks have often had to leave faucets dripping overnight in northwest  exposed kitchens and bathrooms. Where heat tapes were a necessity, and we usually kept our tractors plugged in at night – the strange thing is that we have almost nothing to thaw.
OK – so we had a couple of weeks of winter. We got some snow and wind. It even got cold a few times. But normally that would have occurred around Thanksgiving! We should have been buried in the stuff by now!
January Thaw was so much fun because it was a break in a looooonnng winter. It was usually preceded by several weeks of temperatures below zero. ZERO! We used to often hear – “Nope. Won’t snow tonight. Too cold to snow”. Now we only note that IF it snows it probably won’t stick cause it’s too warm. The snowiest time of our winter lays ahead. February and March bring heavy wet snows because it is usually warmer. Warmer used to mean above 20.

Who knows what this winter will bring, but it’s hard to really appreciate a January Thaw, when there was no freeze, and so it instead seems to portend another long 100+ degree summer.