While my scientific mind knew that cold air is heavier than warm air and tends to settle in the valleys at night, until that first winter I never really realized just how cold those nights could be. The first December evening that I walked outside my house to look at the stars and check the thermometer near the woodpile, I found out. I quickly learned that high-desert valleys could create dangerous conditions where bare skin can freeze in minutes. After I tapped the mercury a couple of times to make sure the reading wasn’t stuck, I dashed back inside for a warmer coat. The temperature was 50 degrees below zero!
When the sun came up the next morning and temperatures rose into the mid-40s above zero, I drove into town. Everywhere I went the conversation was the same. People were talking about the record cold and what it had done to their livestock, water pipes, and crops the night before. One man at the local hardware store, who’d had to be on the job before the sun warmed the world, found that morning as he rolled out of his driveway that the rubber on his tires had become so brittle from the cold that they had actually cracked and broken. Continue Reading