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The Weather Outside is Frightful... or Soon Will Be

By Mike Watson

The weather outside is frightful one more time, or so it will be in a few hours. Temperatures dropping into the teens, with snow, sleet, ice. Who wants to go out in that type weather, but often it is a necessity. In the past the weather has been, at times, frightful.

We in Kentucky have had plenty of snow and ice in winters past and the professionals are anticipating a cold, icy, white weekend beginning any hour now. When the white plague is on the ground, even if it is not a record in any way, cabin fever and the accompanying symptoms seem to overtake so many of us that open rebellion comes into the minds of many.

Here are a few weather notes assembled from nearly forty-five years of research into Adair County's past:


The first week of January 1886 brought a very cold snap, with temperatures in the region dropping well below zero. Stanford, in Lincoln County, officially recorded a week-long low of 24 degrees below zero. Rockcastle County registered 28 below. Adair County was likely in the same temperature range.

February 1886 came in with a big, white bang. All across Kentucky, Adair County included, and from Maine to Texas, a heavy snow began and for two days and one night the fall was considerable, with several days of light snow to follow. The totals for Adair, as far as existing information reveals, were from 18 to 23 inches of light, fluffy snow, with little wind to create drifts. The temperatures reported across the region spanned from 11 to 18 degrees at first, but dipped dramatically in the days that followed, preventing melting. At the height--or depth--of the February cold, 29 degrees below zero was recorded at Roundstone, in Rockcastle County, which may be taken as an indicator of the low temps in the whole region.

Across the state the snowfall was much the same. From existing news accounts, older residents had never seen a deeper snow, except in the latter part of 1862, when 20 to 24 inches fell in parts of east central Kentucky.

Incidentally, most in this area heated and cooked with wood, which they generally cut themselves. However, the purchase price for a rick of wood was between 50 and 75 cents, and for those who did use coal, the price was 13 cents per bushel.

Early February 1907 saw eight to twelve inches all over Adair and Russell Counties. January 1917 brought eight to ten inches over much of Adair County.

Thursday, January 24th, 1963 was the national weather day for Adair County. National news shows reported the official low temperature, a record so far as official statistics could reveal, was 30 degrees below zero at two or three locations in the county. Temperature as much as 36 below was recorded elsewhere in the county, but was considered "unofficial." Bradfordville, in Marion County, tied with Columbia on the 24th with 30 below. The following week Henry Giles, in his column Spout Springs Splashes, reported that neighbor Carl Lemmon's thermometer registered 35 below zero, was on a tree in the yard. Mr. Giles' had 28 below at 4:40 a.m. on the fateful date.

On Tuesday, January 22nd, four to five inches of snow had fallen and temperatures began to drop. There was considerable wind with the weather front and drifting became a problem. I often heard our dad, Carl Watson, speak of the drifted snow being even with the fence posts on our farm out 704 on Earls' Ridge, between Old Concord-Walnut Grove School, and Inroad.

Schools in Adair were closed on Wednesday the 23rd and remained closed into the following week due to the extreme, extended cold and lack of melting.

I'll not even mention the white plagues of 1977, 1978, 1994, and subsequent times, which is more "current events" than "history"!

Keep warm and dry, avoid driving--ice is not our friend!


This story was posted on 2022-02-03 14:17:41
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