Surviving Cold, From The Past To The Present - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Surviving Cold, From The Past To The Present


The Quad Cities is no stranger to record and near record low temperatures in January.

As cold as it's expected to get, some of the historical records plunge even farther down the thermometer.

Burlington's record of -24 dates back to 1957.

Dubuque's record low is -32, going back all the way to 1887.

Moline holds a record low not far off, -27 set originally in 1884.

Cold weather has been here as long as there have been people to record it.

Ways to stay warm certainly have improved, but historians say our reaction to cold weather has also changed.

Step back to the turn of the 20th century. Coal and horses, instead of gas and cars. It's a wonder people just didn't give up during winter.

"This is the forerunner to the goose down, buffalo robes and horse hide, this is a mitten," says Orin Rockhold, giving TV-6 a tour of the Rock Island County Historical Society Museum.

He says this generation had its own techniques for staying warm. Imagine using animal skin and rocks.

"They had a wool cover, there's a buffalo hide cover, they had horse hair covers, they also used soapstone foot warmers, they'd put this in the fire and heat it up and it'd probably last a couple hours," says Rockhold.

Oddly though, the archives don't mention temperatures much in the late 18-hundreds.

"Here's a farmer who said we had to gather eggs several times a day so they would not freeze," says Kathleen Seusy, showing TV-6 a newspaper from the 1930's. She didn't experience that kind of winter weather growing up in England. Moving to America in 1959 though, changed that.

"Bit of a shock coming here with horrible winters and lousy summers," says Seusy.

She says the archives talk more about temperature as we move through the 1900's. She believes cold snaps take center stage now, because most of our heat comes on at the flick of a switch.

"We have nice warm houses, we get into warm cars, so I don't think that we expect it to be, expect to feel that cold."

We may also make it worse for ourselves.

"Think about it years ago we didn't worry about wind chill, now we go out figuring we're going to be terribly cold," says Seusy.

If you're feeling pretty chilled over the next couple of days, think about the past.

"I think we get pretty hysterical about temperatures, and we aren't used to being out," says Seusy.

"Had a drawer that you could put the coals from the fire, the red hot coals, and it would stay, as long as those coals didn't burn down, it couldn't get much oxygen so it would last quite a while," says Rockhold.

At least we've survived enough winters to have moved past warming rocks in our stoves.

Just for fun TV-6 also looked at the record highs in the month of January.

In Burlington it was 70 in 1989.

Dubuque hit 63 in 1897.

Moline's temperature topped out at 69 in 1989.

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