A New Low: cold snap in Montana



When I got up Tuesday, the temperature in our back room, where we’ve been sleeping since my surgery, was 39ºF, or just under 4ºC. Upstairs in the bedroom we’re not using, I hit the “on” button of an electric heater to check the temperature there: 26ºF (-3ºC). I’m considering opening the refrigerator door downstairs to help heat that room, and using the bedroom as a freezer.

The heater, by the way, did not seem to know quite how to deal with the situation. Instead of immediately churning out warm air, it sat there silently for a moment, then emitted a low, gradually rising hum and coughed a couple of times before its motor began a tentative and intermittent growl. Unsure whether the growl would settle to a steady purr or die off with a gasp, I hit the off button.

Now it may seem silly to take these temperatures personally, but just look at that map above. The purple/pink arctic air covers a good swath of central Canada, brushes North Dakota, and shoves itself all the way through Montana, as if aiming its blunt, frozen fingertip right at my home town of Bozeman, which lies just north of the point where the westward facing state profile gives way to a straight line. If we could get sufficient detail, I’m sure you’d see that the cold air is actually aimed at my house.

Winter is not fooling around this year. We got two feet of snow in mid November, and now we’re in the midst of a cold snap more typical of January than December. Outside, Tuesday’s average temperature was -18.6ºF, which translates to -28°C. That’s the average, which included the night’s low of -26.6 with the day’s high of –6.7.

We are quickly approaching that point (-40º) at which the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales converge. All distinctions, even those between these two scales, fade away; all that remains is the one universal fact upon which all can agree: it’s damn cold. 

Actually, temperatures are gradually moderating; it's already above zero today, and we'll be in the high twenties by the weekend. Think I'll break out my T-shirts.

As for how we manage in a house where the thermostat is never set above 60º, stay tuned and all shall be revealed.

13 Responses to A New Low: cold snap in Montana

  1. Yow, Kate!!! And here we thought it was cold down here. We laughed hysterically at an article telling us that we could save money on our heating bills by dropping the heat from 72 to 65 degrees F for 8 hours a day (our thermostat is set at a constant 58 degrees, and we wish we could get up the whatever to crank it down to 55). We’re dropping into the teens this week, which of course makes us want to huddle in the house, but compared to you, it’s balmy here. Yikes. Stay warm!!!!

  2. Oh Kate, mother nature is really giving you the finger isn’t it? I’d feel sorry for you, but as I said before you chose to live in such cold state. So I’m only feeling a bit smug right now. ;>
    BTW when I was growing up my dad set the thermostat at 52F. We lived in the mountains of Colorado. Luckily for me we had a wood stove and if I huddled near it I could stay warm. Getting in bed was not pleasant however. We had good down comforters, but you had to use your body heat to warm them up first. Arrrggghhhh! I might have used more colorful language at the time. I thank god that I can set my thermostat for the bedroom at 62F now. And I cheat and use bed warmers. I’ve become such a wuss over time.
    I hope you stay warm.

  3. um, at least it’s a DRY cold.

  4. I’ll send you some warm weather from Alaska (LOL). We’ve got the thermostat at 65 and we all wear sweaters but when the hubby leaves for work I crank it up to 67: feels like a heat wave.
    Christine from Last Frontier Garden

  5. Funny post. It’s not quite as cold in England but it’s getting there.

  6. I remember when I was growing up in Minnesota the wind chill hit -80 one day. There is certainly a point I think when you just reallize there’s little difference between -10 and -30 so whatever. You might disagree with me from the sound of your awful heater problems. My wife keeps one in her basement office–it’s 52 downstairs, 67 upstairs. (shorts weather for you, alas)

  7. It’s all rain here in Florida. Still good for the plants. :)

  8. Brrrr Kate!
    Hope the knee’s holding up well to the cold and the compost!
    Have a great Christmas and New Year :)

  9. My goodness, my nose would have frozen right off after sleeping in that bedroom! I remember leaving Iowa to fly to LAX for Christmas one year. The temperature in Iowa was -50 (with wind chill – it had been down to -60 or -70 already that winter) while the temperature in LA was 70. That’s 120 degrees warmer . . . how does that happen?! I hope you have lots of sweaters. I have the excuse of little children in the house, who are down lower and therefore in the cooler air, so the thermostat has to stay up fairly high for them (but I love it, too).

  10. that line about opening the refrigerator to warm up the place was classic ! hope spring comes sooner than later – gl – mark

  11. My goodness! We, here in New Zealand who are having a VERY cool summer, thought we were hard done by. All the best to you.

  12. http://roostershamblin.wordpress.com/ would you please spend a few minutes and check out my blog. I am a farmer who has been raising over fifty breeds of chickens for forty years.

  13. OFB-–I join in your hysterical laughter. It’s amazing how warm most Americans keep their houses in winter! Hope the cold didn’t cramp your style–
    “Oh Kate, mother nature is really giving you the finger isn’t it?” Thanks for the chuckle, Daphne; I hadn’t put it quite that way, but now that I think of it…
    As for growing up in a house with a thermostat set at 52 degrees, I’m not sure what to say, except that the only other person I know of with a similar story has written a book about it, which I heard about on NPR. Of course I don’t remember the title, much less the author. No, no, don’t thank me.
    Thanks, Michael. You can take it that this is a DRY comment.
    “I’ll send you some warm weather from Alaska.” Oh, ha, ha, ha, Christine. Though I would have laughed at the idea of freezing food in my bedroom, too.
    Garden Tips–Thanks. Has it gotten colder in the past month or two?
    eighty, Benjamin? Oh–with wind chill. Still, that’s cold enough to require a whole new vocabulary. As for the difference between -10 and -30, I actually think it’s pretty profound, though my experience is pretty limited.
    Rain, Grasshopper? “Rain?” I’ve heard of it….
    Thanks, VP. The knee is coming along well.
    Milk those kids for all they’re worth, VW. A 120 degree difference is indeed huge.
    Thanks, Mark. Glad you liked it.
    What I’m wondering here, Julianne, is what qualifies as a cool summer in New Zealand. Whcn I studied New Zealand in tenth grade geography, I thought it sounded like the perfect place to live.
    Fifty breeds of chickens? I can see where you get your name, Rooster!

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