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Deep Freeze Fun
Baker City Braves Arctic Chill During Christmas Twilight Parade
By Jayson Jacoby
Hot cocoa, if it can be said to have a flaw, can’t be easily tossed to eager children watching a parade.
Candy, of course, is the traditional parade handout.
But have you ever tried to eat a Tootsie Roll that’s been subjected to a temperature of 3 degrees?
Never mind what kind of gum four out of five dentists recommend.
All five would warn you off the frostbitten hunk of chocolate nougat (or whatever a Tootsie Roll is made of).
Nonetheless, the tooth-cracking potential seemed not to discourage kids who lined Main Street Saturday evening for Historic Baker City’s annual Christmas Twilight Parade and Tree-Lighting Ceremony.
Members of several floats heaved handfuls of sweets across the snow-covered street, and the kids scampered after the goods with aplomb.
As much aplomb as a person can manage who’s swaddled in multiple layers, anyway.
It’s no minor feat to pluck a foil-wrapped caramel off the concrete when you’re wearing Iditarod-rated mittens, either.
The temperature continued to plummet after the last morsel was collected and the final carol sung.
It bottomed out at 20 below zero Sunday morning at the airport, making it the coldest day here in almost a decade (see story "The Big Chills," below).
That broke the record for Dec. 8, which was 13 below zero, set in 1972.
But 20 below is well short, as it were, of threatening Baker’s all-time record for frigidity.
The coldest temperature ever recorded at the airport is a truly alarming 39 below zero.
That was on Dec. 30, 1978.
The runner-up was five years later, when the temperature plunged to 34 below zero on Dec. 23, 1983.
Temperatures of 20 below zero or colder are not common here, but several have been recorded at the airport over the past 35 years.
Even more rare, though, is for a winter to pass without the temperature going below zero on at least one day.
There have been just three such winters since 1965-66, the first for which detailed records are available. Those were the winters of 2004-05, 1997-98 and 1980-81.
Sub-zero days have been slightly more common the past few decades.
The average for the period 1981-2010 was 8.5 sub-zero days per year.
The average for the previous three-decade period (averages are updated once per decade), 1971-2000, was 8.4 days.
• 1961-1990: 8.1 days.
• 1951-1980: 7 days
The overall average, from 1943 through 2012, is 7.4 below zero days per year.
THE BIG CHILLS
Sunday’s low of 20 below zero was a record for Dec. 8, and the lowest temperature at the Baker City Airport since Jan. 5, 2004, when the minimum was 21 below zero.
But chilly though it indubitably was, Sunday’s low posed no real threat to Baker’s frigid landmarks.
Here’s a list of the coldest days at the airport, where records date to 1943:
• -39: Dec. 30, 1978
• -34: Dec. 23, 1983
• -28: Feb. 7, 1989
• -27: Jan. 1, 1979
• -25: Dec. 22, 1990
• -25: Feb. 4, 1985
• -22: Feb. 2, 1979