Of the Baker City Herald

The staticky voice on the police band radio displayed a mixture of incredulity and dismay.

andquot;The bank thermometer says 3 below,andquot; said the man.

It seems, based on the context of the garbled conversation, that he is a snowplow driver.

Half a minute later he repeats the statement, almost like an incantation.

As horrific as the sight of that bank thermometer must have been, at least the driver didn't have to see the one at the Baker City Municipal Airport.

The thermometer there, at about 8 o'clock this morning, showed this number: 11 below zero.

Almost eight years have passed since the temperature at the airport has fallen farther.

On Feb. 3, 1996, the low at the airport was 15 below. That concluded Baker County's coldest snap in several years, with lows on the previous four days of 13 below, 17 below, 20 below and 15 below.

Meteorologists don't expect a similar stretch of arctic weather now, although they say more snow is likely later this week.

The only glitch reported this morning involved the diesel tank where Baker City snowplows take on fuel.

The frigid weather caused the diesel to gel, said Dick Fleming, the city's public works director.

andquot;They weren't able to get any fuel out of it,andquot; Fleming said. andquot;The tank is above ground, and it gets the brunt of the cold weather.andquot;

Fleming said city crews fueled up at a gas station instead.

Temperatures probably haven't been low enough long enough to freeze many pipes, he said.

The deep snow helps, too, acting as an insulating blanket that slows the spread of frost below ground.

Unless you know your pipes are susceptible to freezing, Fleming doesn't recommend running a trickle of water through your taps, the traditional way to foil frost.