Wednesday, January 03, 2001

December deep freeze among the worst ever

Cold and snow particularly brutal on Kentucky farmers, homeless people

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — Each day, David McGlone braved bone-chilling conditions to break ice and toss out hay to keep his cattle alive through one of Kentucky's coldest Decembers on record.

        “It seemed every day the ice got a little thicker,” he said.

        His efforts through the long stretch of freezing temperatures paid off. The Carter County farmer didn't lose one cow through the cold spell and even added to his 70-cow herd with the arrival of seven calves.

        December was the coldest, or among the coldest, ever recorded across much of Kentucky, the National Weather Service said.

        In Louisville, the average temperature last month was 25.1 degrees, besting the previous December record of 25.3 degrees in 1989.

        It also was the snowiest December in more than a half century. The city received 13.9 inches of snowfall, the highest total since 15 inches fell in 1939, weather service meteorologist Mike Crow said Tuesday.

        In downtown Louisville, the homeless found shelter at the Wayside Christian Mission to get away from wind-chill readings dropping as low as minus 30.

        “You basically have bodies in every nook and cranny you can make space for,” said John Matala, men's program coordinator at the mission.

        Every night in December, patrols combed downtown Louisville, looking for people with nowhere to go to elude the cold, Mr. Matala said. The homeless were found shivering under viaducts, at campsites and even at abandoned car washes, he said.

        The conditions made it easier coaxing them to the mission, he said.

        Mr. Matala said 3,427 people sought shelter at the Wayside Christian Mission in December, up 11 percent from the same month a year ago.

        The mission braced for another overflow crowd Tuesday night, as the temperature was expected to plunge to 5 degrees.

        Last month was the second-coldest December recorded at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, with an average temperature of 25.1 degrees, the weather service said. The only colder December occurred in 1989, when the temperature averaged 23 degrees.

        An estimated 5.8 inches of snowfall fell at the Lexington airport this past December, near or slightly above average, Mr. Crow said.

        Frigid conditions settled in on both ends of Kentucky as well.

        Paducah endured its coldest December on record, said Jeff Hovis, a weather service meteorologist in the western Kentucky city. Last month's average was 25.9 degrees.

        It was almost a record breaker for snowfall, as well. The 6.8 inches that fell trailed only the 7.1 inches in December 1984, Mr. Hovis said.

        “As far as temperature and snowfall, this December will be a measuring stick for winters to come,” he said.

        In Jackson, the average temperature in December was 28.2 degrees, nearly 10 degrees below normal, meteorologist Tom Light said.

        The Appalachian community received 10 inches of snowfall last month, the fourth snowiest December since 1981, when record-keeping began at the Jackson weather office, he said.

        At the airport in London, the average temperature last month was 28.6 degrees, dipping nearly 9 degrees below normal, he said.

        At Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, the average monthly temperature dipped to 23.2 degrees, 10.3 degrees below normal, Mr. Crow said. It was the fourth-coldest December on record at the airport in Hebron.

        A warming trend is on the way, however. Temperatures are expected to reach around 40 by the weekend, the weather service said.


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