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January 11, 2010

Back when it was REALLY cold...

Cold? This isn't cold. Here are some snippets from the Baltimore Sun printed during this week in 1912, a week that saw temperatures drop to minus-40 degrees in Oakland, Md., the lowest ever recorded in the state.

"Hagerstown, Md. Jan. 13 - Last night was the coldest in Washington county in the last 50 years.

"Weather observer D. Paul Oswald, near Chewsville, reported a minimum temperature of 27 Cold weather Washingtondegrees below zero, shown by a Government thermometer ...

"The lowest temperature reported in the county was at Smithburg, where John Bayer's thermometer, hanging near a small creek, registered 33 degrees below zero..

"The Potomac River is frozen over from shore to shore at Weverton and Williamsport.

"Fruit growers generally believe that the intense cold has frozen the wood in peach trees and destroyed the prospective peach crop, except in orchards located in the mountain foothills, where the cold was not so intense. The ground is covered with 12 inches of snow and ice on the ponds is from 8 to 12 inches thick..."

In Baltimore, meanwhile...

"Headlines: Bread Lines at Stations; Police Give Big Quantities of Food, Fuel and Clothing; Hundreds of Families Aided.

"Jan. 15, 1912: Much relief work was done by members of the Police Department yesterday among those who are suffering as a result of the intensely cold weather of the last week. In every district the men working the posts have found large numbers of families in want, and these have been supplied with food enough to last them several days, fuel and clothing...

"Fifty persons were adequately clothed at the Southern Police Station yesterday, and the supply of clothing has not yet been exhausted. Saturday and yesterday, 3,000 families were given provisions sufficient for two days, and any person who appeared without sufficient clothing to protect him from the cold was taken into Capt. Cole's office and fitted out from head to foot. No applicant for assistance was turned away unsatisfied...

"Mrs. Mary Stevens, a widow with three small children, was discovered helpless in her home, 1415 Belt Street, by Patrolman Hoeflich in the afternoon. There was no fuel in the house, and neither she nor any of the children had good shoes. Want of shoes, the woman said, had caused two of the children to remain away from school for the last week...Ice storm, Baltimore

"[In the Northern Distict,] the station had the appearance yesterday of a department store, where anything, from potatoes to coal, might be obtained....

"The police of the Eastern District were busy all day preparing for the distribution of food, clothing and fuel to the poor today. Large donations were received at the station. Once man called the station by telephone and told the lieutenant in charge that he would send 500 loaves of bread. Many people left money, food and clothing. The men in the station were busy heaping things in piles, while the patrolmen on their beats were looking out for cases of destitution."

"Port Deposit, Md. Jan. 14 - Ice conditions at Port Deposit tonight look bad.

"In the deep tidewater, off the south end of town, the ice averages about 14 inches, and at the north end of town, or Rock Run, it is from 8 to 15 feet thick, being compressed and jammed by the swift water of a four-foot flood on the early freeze January 5. Since the last movement of the ice, the intense cold has cemented it in high ridges extending in places to the Harford shore...

"Ellicott City, Md., Jan. 14 - Howard county is now experiencing the coldest weather since 1888.

"This morning at 6 o'clock the thermometer here registered 10 degrees below zero. At Highland, 10 miles form here, 12 degrees below was recorded.

"It is feared that if the intense cold continues for a few days longer there will be a water famine, as the water pipes are all frozen up and many persons are now using water from the streams. It is reported from numerous sections of the county that many rabbits and partridges are being found frozen and in many places partridges come to the farmhouses and are fed with the domestic fowls. Ice 10 inches thick is being harvested..."

(Above: AFP/Getty Images/Nicholas Kamm/Washington December 2009; Below: SUN PHOTO/Mark Bugnaski/January 1994)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 7:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Winter weather


I thought this story was fascinating. It gave so much insight into what life was like nearly a century ago. I was especially interested in how the police looked out for people in distress and how people stepped up to help them.

FR: Agreed. I only included a few bits from the coverage. Every police district in the city collected for the poor, freezing and destitute. Officers on patrol kept watch for families in trouble, and delivered the relief themselves. It's a pattern that turns up regularly in these old clips. Makes you wonder how police-communitty relations might improve if the police did more such good works today. Donations poured in from across the city - goods and money. And all this because of a cold spell. The clips also remind us of the difficulties many of our grandparents and great-grandparents faced when they came to a new city or country, and the ready willingness with which they pitched in to help each other.

1913 ranks #7 since 1849 for lowest sunspot activity.

When the graphic was made...year-to-date sunspot count...through Oct 2009...ranked 11th. Not surprising we/re experiencing similar wx conditions.

Full article @

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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