Subzero temperatures. Power outages. School closings.
Thursday was a day Lancaster County residents would probably like to forget. Its place in weather history, however, is assured.
Data from the Millersville University Weather Information Center dating back to 1914 say Thursday’s high of 13 degrees was the lowest high temperature on record for Jan. 31. The previous record, set in 1996, was 21 degrees.
The frigid conditions forced most county school districts to cancel classes and others to delay start times.
More than 2,600 customers in the Bowmansville area lost power for at least an hour Thursday morning, according to a PPL Electric Utilities spokeswoman.
Monday, when temperatures could climb into the 50s, seemingly can’t come soon enough. But, in the meantime, here’s a look back on other unforgettably cold days in Lancaster County.
Three dates — Jan. 18, 1994; Jan. 24, 1984; and Feb. 2, 1961 — come to mind.
Jan. 18, 1994
A day after a snowstorm dropped more than a foot of snow in the area, “bone-chilling cold and high winds” gripped Lancaster County on Jan. 18, 1994, the Intelligencer Journal reported the next morning.
Newspaper records show the mercury fell below freezing and overnight wind chills dipped to 45 degrees below zero.
The heavy snow caused the roof on the parish center at Our Mother of Perpetual Help School in Ephrata to collapse. The school was closed at the time, so nobody was hurt.
The night before, a 70-year-old man died of “hardening of the arteries brought on by exertion” while clearing snow with a snow blower, the newspaper reported.
Two young Holstein dairy cattle also died when a shed roof collapsed at a Lititz farm.
Jan. 24, 1984
“Treacherous Glaze Sends Pedestrians Sprawling, Shuts Schools,” Lancaster New Era’s front-page headline read.
Sleet and freezing rain that morning wreaked havoc on major Lancaster County roadways, the newspaper reported. More than 50 traffic accidents were reported, most of them resulting in minor injuries. Major highways, such as Route 30 and Route 23, were shut down temporarily because of the “skittery ice glaze and large number of vehicles that were stuck.”
About a dozen people were also injured after falling on icy sidewalks.
“In my 13 years as a policeman, I’ve never seen anything like this,” then-Lancaster city police Sgt. Gary Metzger told the New Era. “This is absolutely the worst.”
“It was a real circus,” added Don Neiswender, Lancaster supervisor for PennDOT at the time.
An East Hempfield Township police officer transported a woman who had hurt her head in a vehicle accident to a local hospital after the West End and Hempfield Community ambulance associations couldn’t get there because of the icy conditions.
“There were some places you just couldn’t control your car,” the officer, Robert Berninger, told the paper. “If you had ice skates, you would have been in good shape.”
Feb. 2, 1961
Newspaper records show Feb. 2, 1961, was the record-breaking 15th consecutive day with temperatures below freezing.
The official low, the Lancaster New Era reported, was minus 14 degrees.
About 1,900 electricity customers in Columbia and Wrightsville lost power, and 100 East Petersburg residents were without water because of the frigid conditions, the newspaper reported.
The New Era said state police were called to the home of Strasburg resident Ray Horn after he heard “intruders” rummaging around the house at 3:45 a.m.
It turned out to be something much less threatening: an innocent flock of pigeons who flew into the attic to get warm.