ColdTemps

It was 45 years ago this week when the kind of cold weather you would remember 45 years later occurred.

Of course, Jan. 9, 1977 will be remembered by Vikings fans for another Superbowl Sunday when they didn’t win, losing to the Oakland Raiders.

However, that day is still remembered by residents of Cameron, Chetek and Rice Lake as being the lowest unofficial temperature ever recorded in the great state of Wisconsin. More about the “unofficial” title later.

Jim Czerwonka, age 86, of Cameron stopped by to share some memories of the event and show off a button and bumper sticker that commemorate it.

“Ardie (his wife) and I went to bowling league on Saturday night and then went and danced at the VFW in Barron.

“The next morning, for the first and only time in my life, I saw snow crystals. It was like snow freezing in the air.”

At the risk of sounding a bit like an old “Tonight Show” Johnny Carson routine, “How cold was it?”

It was so cold, that home heating oil gelled, and furnaces stopped running.

It was so cold, hundreds of cars stalled. The engine oil was so thick cars were impossible to start and the tires frozen solid. Some cars with stick shifts were frozen in gear.

It was so cold an eerie ice fog settled over Rice Lake.

It was so cold that storm windows shattered and nails from the siding on a house popped out like rifle shots as the cold contracted the siding.

The local weather story made national news.

Then chief deputy Jerry Johnson, who lived just north of Cameron, reported that his thermometer read minus 60 that frigid morning. That remains the record for the lowest unofficial temperature reported in Wisconsin.

In order to be an official reading, the national weather service requires that the temperature be measured at an airport with an approved thermometer. Mercury freezes around minus 40, and the thermometer at the airport in Rice Lake froze and burst at minus 44 degrees. Therefore, minus 44 is the official temperature for that date.

In a related story on the front page of the Jan. 13, 1977, edition of The Chetek Alert, on Monday it was still  quite cold, and firefighters were called out to extinguish a fire at the Black Bass bar on Main Street (now known as 2nd Street). Some of the firefighters suffered frostbite.

The fire was spotted and called in by a man going to work that morning. That man was Harry Bossany. The building was a total loss and some of the firemen suffered from frostbite.

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