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Baby, it’s cold outside

Occasionally we experience a dip in temperatures that gets everyone in the Deep South all abuzz. Add the fact that it is the same night as the Iowa Republican Caucus and you have a non-stop news frenzy on television.
I am writing this from Compass Lake because I know from experience that even in the Florida panhandle you need to drain the pipes and cut off the water. We had a similar weather event last year that caused the water pipes on the dock and in the boathouse to burst. It is not the same as having water in your house, but a pain, nevertheless.
I recall a few events with cold weather in the south. Auburn is the furthest north I have ever lived, and it tends to run about 7-10 degrees cooler than Donalsonville. That is actually pretty nice in the Summer, and we like the more pronounced seasons we have living on the Plains.
I only recall two major snow events, though even a dusting of snow can cause chaos in South Georgia and South Alabama. We once had a White Christmas in Donalsonville before traveling to visit my parents in Panama City. The three inches of snow blended in with the white beaches and made an amazing picture against the lapping waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
The most snow to hit the south in my lifetime was in February of 1973. My fraternity happened to be having a Winter Formal at Maggie Valley, North Carolina. I talked my parents into letting me borrow their motorhome and a few couples left Auburn on Thursday morning. Little did we know we were getting out of Auburn just before the roads would close.
After 14 inches of snow, less than half of my SAE brothers and their dates were able to make the trip. Instead, they were trapped in Auburn, dodging snowballs being thrown from the top of Haley Center, the tallest building at the university.
We had a great time in North Carolina despite the small crowd. It was like a private party with our own band. It was minus five degrees on top of the slope and my moustache froze. Given my frequent falls on the icy slope, half of my frozen moustache broke off. The next morning, I was sporting a freshly shaven face.
On another bitterly cold day in South Georgia, the big Loquat trees that flanked the entrance to our rear drive froze. The single digit temperature of that day was not suitable for these sub-tropical type fruit trees. It was a tough loss as we watched the trees quickly die.
After cutting them back, we noticed a small growth coming from each of the two stumps. The growth was no thicker than my small finger. A couple of years later the trees were back, as full of fruit as ever. It was a great example of the resilience of nature.
Ironically, Mary Lou and I are leaving in two weeks for a long-planned trip to Antarctica. This bitterly cold weather is giving us the opportunity to check out our gear before we depart. Although it is Summer at the bottom of the world, it will still be below freezing while we are there.
The winner of the 1950 Academy Awards for Best Original Song was “Baby, it’s cold outside”, which was eventually sung by a dozen prominent singers over time. As we hunker down for the latest polar vortex, be careful and stay warm. It is indeed cold outside.
Dan Ponder can be reached at

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