This is What 1 Degree Looks Like

(Sunday, January 15, 2012, 7:35 a.m. EST, 1 degrees F)

“How long does it take to get frostbite?” I asked MEH (My Engineer Husband) as we came back to the car after shooting the video on the bridge. 

I asked him this question because MEH wanted to walk a little farther, to get one more photo. He threw me the car keys.

“Get in. I’ll be right back.”

I got in the car and cranked up the heat.

The predicted low for this morning was 0 degrees, but we didn’t quite make it. It was 1F degree as we crossed the bridge; a disappointing 2F degrees when we parked the car—but it was windy to make up for the warm up.

It’s not the coldest temperatures I’ve ever been in, and on the way home MEH and I talked about it. Forty below zero my freshman year in college in Minnesota, I said. I was from California, and it was the coldest temperature I’d ever heard of let alone walked outside in. My friend from Connecticut told me her dad once said if you get colder than 0 degrees it all feels the same. It didn’t.

One of the photos MEH took while I was in the car:
“Ocean on the Rocks”

MEH lived in Anchorage, Alaska, for a while. The story he likes to tell is that he took a year off from college and went back four years later. One winter he worked in a gas station with no heater, and it was thirty below zero on a regular basis. His shift was midnight to eight o’clock in the morning, and he spent the night running up and down the parking lot to keep warm. He pumped the gas so the customers didn’t have to get out of their cars. The first night he tried to wash a windshield, but the washing fluid froze to the windshield and the driver was not happy with him—so he stopped. He never had more than 10 or 15 customers any night. He did a lot of running.

Today will be a good day to edit at the dining room table. MEH will write some software at the kitchen table. His sub-zero running days are over.

How’s the temperature in your neck of the woods? What’s the coldest weather you’ve ever been outside in, and how did you cope?




  1. Beautiful video and photo. That’s the way I like winter… in a picture. I’ve always hated being cold. I grew up in the midwest and went south for college to get away from it. (Does running away count as a coping mechanism?) Now I’m in California and I don’t ever want to leave.

  2. 40 below zero??! I just can’t relate. When it’s 20 degrees I nearly get hypothermia. The coldest “weather” I’ve been in was probably the walk-in freezer when I used to work at TJs. It was horrible. Poor sandbar.

  3. Shary, Yes, this is the way winter is best appreciated, I so agree 🙂 Being on that bridge was not fun! Yes, running away definitely counts as a coping mechanism! I’ve used it MANY times (not for weather but…. well, never mind, that’s another blog). I think CA is lovely when you find a spot you love!

    Sara, Thank you for a very good laugh this morning — I can always count on you! And, yes, being on the bridge this morning definitely reminded me of a walk-in freezer! Poor sandbar and poor birds — honestly that’s what I kept thinking about: the ducks and birds and seagulls floating in the water… misery!?

  4. Oh my do I NOT miss those cold temps! But the video is beautiful (from my warm home). I recall those days of frozen car doors, dumping water down the hinges to get the vehicle open, entering from the backseat instead of the front and climbing over the seat (with a dress on) … But MEH…. Wow. I would have found a NEW job. Burrrr. And I don’t blame you for waiting in the car. This is why I now live in Arizona.

  5. Melissa, I’m glad you enjoyed the video — it really is SO much nicer from the comfort of home. Miserable. That’s a pretty funny story of your vehicle experience. (Although having had similar experiences, I doubt it was funny at the time!) And Arizona, Florida, and every other warmer climate, is sounding VERY good today, I must admit. Good choice!

  6. Mr. Byrne says:

    It was -10F over here in Western Maine this morning (Greenwood, to be precise). The snow feels extra crunchy underfoot in this weather. I love it most of the time, except when the heating bill arrives.

  7. Emma Pass says:

    Wow, that looks cold! It got to -10ºC here last winter, and that was cold enough for me! I had to make The Hound a scarf, and put his pyjamas on under his coat – and he was still shivering whenever we stopped to cross a road!

  8. Mr. Byrne, I know exactly what you mean about the heating bill… it takes a lot of courage to even consider the level in the oil tank at this time of year! I do love the feel of the snow crunching underfoot — very satisfying. I’m glad you’re enjoying the weather! It’s nice to meet you, and I appreciate the comment on my blog post!

    Emma, I think I can say with certainty that your hound is the first I’ve ever heard of that has pyjamas!! And a coat too! Very cool! He must look a jaunty fellow with his pjs, coat, and scarf on! Here’s to no more -10C degree days for you or the hound!

  9. Hi Julia, lovely pic c/o MEH – beautiful! It’s been unseasonably warm here, but has really turned cold this weekend. Jack Frost had visited overnight, and despite 2 pairs of socks and lined slippers, my feet have been cold all day! Last winter though, was in the minus’s. We had frozen water pipes, a couple of feet of snow, and ice that people had to practically crawl on to be able to get from A to B! Not nice! This year, completely different. We could have a late Feb/Mar snow though, as we sometimes do. I may need more fluffy socks!

  10. Barb Riley says:

    Brrr for you! We were in a single digit mini freeze just two short days ago (and last night), but today the temps are warming up to the 30’s. I’ve been in plenty of below zero (+ waaaay below zero windchill) weather here in the Midwest…the kind where your nostrils freeze shut when you try to breathe in. Editing sounds like the perfect way to cope—I must try that next time. 😀

    Your husband is my new hero (aside from Laverne DaFazio that is, lol). I love that he endured such conditions while in Anchorage. It’s good for the soul to be around someone who’s not wimpy. His story reminds me of some of my dad’s Depression-era stories. What doesn’t kill ya will make you stronger, right?

  11. Abi, Thank you c/o MEH 🙂 I wish I could trade in this Jack Frosty weather for the balmier weather we had a few weeks ago. Sigh. Like you I have layers on… my warmest wool socks and slippers plus a heavy fleece in the house. Still, brrr. Here’s hoping for an early spring! 🙂

    Barb, I guess your weather came east… hopefully we’ll get the 30s, too! I have to say that MEH is no wimp, it’s true. Many a time I’ve wimped out from the dog walk, but aside from infrequent business trips, he never misses a day! It’s definitely been good for my soul and my good fortune to have him in my life! (p.s. MEH says “thank you” and understands that Laverne is still in your #1 spot 🙂

  12. Becca says:

    We’re finally getting winter weather here after an unseasonably warm December and early January. It’s in the low -teens which isn’t terrible, but still feels bitter.

    MY engineer husband has a horrible time with the cold. He has peripheral neuropathy and becomes practically incapacitated when it’s this cold. So he’s definitely inside for the day! I don’t mind it too much, as long as I’m dressed warmly. But I made it an inside day too – tackled the pile of books on my bedside table.

  13. Ann says:

    The video is stunning, but WOW! That’s cold! It was in the 50s today in Florida – too cold for me!

    The coldest temperature I’ve ever been in was when we were up in Pennsylvania – and the temperature NEVER got higher than 8 degrees. …miserable!

    The coldest I’ve ever BEEN was when we lived in Sicily. The houses are made of stone and have no insulation or central heating systems. You used a portable propane heater. It never got freezing cold, but if it was 50F outside, it was 50F inside! You never got a chance to get warm….

    …I’m not meant to live in the cold!

  14. Wow, very pretty, crisp and cold! It’s been fairly warm here. Today was the first day it was cool since last year. I think the coldest it’s been here is in the 50s. Nothing like 1F!

  15. I don’t know the coldest it got, but I do know when I stayed a week in Albany, New York, it didn’t get any warmer than -12°C/10°F. Chances are it dropped as cold as you’re experiencing at the moment!


  16. Nancy Kelley says:

    I love winter. Cold weather is just an excuse to stay indoors with a book and have a bowl of hot soup–what’s wrong with that? I also love the way it looks, and I’m more than a little bitter that the snow I was promised never came.

    I grew up in Iowa and Kansas, so I’m used to cold cold temps. In Iowa, it would regularly get down to -30 or -40 windchill. They’d cancel school at that point, because it wasn’t safe for us to walk to school. I remember walking to school in -20 though, and even though the walk was only 3 blocks, I had a headache when I got there. Brrr!

  17. Becca, I’m sorry about your husband’s neuropathy — I can imagine how hard it must be to be physically affected by the cold. As you say, sometimes for us all it’s a good day to simply stay inside and tackle a pile of books (or in my case a pile of editing! 🙂 Here’s to warmer days without the cold challenges!

    Ann, Glad you enjoyed the video — from a distance is better for you, I know! 🙂 Your experience in Sicily does sound pretty miserable; inadequate indoor heat is something I’ve become used to living in an old house in Maine (although not 50s, yikes). We have warmer and colder parts of our house, and these days I’m always where I know I’ll find warmth!

    Leah, 50s sound amazing! My dad lives in CA and has a house on the coast north of San Luis Obispo (I think I may have mentioned this before)…. and he’s told me about the warm temps he’s had — sounds LOVELY! But 50s give you a nice variety — and still a nice temp for outside activities!

    Ashlee, Albany does get cold, a lot colder than here, I’m sure — sounds intense! Those prolonged temps in the subzero range are tough — does it make you glad you live in a more temperate climate? Or do you sometimes wish you had more extremes? Or do you get some extremely cold times?

    Nancy, Ah-ha! I knew there would be a winter-lover in here somewhere!! I so agree with you about the soup and the book — sounds lovely. But in my house, we just never feel warm, so maybe that’s part of my trouble with winter! Anyway, so sorry you haven’t gotten more than a little snow! But no question, you certainly have had it in the past! Iowa & Kansas were probably a lot like Minnesota — and yes, I remember those cold-induced headaches, yikes!

  18. Jamie says:

    Holy cow. That looked FRIGID. I’m with you running back to the car. What would we do with out heat? I swear sometimes in the middle-of-the-night, I wake up and just thank God for smart people who invented central heating (and that we can afford to run it.) I did visit my then boyfriend (later husband) and his family in MN around New Year’s — 40 below windchill. Exposed skin warnings on the TV. The video did look beautiful frozen…from many, many miles away.

  19. Liz says:

    I don’t even want to try to imagine anything that relates to only be 1 degree out! You are one tough woman, Julia. 🙂

  20. Jamie, Looks and FEELS frigid, let me tell you, and much much better from many miles away 🙂 I’m with you, give me running to the car every time! Glad to give you the distant view!

    Liz, I’m not as tough as MEH, let me tell you. Still, it really is all about the discomfort! 🙂

  21. Back in the early ’90s an ice-storm swept through Tennessee, and we were out of electricity for a week. We all huddled around the woodstove, and my dad would take my older brother and me out for a sled ride after lunch and before supper. It was such a magical time in my life that I can’t even remember how cold it was!

    By the way, sure wish MEH was still around to pump gas now! 🙂

  22. Jolina, We had a similar ice storm here in Maine, and I remember what a good time that was, too — without electricity but huddled around the woodstove. I agree, an absolutely magical time when things really stood still and it was possible just to enjoy the tiniest nuances. Thanks for reminding me of that time, Jolina!! (p.s. Wish we lived nearer by — MEH always has time to pump gas for his family and friends of family 🙂

  23. Right around here, it rarely gets down to freezing temperatures. Average lows during winter are around 7-8°C/46-47°F. It’s the upper temps in summer which I’d like to trade out! 40°C/104°F is common in summer, and I think the highest I’ve personally experienced was 47°C/116°F. Bleh.


  24. Ashlee, Wow, you really experience a wide range of temps–even w/out the freezes! I must admit that as much as I hate the cold and ice, at least I can stay inside when it’s too awful. The hot weather is much harder for me to tolerate — and here it rarely gets above 100 but I’ve been in the California and Arizona desert at about 115 so I know what you’re saying about BLEH.

  25. If I were MEH and I survived that job, I would tell the story to anyone who would listen. I lived in Boston for a year, and I remember it being pretty cold there. But I bet it was still warmer than 30 below. The city did have a lot of snow that year, and I fell, many, many times, on patches of ice. The fear of falling on slick surfaces has kept me from ice skating ever since!

  26. Jen, I’ve slipped on ice (and fallen) before so I know exactly what you mean. It’s truly terrifying! MEH rarely tells the story — I don’t think he considers it a big deal! Of course he also loves flying, sky diving, scuba diving, and many more dangerous things than being out in the cold — things I’d never consider trying!

  27. This morning it was about 25 degrees with a wind chill of 16 and 5 inches of snow. But the weather reports say that by Monday the temperatures will be in the 50s so that will take care of a lot of shoveling. 🙂
    But Reggie doesn’t mind one bit!

  28. Jackie, You’re so lucky you’ll be at 50 degrees soon — we won’t see that for a few months, I’m afraid! Enjoy the warmth (oh, and the inevitable slush, too!).

  29. I’m still waiting to get the Julia “head pop in the screen” or a “holy s*it” on one of these videos. Okay, maybe those are the videos I would make. Might have to do that one time.

    MEH is a trooper for enduring the 3rd shift at a gas station in Alaska. He was on Survivor before there was Survivor! You guys have been everywhere!

    Last week it was cold but today? Today the temp on my car said 53 degrees. I’ll take it.