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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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Today is the 20th anniversary of the coldest morning ever in northeastern Pennsylvania.  It hit 21 degrees below zero.

While I wasn't at WNEP at the time, I was a TV reporter down the street, and here's what I remember about that day.

I was a normally daysider, scheduled to start work at 9 AM, but on this day, I had the early morning shift because the woman who usually held that position had the day off.

My car started just fine, and I made it to work without a problem.  The rest of the day moved non stop, which was a good thing because it was too cold to stand still.

I don't remember the order in which a photographer and I knocked off the stories, but I recall we talked with trash collectors in Scranton.  They were dressed for the cold, and they really didn't seem to mind.  The reasons-- their constant movement keeps them warm, and trash smells less when it's cold.

Bus loads of pro lifers were headed to Washington.  The next day was the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, so I talked with a few about their annual march.  They were on a mission.  Cold wasn't a factor.

There was a water main break in front of the state veterans home on Penn Avenue in Scranton.  The water froze nearly as fast as it bubbled from the ground, and it sent up wisps of icy vapor.  Here's what made that story especially difficult.  We wanted to do the water main break live in our morning newscast.  One of our cables became brittle and broke in the cold.  We had to use a shorter spare cable.  Due to the length limitation, and because we needed the shot of the bubbling water behind me, I had to stand in a snow bank up to my knees to get the proper angle.  Yes, 21 below zero, and I was standing in snow and ice.  Dedication is my middle name.

After the morning broadcast, we went back to the office to warm up for a few minutes, and set out to do something for the upcoming noon show.  We had no plan in mind.  We pointed the truck north and hoped for the best.  We stumbled on a farm-- where they never take a day off.  A friendly farmer provided some interesting information.  Cows can get frost bite on lower appendages.  Most cows actually give more milk in the cold.  They eat more to keep their body temperature up, and the extra food intake equals extra milk output.  It was TV gold, with great pictures.  We headed back to the office to put together a story.

I don't remember much after work, other than a warm shower and a long nap.

I was at WNEP by the time the 10th anniversary of the coldest day ever rolled around.  I dug into the archives and found some stories from 1/21/94.  I tracked down some of the people, including an oil delivery man, a PPL executive, and a mailman-- who developed a frostbitten index finger.

I enjoy saying "Yeah, I was out in it" when talk of the coldest ever comes up.