Bitter cold bites residents

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There's an old saying: "Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get."

In a town where the average December high is 28 degrees, residents weren't prepared Wed--nesday when they awoke to minus 19 and didn't see temperatures rise above minus 4.

Thursday's low was 16 below zero.

But the bitter cold also means business is booming, as the icy weather bursts pipes and wreaks havoc on cars.

Though some

longtime residents can re----member the record low of minus 28, charted Dec. 8, 1978, many were caught off guard when temperatures plummeted below zero this week.

Unusually cold

"It is unusually cold for this time of year," said meteorologist Dan Zumpfe with the National Weather Association.

Zumpfe said the topography of Craig makes it susceptible to extremely cold temperatures when the city is below a very cold air mass, which it was this week.

Add the air mass to clear nights and a layer of snow, and the result is unseasonably frigid weather, he said.

Whatever the cause, some Craig businesses are reaping the benefits -- though they're not all happy about it.

J.B. Chapman, owner of Chapman's Automotive, said he's been flooded with weather-related calls. Workers at his shop are fielding eight to 10 calls a day requesting engine block heater installation. And mechanics are installing eight to 10 new batteries a day, he said.

"We can't keep new batteries in stock," he said. "This is January and February weather. People aren't ready to spend money on their cars."

Chapman, who is accustomed to turning repairs around in a day or two, said he's got work backed up for a week.

"This has just overwhelmed us," he said. "For a business, it's a good problem to have, but it's hard on residents."

Thawing out

Many vehicles arriving at the shop don't need a repair, just a place to thaw. Windows are freezing shut and water and ice are building up in vehicle brakes.

Two Shepherd and Son Plumbing and Heating employees were out Thursday because their vehicles wouldn't start, putting a strain on a business that's also inundated with weather-related calls.

The telephone has been ringing constantly during the past few days with emergency calls, Darlene Shepherd said. Most calls are from people whose heaters aren't working at all, or whose pipes have burst because of the cold.

"It's hard on everybody when the weather is like this," Shepherd said. "Everybody in our field is busy."

Cold topic

The weather is a big topic of conversation, hairstylist Sus--an Johnston said. She said one woman, who was in her Imagemakers shop Thursday, had put off a haircut for three weeks because of the snow and cold.

Johnston recalls colder temperatures. She remembers a day in the late 1980s, when the temperature plummeted to minus 58 in Maybell. School was canceled that day because a natural gas line broke. That's the last time Moffat County schools weren't in session on a day they were scheduled to be open.

Long-time weather records are lacking, Zumpfe said.

The Weather Underground Inc. reports the lowest temperature in Craig as minus 44 degrees on Feb. 6, but doesn't say what year. The record high for the same day is 58 degrees.

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