If not for weather, some of us might have trouble starting new conversations.
"Hi. It's it a gorgeous day (or a bit chilly/rainy/sweltering/overcast/gloomy, sunny/cloudy/refreshing, etc., etc.)." Weather often comes up before the niceties of "How are you today?"
Undeniably, this is a fantastic winter for the weather-obsessed.
Unusually warm holidays, even for the Gulf Coast, early snow elsewhere, rain, confused spring flowers in bloom, floods, ice storms, just about any weather condition that can happen has happened in the United States. In recent months this fickle weather has launched more conversations than normal.
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That realization got my brain churning. Just what were the temperatures a century ago, or 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago? Were they really so different?
I picked a date, which happens to be today's Jan. 24, and now present my unscientific research. The figures won't be exact, a few degrees one way or the other depending on locations on the Mississippi Coast and variances in temperature gauges through the decades. My sources are this 132-year-old newspaper and a favorite Internet weather source called The Weather Underground.
You might find it interesting that in modern official record-keeping, the warmest on record for this Jan. 24 date is likely 73 degrees in 1950. The coldest is likely 10 degrees in 1963.
A century ago
On this date a century ago, The Daily Herald (then the name of this newspaper ) reported morning temperatures of 28, with moderating temperatures and rain probability to follow. It was 65 by noon, according to a National Weather Service citation in the newspaper.
But one article mentions that a freeze a few days earlier "did much injury among lambs." Many died or became so numb they made easy prey for foraging animals, according to James Lee of Lorraine, a stone's throw from a rural community we today know as Woolmarket.
From the newspaper
Remarked the newspaper: "Gulf Coast people consider themselves fortunate in having escaped a more serious blizzard, as the entire country to the north is wrapped in snow and ice, all points reporting colder weather than any experienced in many years...For the most part all northern visitors in Biloxi consider the weather mild here in comparison with northern latitudes..."
On this same date 10 years later, 257 delegates from the National Real Estate Convention, who were meeting in New Orleans, came to check on our Coast. These top-name agents from across the country were plied with local hospitality, which seemed to make them forget the thermometer had dipped a little below freezing and a rumor of snow flurries.
Many of the these 1926 property experts wanted to stay longer but all the Coast's hotel rooms were booked. This was an era when many snowbirds came from Chicago and the Midwest to winter here.
A decade later
Ten years later, the 1936 thermometer stopped at 32 at night and 46 at noon. "Fair, not so cold" read the Herald forecast.
A decade later, in 1946, the Coast was about the same, with 40 nighttime low and 49 noontime high and apparently later reaching into the 50s. But the rest of the state was in a cold snap.
In quick summary: 1956 had a likely maximum temp on this date of 48 and a minimum of 43; 1965, 48 max and 43 min; 1976, 64 max and 54 min; 1986, 63 max and 44 min; 1996, 63 max and 43 min; 2006, 66 max and 51 min.
No predictions here
Because deadlines dictate I write this 10 days in advance, I make no predictions for today's Jan. 24, although early forecasts lean toward 49 low and 63 high.
Does this mean that Jan. 24ths are warmer than they used to be? Possibly, but I wouldn't define looking at one day in January a trend, and I give fair warning about February. Historically, that month is the one for record cold, snow and ice.
One February storm in 1899 was so cold that an inch of ice on the Mississippi Sound and thicker ice on the bays allowed locals of this normally temperate climate to do something they never thought possible. Experiencing that would be a great conversation starter.
"Hi, I just walked on water. So how are you today?"
Kat Bergeron, a veteran feature writer specializing in Gulf Coast history and sense of place, is retired from the Sun Herald. She writes the Coast Chronicles column as a freelance correspondent. Reach her at BergeronKat@gmail.com or c/o Sun Herald Newsroom, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-45667.