Polar Punch

Weather Report

On Friday we had what has been referred to as a “Polar Punch.” Cold air from the Arctic blew into New England, and in central Maine the temperature dipped to -23°F, with the wind chill making it seem like -50°F. As a Mainer, I am used to cold weather, but this, as the saying goes, took the cake. I don’t remember winter ever being this cold when I was a child.

On Friday night, as the temperature plummeted and the wind blew hard, the house cracked in loud protest. At first, Clif and I thought a bird had flown into a window in the dining room, but when we checked the ground below the windows, we didn’t see anything. However, when the cracks continued, we realized the noise was coming from the house itself, and it felt as though we were being visited by restless spirits. Two Facebook friends described how their dogs were spooked by the sharp cracks, which sounded like gunshots or large branches breaking. I could sympathize with the dogs. Clif and I were disconcerted, too.

Through it all, we stayed cozy and warm and mostly inside. (Clif braved the Arctic blast to check the mail.) We have three kinds of heat—electric, gas, and wood. We used them all. I expect we won’t  be too happy to see next month’s heating bill, but staying warm is important.

And what is the forecast for next week? Highs in the 40s. What the heck!

Here is a pictorial record of the Polar Punch at our home on the edge of the woods. While I didn’t get a shot of the thermometer when the weather was at its coldest, this is what the temperature was on Friday night before we went to bed. Still a bit on the brisk side, and with the wind blowing, it felt even colder.

When I got up on Saturday morning, it was still pretty darned cold.

Ice coated the inside of the dining room windows. (We have insulated shades that we pull down at night.) The leaves are decals we use to help stop the birds from flying into the window. If you look closely, by the last leaf at the bottom, you can the circles my finger left behind as I tested the window to see if the ice was on the inside or outside.

The window in my bedroom was completely covered. Fortunately, this ice was on the outside.

In the kitchen, at least, we could peek outside, but note the layer of ice on the inside at the bottom.  I’m not sure why there is such a difference in ice build-up on the various windows, but it’s probably due to the age of the glass and the variation of the insulating shades, which were not bought at the same time.

The fierce wind blew sticks and debris into the yard. I’ll be waiting until spring comes to clean them up.

Lucky for us, the polar punch didn’t stay long. By Sunday, the ice inside the window was gone, and the temp was 25°F and climbing.

For now, at least, the extreme cold is over.

This week, there will be no Reading Section on this Monday post.  While Clif and I are pretty unflappable when it comes to cold weather—we are Mainers, after all—this weather gave us the jitters and pretty much dominated our thoughts and conversation.

Next week, I’ll discuss another book.

73 thoughts on “Polar Punch”

  1. Needless to say, we had the same weather. And same unsettling house noises. And the wind was relentless while the frigid temps were here. The strangest part of it though, really, is that it came after the mildest Dec and Jan I can remember, and after those few days is back up to being strangely mild again. What does Mother Nature have planned for us next?!

  2. I’ve heard ice cracking, but I’ve never heard a house crack: at least, that I can remember. I would have been disconcerted, too. When weather that’s out of the ordinary shows up, it does dominate everything, no matter the form it takes. I’m glad you were able to stay warm, despite it all.

    The see-sawing of temperatures is common here; warm fronts from the Gulf and cold fronts from the north tend to battle it out over the top of us. One of the hardest things about it can be knowing what kind of clothes to wear. This is the time of year when I can change clothes three times in a single day, as the temperatures swing.

    1. So glad that you had three modes of heat! I remember bad bad winters as a little girl on Michigan. Now, whether it was as bad as I remember, although I think it was or, whether it is of a little girl rememebering remains the question! Glad you all are OK.

  3. Wow! I can fully understand why y’all would be disconcerted by the cracking noises your house was making. That’d freak me out! Crazy weather event! My low here in western Maryland was 11° and the winds howled like a pack of wolves. And then Sunday morning there were two snow crocuses blooming in the front lawn and the high reached 50°. Huh!?

    1. That was cold for you, I am guessing. And that wind! Our temperature rocketed up, too. Yesterday it was over 40° and I didn’t need gloves. That is a 60° difference in such a short time. Crazy!

  4. I’m not surprised you both got the jitters!
    We had a cold spell a couple of weeks ago and as I was driving along in my car, there were some loud cracks underneath. It must have been ice on the exhaust system as I soon started to sound like a motorbike. All fixed now.
    At least we are not experiencing earthquakes as Turkey ans Syria are. Counting blessings over here. ❤

    1. Glad the ice has melted from the exhaust system. That is not a sound that you want to hear, either. Those earthquakes are terrible. The death count keeps going up. Sigh.

  5. Laurie, I’m glad you made it thru OK. Here it got down to -7, a record for the date, but the winds were something like 48mph. As a result the heat kept being sucked out of the house. It was the coldest day in decades and these houses aren’t made for that. Anyway, our new furnace was struggling to keep the temp at 62, while set to 68. Once the wind calmed down the house warmed up quickly. We had all the blinds down so everything was on the dark side….. 52 by Thursday?

  6. I’m glad you and Clif survived the Polar Punch, Laurie. The extreme cold and wind and the resultant sounds do sound disconcerting, to say the least. All these extreme weather events are very concerning.

    1. Thanks, Tanja. They certainly are. And meteorologists think that climate change is responsible for sending the polar punch out way. Counterintuitive, I know, but weather patterns are messed up by warmer weather.

  7. That’s just awful. It never got that cold here. I think the coldest I’ve ever seen here was in 2014 when it was -14 when I went to work. So grateful to not have to go out when it’s that bad now that I’m retired. Of course…no dog either, to make me go out there! I’m glad you made it through…hopefully that’s the worst of it..we’re trying to send you warmer weather from here, but we’re not done with it yet!

  8. Laurie, I’ve been watching the weather reports and worrying over how you’d fare — glad to hear all is now well. Hasn’t this weather been crazy?? It was in the 50s here yesterday … in February. Still, the wind howls something fierce, and poor Monkey doesn’t like that one bit! Stay tucked inside and warm.

  9. I was hoping you’d give a ‘punch’ report. This was definitely an unusual event. The wind was unbelievable! Our deck and even our siding was sounding off, too. The deck especially, making the dog growl at the perceived intruder!

    1. A-w-w-w, thanks! Definitely worth reporting. Now, let’s hope we don’t get another polar punch like that. I don’t blame the dog for growling. Unnerving to hear those loud cracks.

  10. You will probably laugh, but everything here was shut down for three days because it was a hard freeze (i.e. more than 24 hours below freezing) and there was some icing. But Austin had terrible icing, massive tree damage, and thousands of people without power. I am content in my little south-central Texas sweet spot! I can’t image that temps much below freezing, and I grew up in northern Ohio, which can get pretty darn cold. We’re back to normal now, and it was 75F yesterday. The dog went into the river at the dog park. Crazy.

    1. No laughing. I realize that folks who are not used to cold weather suffer terribly when there is a freeze. So sorry about Austin and the damage. We had our own terrible ice storm in 1998, which knocked the power out to half the state. We were without power for 11 days. Glad to read you live in such a sweet spot. Great that the dog could go for a swim.

  11. I can’t even begin to imagine that kind of cold! Here we have the opposite; we’ve just had five days straight of 30°C plus and I am seriously wilting!

    1. As my Yankee husband might say, it was pretty darned cold. But except for what will probably be a high fuel bill, we came through just fine. But, glad it’s over and hope it doesn’t come back.

  12. A creaking house would unsettle anyone. I am glad that you came through unscathed. We have just had our heating bill for last month. I had to sit down for quite a long time after I had read it.

  13. How do you survive such a climate? This time we are this part of the globe also had freezing cold. At night it would touch 1 degree. But the Arctic cold is unimaginable.

    1. I really hope it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But with the crazy weather we have been having, who knows? Anyway, it was intense, but we came through all right.

  14. My goodness Laurie what a stressful time you’ve had, and reading other comments, many people are having a tough winter. I hope you are keeping warm and safe from these damaging winds, and may these Artic winds end soon. Best wishes.

  15. 25 was as cold as it got here one day for the daytime high. That’s cold enough for me. I think each of your windows may have different icing as they may have different amount of air leakage. At least that’s what an engineer told me once…I’m glad you made it through in relatively good humor. I would not want to have heard the house making cracking noises…

  16. This does make our cold ( minus 3C last night ) look awfully tame. It is a funny thing about childhood memories – mine are the opposite of yours because they always seem colder and I suspect they probably were

    1. They probably were. And in an odd twist, climate change is responsible for sending the polar punch out way. All the air flows have been changed by the warming climate. Counterintuitive, though, isn’t it?

  17. That is seriously cold! Thank goodness it didn’t last long. My house moves too as the weather changes but I haven’t heard it cracking thank goodness – that must have been scary! I’m glad you were able to keep warm een if the bills will be higher than usual. Sometimes you just have to accept that and cope later.

  18. Perfect post title because that’s what it was. We shut off one room because it is over an open patio area, and it got down to 32 in there. We have pretty good windows and doors, but everything leaked and the house was just cold all over. We were grateful that we had a propane delivery right before the cold weekend started. We won’t discuss propane costs because that with the weekend is more than any of us can take. 🙂

  19. Oooh. That was a cold punch, Laurie. Watching the temperature gauge must have been interesting, but not as scary as those frost-covered windows! I’m glad it’s over and you stayed nice and warm for the duration. Hopefully that’s the last one of those this year. ❤

    1. That was a cold punch! Hit our library so hard that it knocked out the heating system. The Library has been closed all week. I will be writing about it on Monday. I sure am hoping that is it for the year.

  20. So glad you guys made it safely through temperatures I can’t even imagine!! Thankfully you have all those heat sources and did not have the disaster of frozen pipes. Our wind chill dipped to -14 and all of us jump when the boards on the deck crack and pop. The crazy weather continues as we now have record temps in the fifties today and rain with a wind advisory. Hope your area is warming up without the rain.🙂

  21. Oops, it sounds serious cold, I am glad you both are fine. From last year our electricity prices reached sky high but keeping us warm is more important. We use both electric heat pump and gas oven.

  22. Well, that was an experience for you and one I doubt you want to repeat. I’ve no idea how we’d cope here in the U.K. with such conditions. We had about an hour of light snow a couple of weeks ago but it kept the roads frozen and caused chaos in places, mostly because people aren’t used to it and don’t have winter tyres on the car and don’t know how to drive in icy/snowy conditions (and I include myself in that despite having lived close to a ski station in France so should know better).
    Glad you were able to keep yourselves warm and safe which is the most important thing.

    1. It certainly was an experience and one that I hope is not repeated. I know that places that are unused to snow have a terrible time when it does snow. I always feel sorry when this happens. Dealing with slippery roads is no laughing matter, and even in Maine such conditions can lead to fatal car crashes.

  23. My goodness! Looks like the unseasonal start of window is more than made up for now!!!! I am glad you are able to stay safe & warm indoors!

  24. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the house to have been making cracking noises from extreme cold. Did you find out why that happened? Power bills are a major issue here. It is hard to feel that our (communal) political choices are inflicting so much suffering on people at home and around the world.

    1. This explanation of why houses crack in extreme cold is from the Des Moines Register: “It’s the interaction between your home’s building materials as they contract and expand. Extreme cold reduces the moisture content in those exposed to outside air, causing them to shrink. Inside, heat causes expansion.

      “The simultaneous expansion and contraction of materials, fastened together, creates friction, which causes the popping sounds you hear.”

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