Cold nights, but not coldest in memory
by Sam Matthews
Dec 12, 2013 | 2971 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This past week has seen one of the longest stretches of below-freezing weather many of us in our town can remember. In duration, yes — but from what I can glean from past records, not in severity.

We’d have to go back 23 years, to December 1990, to find an equally long period of unusually low temperatures, and I mean low. For nine days in 1990, the thermometer sank well below freezing levels, including a record low — 12 degrees the morning of Dec. 23, 1990.

The day before, Dec. 22, the temperature dipped to 14 degrees, and the day after, Dec. 25, it was 17 degrees. A frosty Christmas Day indeed.

For another five days, from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30, the low temperatures continued, ranging between 15 and 21 degrees. It was a cold, cold holiday season in the ol’ tank town.

Plumbers were kept busy during the final days of 1990, repairing burst water pipes exposed to the cold. Even some water pipes in attics of several homes and at least one business burst, flooding the structures.

A water pipe froze on the third floor of Heritage Place on Grant Line Road, sending water cascading down to the first-floor dining room.

Heinz, Leprino Foods, Tracy (later West Valley) Bowl, Lucky Foods (at Tracy Boulevard and Clover Road) and Duck’s Family Billiards all reported broken water pipes and some flooding.

And many an orange and lemon crop on local citrus trees was lost to the freeze.

At other times in the past — in the past century at least — very low temperatures were also recorded in Tracy: December 1913 and January 1930, 15 degrees; December 1932,17 degrees; and January 1949, 16 degrees.

It’s still early in this winter season, and who knows if we will have a new low temperature established. I can safely say that Tracyites, already chilled to the bone, hope not.

At the other end of the temperature spectrum, some may ask what the hottest day was in Tracy in the past century. That was July 23, 2006, when the thermometer hit 113 degrees, matched two days later by the same temperature on July 25, 2006. On those hot summer days, sweltering local folks would have loved to have had at least a little a chill in the air.

Decorate, then enter

As residents of Tracy and Mountain House decorate their homes for the holidays, they shouldn’t forget an effortless way to inform people in their hometowns which decorations are rated the best.

They can do so by entering the annual Holiday Decorating Contest sponsored by the Tracy Rotary Club. An entry form appears on Page 3 of today’s Press, and it costs nothing to enter.

Deadline is 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17, for entries received in the mail or brought to the Tracy Press office, 131 W. 10th St.

As last year, there is only one category for judging: Home and Grounds. The winner and two runners-up will receive gift certificates from the sponsoring Rotary Club.

Obviously, not all entries will be winners, or even runners-up, but addresses of all entries will be published in the Press next Friday, Dec. 20. That will give area residents a chance to check out the best decorated homes before Christmas.

A contest to encourage residents to decorate their homes for the holiday season has been a local tradition for more than a half-century. Initially, there were five categories — Home and Grounds, Lighted Inside Tree (visible from the street), Decorated Window or Windows, Decorated Door, and Business Window.

Entries in many of those categories dwindled over the years, however, prompting the sponsoring organization to reduce the categories to the most popular one.

Over the years, some creative and interesting decorations in front yards of homes have been part of the contest. With competition limited to that single category, there should be a number of outstanding entries this year. It would be great to have them in the contest to be recognized — and to be viewed in the days before Christmas.

Remember, entry deadline is 3 p.m. next Tuesday, Dec. 17.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at
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