In Baker City, bitterly cold winter weather is so unremarkable that the city manager says he still wears a baseball cap when it’s zero out.
Fred Warner says he’ll sometimes wear a stocking cap. But not until temperatures are down near -20.
Warner has had plenty of occasions to bundle up this winter, as record-breaking cold weather set in across the rural eastern Oregon outpost in December – and hasn’t let up.
The temperature made it above freezing just six days last month, the coldest December since records started being kept in 1943. January has been no better. Just three days have reached above freezing, the National Weather Service said.
Unlike paralyzed Portlanders, who have seen their schools close for nine days and their road crews struggle to keep up, Baker City residents want you to know they’re doing fine.
“We’re taking it in stride,” said Kim Mosier, the former mayor. “We expect it – we just don’t expect this much.”
How hardy are Baker City’s nearly 10,000 residents? Consider this: School recess is held outdoors as long as it’s 10 degrees.
“There was one day when it got to 9 and I was thrilled they sent my kid out to play in the snow,” Mosier said. “It gets a little crazy when a kid hasn’t been outside for two weeks.”
The National Weather Service doesn’t track snow accumulation in Baker City, but residents say it’s been arriving 8 inches to a foot at a time. That alone isn’t unusual. But the weather hasn’t gotten warm enough to melt what’s on the ground. Mark Witty, the Baker City schools superintendent, said he’s built 4-foot-tall snow berms just from shoveling his sidewalks.
“I’ve never seen this much snow in my lifetime,” he said.
Yet residents are soldiering on. Schools have closed with unusual frequency in Baker City this winter. Twice. Once in December and once last week. “Two days is kind of a record,” said Warner, the Baker City manager.