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When Ann Arbor freezes over

BY JILLIAN BERMAN

Published November 9, 2007

Some students may have been cold this week when the temperature dipped into the 30s, but on Jan. 19, 1994, University students had to deal with temperatures more than 50 degrees lower.

Clif Reeder
Although winter in Michigan is always cold, like on this day in December 2002, it has never been quite as frigid as it was on Jan. 19, 1994, when the mercury dropped to 22 degrees below zero and -61 with wind chill. (FILE PHOTO/Daily)

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On that fateful, bitter day, the temperature reached a low of -22 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service. It was the coldest day in the history of the University.

The wind chill factor that day reached epic proportions, driving the temperature down to a 2 a.m. low of -61 degrees.

The University of Michigan didn't cancel classes that day, even though Michigan State University did.

Walter Harrison, then the University's vice president of university relations, told instructors to be lenient on students who decided not to brave the cold and skipped class.

That day, The Michigan Daily printed a weather forecast predicting a low of -2 degrees, 20 degrees warmer than the eventual outcome.

The day came in the midst of a brutal cold and snow streak, with predicted lows dipping well below zero in the days preceding and following the record-breaking cold.

"It's snowing constantly," then-LSA sophomore Reggie Kim told the Daily at the time. "I think I got frostbite on my forehead."

Forehead frostbite should have been the least of students' worries. Not only were off-campus apartments plagued with frozen pipes, but the American Auto Association of Michigan said that it was expecting 35,000 calls for help from stranded drivers on the snow-covered road.

There was a glut of ice-related injuries during the cold spell, mostly due to Ann Arborites slipping and falling all over the frozen sidewalks.

"I slip and slide around a lot," then-LSA sophomore Ugene Chung said. "Earlier, I slipped and fell. My whole calf is all scabbed over."

Luckily for current students, a low of 22 degrees was an extreme anomaly. The average temperature in January is 17 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

And if those winter blues start to catch up with you and you feel like whining about the cold, remember the story of poor students like Chris Finelli, then a first-year School of Natural Resources and Environment student.

On that brisk January day, Finelli had to trek from Alice Lloyd Hall to the Natural Science Building for an 8 a.m. class.


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