A high for a low: Monticello was coldest place in contiguous U.S. Wednesday

Jan. 18—This past Wednesday morning, Monticello, Ky., was the coolest place to be — literally.

The seat of Pulaski's neighbor Wayne County achieved a chilling distinction — it was the coldest place in the contiguous 48 states of the United States of America at that particular time.

Alex Vorst, meteorologist with the National Weather Service Office in Jackson, Ky., confirmed that for the Commonwealth Journal on Thursday.

"It does appear that would be the case down there in Monticello," said Vorst. "It got down to -22 (degrees)."

That is, 22 degrees below 0 — which is itself 32 degrees below the freezing point of water based on the commonly-used Farhenheit scale.

Monticello reached that lowest of lows during the Tuesday night-Wednesday morning period.

According to the National Weather Service website, for a three-day period during this recent cold spell during which Monticello reached that low, Pulaski County's lowest temperature was -6 degrees, for comparison's sake.

And yes, there's a good reason why Monticello was so much colder than everywhere else around it — specifically, a geographic reason.

"Where that site sits, it actually sits in (a terrain) like a bowl," said Vorst. "... We had that snowstorm come through Monday-Tuesday, and then behind that system, we had a cold air advection — that's where you have cold air filtering in, that cold arctic air moving down behind the exiting system. You had that cold arctic air intrusion coming down, and then we also had clear skies Tuesday night, Wednesday morning. So when you have that cold air advection as well as clear skies, those temperatures are going to fall like a stone. That's exactly what happened (in Monticello)."

He added, "It's an elevation thing, so (Monticello) does sit lower than its surrounding area, and that does favor it being an area that retains those cooler temperatures."

Information from the National Weather Service was not available on whether or not it was a record low for that area.

Wayne County Judge-Executive Scott Gehring told the Commonwealth Journal that that big problem posed by the cold temperatures has been for purposes of snow removal on the county's approximately 400 miles of roads.

"The salt's not working, two nights in a row — of course, they weren't (both) 22 (degrees) below, but still, two cold nights in a row, so it's just making it virtually impossible for the salt to do anything," said Gehring of the road treatments. "Our road crews have really been working hard to try to get it clear. We got some to clear a little bit (Thursday), but in the shaded areas where it was just such a hard freeze, it's just going to take a few days."

Gehring said he'd gone to Pulaski County and spoken with this county's road department this week; "I know they'd had a time too," said Gehring. "Of course, they've got a whole lot more ground to cover than we do."

On Thursday afternoon, Wayne County's temperatures had bounced back up to a much more robust 35 degrees or so, similar to Pulaski's numbers that day. But with another blast of winter weather hitting the area Thursday night, Wayne County — like Pulaski and everywhere else in the region — might be in for another big chill.