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It's freezing, but cold far from record

If you have any exposed water pipes that didn't freeze overnight, you could be pressing your luck if you don't deal with them today.

Forecasters expect even colder temperatures tonight and Tuesday night in Southern Oregon, with lows around 17 degrees in Medford and 15 degrees in Ashland.

Cold like that can tickle the inside of your nose with every breath, but it's nowhere near the record low temperatures in the Rogue Valley for this time of year. The record low in Medford for Dec. 7 is 1 degree, set in 1972, at the beginning of a week-long cold snap that saw four straight nights of subzero cold beginning on Dec. 8.

Three consecutive nights of minus-6 degrees on Dec. 8, 9 and 10 that year are the all-time record low temperatures recorded in Medford since the National Weather Service began collecting data in 1911.

The deep freeze happens here occasionally, almost always during the short days of December and January, when the normal flow of relatively warm, moist marine air from the Pacific Ocean is interrupted and cold arctic air slides down from Canada.

If there's any consolation it's that the chill air warms a bit as it flows south. In Spokane, Wash., forecasters were expecting a high temperature today of around 16 degrees and an overnight low of 2.

"It's a lot colder, the closer you get to the source," said Rick Holtz, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Medford.

Holtz said little precipitation was expected during the cold snap, but there could be rain and mountain snow by the weekend.

High temperatures today and Tuesday were expected to barely no higher than the mid-30s in Medford and Ashland.

Holtz said pipes buried even a few inches below ground should be fine unless temperatures drop into single digits for a period of days.

Outside faucets that can't be drained should be left open to allow a small trickle of water to flow to prevent freezing that can cause permanent damage and leaks. Pipes that are exposed should be wrapped with plastic foam insulation or covered to keep off the cold air.

Reach Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or bkettler@mailtribune.com.