Already tied for the record of the coldest recorded temperature in Oregon, the small town of Seneca can now boast it is one of the coldest places in the United States.
Between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, Seneca was the coldest place in the contiguous United States on 20 different nights, according to Dennis Hull, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Pendleton. Only the Yellowstone Park area of Wyoming and Bodie State Park in California had more nights in which either were coldest, he said.
At an elevation of 4,666 feet, Seneca is situated in the lowest part of Bear Valley — a bowl in the mountains in southern Grant County — which leads to the frigid temperatures, Hull said.
“Cold air from the surrounding hills settles and deepens in the valley during the night,” he said. “On some of the coldest mornings, the temperature is 15 to 20 degrees lower than ... John Day located just 20 miles to the north.”
The locals, however, don’t seem to mind the cold weather.
“When you get out, you bundle up,” 82-year-old Bob Turner said, adding it is a “dry cold,” which is tolerable.
He said the coldest temperature he has experienced in Seneca is -34, which he jokingly attributed to global warming.
Seneca and Ukiah tied for the state record for coldest recorded temperature, -54 Fahrenheit, in February 1933, according to the National Weather Service.
“I remember hanging my little brother’s diapers on the line, and they would freeze before I could get them hung up,” 86-year-old Seneca resident Leonard Rider said.
He said, as a child, he lived in half a boxcar with no water and no power for several years. He remembered ice skating with his family despite subzero temperatures.
“We didn’t pay much attention to it really,” he said.
Turner left California for Seneca after he retired and, despite the cold weather, likes the slow pace of life in Grant County.
“It’s too nice here,” he said. “I don’t think I could take California again.”