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POSITIVELY SPEAKING: Frost quakes and Buddy Holly

Those of us hearty souls in the Midwest have just endured bone-chilling cold that few will experience unless you travel to the poles. The “Polar Vortex” as it is called, struck with a vengeance and left death and destruction in its wake. For those in the Midwest … no explanation is needed. For those not physically here, there is no explanation possible to help you truly understand. When the weather channel repeats the phrases “historic” and “once in a century” … it's rarely good. Almost 30 deaths and there are still a few missing.

During this severe weather event, my mind wandered all over the place guided by the claim that the weather was historic. I thought about my grandparents' home. I remember the two potbelly stoves … one in the kitchen and the other in the living room. They were later replaced by a forced-air coal-burning stove. I think about my great grandparents and their old farm house, which still stands across the road from Sesser-Valier High School in Sesser, and how it was heated only by three inefficient fireplaces. It reminds me that we are only three or four generations from what my grandkids call the olden days. I wonder how my grandparents and great-grandparents could have survived this?

Arlene and I built our home 23 years ago. It is a larger home and has three heating systems. We took special care in insulating and sealing our home. We spent extra for the best and state of the art windows. Yet, when temperatures reached negative-23 and negative-57 windchill, our house was losing heat faster than it could produce it. The warmest temperature in our home reached 53 degrees and it reached as low as 49 degrees. As I write this, it is now 54 degrees outside … one degree warmer than our home during the Polar Vortex. I think back to my great-grandparents' old farmhouse and realize there would not be much difference inside than out. I think five decades ago the death toll would have been staggering. I find myself grateful for the 53 degrees we enjoyed in our home.

We have become spoiled and completely reliant on technology. If we lost our power grid, we are ill-equipped to handle the disaster. I am not a “prepper” and I am not going to prepare as one, but this summer, I will get someone in to find out what I can do to make my home better prepared for the next severe cold.

Similar weather, 60 years earlier …

I’m also reminded of the severe cold in the Midwest exactly 60 years earlier, when a Beechcraft Bonanza fell out of the sky and cart-wheeled into a frozen Iowa cornfield just outside of Mason City, Iowa. Don McLean forever immortalized the event as “The Day the Music Died.”

Each year, surrounding the Feb. 3 anniversary of the deaths of Ritchie Valens, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Buddy Holly approaches, I am asked to do numerous radio and television interviews. I authored the book, “Hey Buddy: In Pursuit of Buddy Holly, My New Buddy John and My Lost Decade of Music” which is considered as the most complete and accurate description of the tragic accident. The Weather Channel lists it in the “Top 100 Weather Moments in History.”

Holly decided to charter the plane from Dwyer Flying Services in Mason City because of the brutal cold and lack of heat in their charter bus. It was very similar weather on that historic day in 1959 to our recent sub-zero weather. Roger Peterson, a young, inexperienced and unqualified pilot, at the controls of a high-performance, single-engine aircraft, loaded to capacity, in severe weather, created an unfortunate combination of circumstance that ended in tragedy.

What’s positive about all of this? We live to tell the tale! We have lived through this Polar Vortex and the stories will grow and be told for generations. I can now tell my grandkids I was awoken the night to the rumbling and shaking of “Frost Quakes” … something I had never heard or even heard of before.

As for Buddy, Bopper and Ritchie … their music lives on and will continue to inspire and entertain generations to come. Buddy Holly truly changed the course of music history. John Lennon and Paul McCartney have both stated that there would not have ben a Beatles if not for Buddy and his Crickets.

The Great Polar Vortex of 2019 is behind us, as is the 60th anniversary of "The Day the Music Died." I think it appropriate that they occurred together.    

GARY W. MOORE is a syndicated columnist, speaker and author of three books including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at

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