Let the record reflect that 2018 started out in the deep freeze. On the last day of 2017, when the Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a last-minute victory over the Denver Bronco’s to close out the regular season, the recorded temperature at game time – 17 degrees at Denver – was the fifth lowest in Bronco history. That 17 degrees (with the steam rising from the players in great cloud-like spirals), was a warm balmy walk in the park compared to the temperature at Lake Viking. Likewise for the 10 degrees during the New Years Eve celebration at Times Square in New York City. Because as the New Year came in at Lake Viking . . . it was nine below! Other locations in the Midwest were worse. Examples: Sioux City, Iowa  -18; Fargo, N.D. -19; Omaha, Neb. -20;   Cut Bank, Mont. -28; Aberdeen, S.D. -32, and the Twin Cities -13.

Yep, it was definitely cold, and as the New Year arrived, the cold stretched southward to embrace places like Mobile, the Carolinas, Atlanta, and all the way down into central Florida. There were stories of frozen iguanas dropping from trees in Florida and frozen alligators with their snouts sticking out of the ice in the coastal waters of North Carolina. On our way to Fort Lauderdale, we stopped over at New Orleans, where the numerous street musicians were bundled up, zombie-like in their heavy coats and scarves as a result of temperatures in the low thirties.

Yes, after several extremely mild winters, this year’s version seems to be the real deal. As in previous winters, December started out mild. At Christmas, there was still a vast open stretch of ice-free water on the main body of the lake. That changed quickly. By January 2, the lake was almost entirely frozen over, and the increasingly large flocks of geese were congregating around those few remaining small areas of open water. On the very cold days, as they huddled on the ice, steam rose from their warm bodies just like the football players in Denver.

Which brings me full cycle — as I finish this article (in Florida) on the early morning of January 16, the temperature at Lake Viking has once again plunged to a minus four degrees. This will certainly thicken the ice . . . which brings this year’s Polar Plunge to mind. Will Shad Mort and his crew have to cut a big hole in the ice for this year’s plunge? Granted, February 24 is still a month away and there can still be a big warm-up, but suffice to say that we’re off to a very cold start.

I guess it really doesn’t matter if there’s ice, this year’s plunge should be another great one. This event, which is now at year 11, has become a Lake Viking classic. The Lake Viking Fiftieth Anniversary Edition (copies available at the office) features great pictures and memories of past plunges, while longtime coordinator Judy Rash is always eager to sign up plungers for the year’s event. (See ads in this newspaper.) If you’ve never witnessed a Lake Viking Polar Plunge, you’re missing out. Mark your calendars for February 24. Don’t miss this year’s event.