Crossing guard

A Baltimore City crossing guard works outside Johnston Square Elementary School in E. Baltimore. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun / January 7, 2014)

If you've lived through one nationwide chill, you've lived through them all, perhaps.

Tuesday's high of 16 degrees broke a record set in 1996. The five days so far this month to hit the single digits, meanwhile, are the most in any month since January 1996. Had Baltimore's official temperature dipped below zero, as had been suggested, it would have been for the first time since Feb. 5, 1996.

A look back from coverage of that historic cold spell shows that not much changes from one "polar vortex" outbreak to the next.

From a Jan. 8 Reuters video:

"It's so cold in the U.S. that hell has frozen over," reporter Julie Noce said. "Well, Hell, Mich., that is."

From a Feb. 5, 1996, report in The Sun:

And how cold was it in a little town in Michigan? 

"Hell's frozen over," said Tom Davis, who owns the Hell Creek Ranch in Hell, about an hour west of Detroit.

In a statement released Monday:

"The brutal cold that's coming our way can be dangerous, and Marylanders need to be vigilant and prepared," said Governor Martin O’Malley.

From a Feb. 5, 1996 report in The Sun:

Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday issued a statement urging people "to use caution" and to be compassionate by checking on neighbors, the elderly and any motorists stranded as a result of severe weather conditions.

"Maryland can expect to feel the brunt of this cold spell, with the coldest weather of the year expected to blanket Maryland today," the governor said in a statement.

From a story in Wednesday's editions of The Sun:

Temperatures were low enough to cause headaches for homeowners and motorists just trying to go about their days.

"We've just been bombarded with no-heat calls and people that are only getting water to certain parts of their home," said Ashley Bisaha, a customer service representative at A.J. Michaels, a plumbing and heating company in North Baltimore. The company advises leaving faucets dripping or turning up the heat if pipes show signs of partially or completely freezing.

From a Feb. 5, 1996 report in The Sun:

The cold weather yesterday had furnace and heating system technicians busy making emergency repairs.

"Today's a busy day because it's Sunday and people are home and because it's been very cold for a few days now," said Michael Giangrandi, owner of A. J. Michael's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning on York Road in Baltimore.