When February's icy blasts make it seem that it has been months since we had a warm day, the sensible thing to do is turn to Frank Forrester of the U.S. Geological Survey and ask him for statistical consolation.

"Oh, this year's cold isn't anywhere near a record," Frank will assure you. "BUt February of 1899 - that was a real cold snap."

What happened in February of 1899 shouldn't happen to a dog - certainly not to a dog that has to sleep outdoors. At about midnight on the 4th, the mercury dropped below freezing, and it didn't get as high as 32 again until the afternoon of the 15th. Between 5th and the 8th, four separate snowstorms hit this area. Then on the 11th, the temperature dropped to 15 below zero (the coldest ever recorded here), and it began to snow again, this time to the accompaniment of winds of 40 miles an hour. The snow didn't stop until late on the 13th, by which time the entire area was under more than 20 inches of snow.

So let's not complain about this year's cold. The weather was a lot worse 79 February years ago. Frank's statistics make me feel downright grateful.