Free of the need for precise phrasing, it is common for us to call many a chilly day a freezing one. But scientific standards do exist, and Washington met them on Saturday, as the temperature fell below 32 degrees, and it was truly freezing.

At Reagan National Airport, where Washington’s official readings are made, the mercury plunged past the scientifically significant 32-degree mark, at which water freezes. It touched bottom at 30 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

That figure, recorded at 4:04 a.m., was a mere four degrees warmer than the coldest Nov. 9 on record here. That was in 1976 when the mercury sank to 26 degrees.

To use the comparative forms of the adjective, Saturday was cold, colder and coldest. It was recognizably cold, colder than any day this season, and the coldest day here since March 7.

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On that long-ago day, as Washington was just emerging from winter, Weather Service records indicate that the mercury plummeted to 25 degrees.

Washington’s temperatures generally exceed the readings at other spots around the region. At several places, the mercury dipped well into the 20s, and one record was set.

At Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, the reading of 24 degrees at 6:57 a.m. came in one degree below the 2003 record for the date of 25.

In Charlottesville, it was 24, and in Martinsburg, W.Va., 20. Dulles International Airport, hit a low of 21 at 6:44 a.m. Airport workers and attendees may have derived small comfort from knowing it was two degrees warmer than the 19-degree record for the date.

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