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What is incredibly rare about both of these photos?

What is incredibly rare about both of these photos?
Left: First fire in Bob Felix' Auckland fireplace since the 1990s. Right: AP photo of people walking through a main street under snow in Auckland Monday, Aug, 15, 2011.

The photos above might seem rather ordinary, but you might be surprised to know the one on the left depicts something that hadn't been done in more than a decade -- and the one on the right depicts something that hadn't been done in over 70 years!

Both of these photos are from Auckland, New Zealand, which just went through one of their coldest periods in their history! (Remember, it's the dead of winter down there.)

The photo on the left is from Bob Felix, a family acquaintance, who lives in Auckland. He just sent an e-mail talking about just how cold it is down there. Now, before I begin, Auckland is not that frigid of a town. Their all-time record coldest high temperature is 46 degrees and their average high in August is around 60.

It's so mild that Felix says they have a fireplace, but it's rarely used. And I really mean "rarely."

"We have got a fire in our fireplace this evening," he said. "However, haven't had a fire in more than 10 years. The wild rosellas (a kind of parakeet) like to nest in fireplaces, causing all kinds of havoc, as you can imagine. So we have a metal cap on the chimney, and to have a fire, I have to go up and take the cap off. So you can tell it is pretty cold out if I am going to go to the bother of doing all that."

He says the houses there don't have central heating -- people there do with little electric or gas heaters for the winter.

"Winters usually are two months – July and August – and not terribly cold, so it is impossible to justify a full-scale heating system. As I said, we haven't lit a fire since the 1990's."

What's even more rare than Felix lighting a fire? Getting actual snow in the city.

The photo on the right is from Auckland on Monday. According to the New Zealand Herald, it's the first recorded snow in downtown Auckland in 72 years! Indeed a "once in a lifetime event" as forecasters there are calling it.

The cold snap has lingered through the week, and black ice warnings were in effect for Thursday night from their "Antarctic Blast" (Sounds funny, doesn't it? So used to "arctic blasts"). Temperatures in the colder South Islands toward Wellington were expected to dip into the middle teens (F) in the valleys.

The air is expected to slowly moderate there as they head into the weekend, but the stories will linger on, I'm sure!