Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Winters Of My Discontent

Hello! As my region begins to recover from the dreaded polar vortex of the past few days, I reflected back on winters I have known and not always loved. 

Many of us still remember the blizzard of 1978! My hometown in southeastern Michigan got a little over two feet of snow, I think. I can still recall seeing the huge flakes of snow that came down fast and furious! We lived in town, so it wasn't so bad for us. Our street was high priority for snow plowing because of the churches and post office on it. My parents could walk to their jobs. (yes, my hometown was small). I don't recall food being a problem, so either my parents had stocked up before the storm hit(they had an extra freezer in the basement)or else went out and got groceries when things calmed down a bit.

I can still remember the fun of seeing snowmobiles whizzing up and down the main street, and also the snowmobiles parked in front of church where cars would normally be. We lived just a couple of blocks away from church, so we walked to services as usual. 

Schools were closed for close to two weeks, I seem to recall. Living in town, where roads were passable, it seemed strange to us to not go to school; we had a scant 1 1/2 mile bus ride. But the majority of my classmates had a longer trip than that (up to ten miles or so in some cases)and the roads out in the country kept drifting shut. 

The school closure came right around the time when end-of-semester exams were to be taken, but since we'd missed so much school, the administrators decided to cancel these tests. That made us students very happy! 

Yes, it was an epic storm, but it wasn't the biggest snowstorm I'd ever seen. That honor is reserved for the Nor'easter in January 1996 in the Philadelphia area; we got 31" of snow at once. But unlike the Upper Midwest, a warm front that came through shortly thereafter was strong enough to melt all that snow. Less than a week later, it was gone!

The coldest temperatures I've ever experienced was when I was living in Stevens Point, WI. One winter in the late 80's had a cold snap in which it never got warmer than 10 below for a week! Wind chills were down to 40-60 below.

Of course, that was the week our old house group's progressive party was scheduled. All the host houses were within walking distance of each other, but as cold as it was, we went from car to house, car to house, etc. It was still a fun time. 

So how did this week's polar vortex-influenced weather stack up? Well, let's see - according to the local paper, we've gotten 17" snow so far this month, and I'm guessing that the vast majority of it has come within the past few days. 

But living so close to the lake, our wind chills weren't as bad as in other areas; we might have gotten as low as 30 or 35 below at best. Still plenty cold, of course. Due to that windchill, and all the snow, local schools were closed Monday and yesterday. (some schools in the region remain closed today). Even several colleges closed; both my husband (faculty) and our daughter (student) had two snow days. 

The polar vortex is now retreating back to the Arctic, where I hope it stays! Can't help but wonder how much snow and cold we'll get the rest of this winter; seems to be how things are going this year. (thus far we've gotten almost five feet of snow for the season). 

In the meantime, here's a few pictures I took in our backyard earlier today:

Looks pretty, doesn't it? Just the same, I think I'd like all this snow better if I hadn't had to shovel the driveway and sidewalk leading up to our front porch (the city plows the main sidewalk, bless them!).

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