Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cold Snap In Perspective: Nasty, But Not Worst Ever

Lake Michigan freezing up around Chicago this week.
Photo by Jim Young/Reuters.  
I have been among the bloggers and media outlets who've been pulling out their hair screaming about the cold snap that has engulfed much of the eastern half of the nation.  

Yes, this cold wave is nasty, but it's not unprecedented, so I'm just going to say that I, and the rest of us, should take a deep breath over this.

It's unpleasant, and dangerous, yes. You don't want to be stuck outside, inadequately dressed as temperatures in some areas fall into the teens below zero with wind chills in the minus 30s and 40s.

That stripe of snow that crossed the country and raised havoc with this morning's commute in Washington DC isn't that horrible, either, though I'd hate to tell that to somebody stuck in the snow on the Beltway this morning.

But Washington's snowfall of 2 to 5 inches this morning is something they've seen before in many winters. They don't have the wherewithal there to clear it that fast. Since the worst of it hit during the morning commute, it turned into a mess.

Up here where I live in Vermont, the worst of the cold is expected to strike Wednesday through Thursday morning.

Snow squalls will blast through, probably during the morning commute Wednesday, so it'll be slow going in poor visibility and slick roads. People will be late for work. Some will end up with their cars in a ditch.

A bummer, yes, but not the end of the world.

Temperatures will fall all day, and reach to between 15 and 25 below by early Thursday morning in much of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Wind chills will be in the 30s below zero by then.

I'll want to stay indoors Wednesday and Thursday, because winter cold isn't my favorite. But if I'm forced to go outside, I'll just bundle up and be fine.

We'll also keep our dogs, cats and other pets indoors, except for quick bathroom and exercise breaks, right?

You might also want to think about people who have to stay outside. Maybe slip a quick donation to your local homeless shelter. Or buy a cup of hot soup for a homeless guy or gal you see outside. They'll appreciate it.

It could be much worse. In northern Minnesota tonight, some towns will get into the minus 30s below zero.

But the coldest temperature on record for Minnesota is much worse: Minus 60 in the town of Tower on Feb. 2, 1996. 

Temperatures have gotten as low as 50 below in Vermont and 52 below in Maine in the past. I remember quite a few winters in the past that have reached 40 below in some towns.  The predicted low of 15 to 25 below seems quite balmy by comparison.

The cold is unpleasant, no doubt about it.  Annoying. Just like any winter is here in the Great White North.

Look on the bright side: The ice will firm up for ice fishing enthusiasts. And when the temperature soars way up into the mid 20s (!!) by next Monday, it'll feel like beach weather.

So buck up, winter residents of places like North Dakota, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Tis the season to be miserably cold. It will end someday.

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