The weather forecasters and social media have been inundating us with factoids …
… and funny memes about this spate of ugly Winter weather here in the Midwest.
Since Monday’s snowstorm is in the rear view mirror now, everyone is focused on “The Big Chill” and, of all the facts and figures I’ve heard about our weather, the biggest giggle was discovering we were colder than Mars today. Our temps have even dipped lower than the Arctic Circle. Yikes! Michigan made the national news today because Hell froze over – oh yes it did. The temps fell to -12 F (-24 C) in Hell, Michigan, which is a town about 50 miles from where I live. So, you can no longer use the expression about “when Hell freezes over” …. because it has now happened.
Many Michiganders stayed home today. No, it wasn’t the blue flu. Or the regular flu. It was because schools and organizations by the score elected to close down Monday afternoon for the snowstorm. Those closures snowballed, (if you’ll pardon the pun), into a massive shutdown due to freezing rain after the storm, black ice Tuesday and then the Polar Vortex that has swept across the U.S. bringing a brutally cold Canadian air mass. Thanks a lot Canada.
It’s a sure bet those folks aren’t spending their day enjoying “Pure Michigan” … most people are hunkered down inside and looking out. I for one am glad to work from home and not have to deal with the bus commute. I had way too many of those trips in and out of the City of Detroit in extreme cold or blizzard conditions. I’ve paid my dues, so I’m glad to be home working in my PJs and bunny slippers.
And just who are some of those folks sipping hot chocolate and taking naps on the couch? They include students from elementary school all the way to university level and their teachers/professors and the schools’ administrative staff members. Some of the universities were reluctant to close Monday, knowing full well this Polar Vortex coming down the pipeline might necessitate even more days off. But the students had a rebellion – no, they didn’t protest in front of Old Main on Wayne State University’s campus … they took to Twitter and other social media and shamed WSU into closing down due to the snow and the Polar Vortex, which was already on the way.
Back when your roving reporter was at Wayne State University, we closed one day for the Blizzard of ’78 … one little old day, and we waited for the school to announce it on the AM all-news radio station. It was quite the event … a university closing down for the weather. After all, we weren’t little kids – we knew how to bundle up and walk, heads bent down against the wind, as we trudged from class to class.
Fast forward 41 years.
Our new governor defined our cold spell as “generational” and called for all State agencies to be shut down during the snow storm and brutally cold weather days. All non-essential workers were sent home … you are familiar with the term “non-essential workers” of course from the recent federal government shutdown. With a snowstorm and impending “Big Chill” are you happy or sad to know your job and yourself are “non-essential” … talk about wounding the ego and bursting your bubble of importance!
The list of cancelled activities and closures rambles on and on – the polar bears may be lovin’ this weather, but if you wanted to watch them cavort in their habitat, better make it another day as the Detroit Zoo was closed today.
The U.S. Postal Service, which features the motto “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” got an asterisk to that motto when Michigan, as well as ten other states, kept their mail carriers at home, saving them traipsing in sub-zero temps today and tomorrow as well.
As the list grew, I wondered why the traffic reporters were still listing the accidents because who could have been left driving on the roads for goodness sake?
The Trudge Report.
The bright blue sky belied what the real deal was … at a glance, it looked beautiful outside, but the reality was horrid: it was -6 F (-21 C) and a real feel of -34 F (-36 C) when I suited up to go run the car. Because the news suggested covering your mouth to avoid damaging your lungs from the extreme cold air, I went outside sporting a bandana that had me looking a little like a cowboy fresh from a long, dusty ride on his horse through the sagebrush in the wild, wild West.
Plumes were drifting out of almost every chimney on the block, occasionally casting curling shadows on the bright-white snow.
I checked for icicles – none – yeah!
I checked if the snow was still on the roof – yes – yeah! I just discovered yesterday that means your attic insulation is good if the snow hasn’t melted.
I heard a blue jay calling in the distance, perhaps hopeful I’d share some peanuts with him. I had taken some extra peanuts out with me, so I yanked them from my pocket and wiggled the bag. But that action did not have the same Pavlovian effect that it does with the squirrels who come bounding over … that blue jay remained elusive. Momentarily I thought of Parker and his friends and how they would love if I suddenly appeared and jiggled the bag of peanuts, but I reminded myself they were likely huddled in their nests and not down at ground level due to the snow and the cold. I also wondered what happened to my blue jay from last year. The endless snow shoveling the Winter of 2017-2018 found me outside nearly every morning. I would share a few peanuts, which I propped up in the snow on top of a flat Boxwood bush, with a blue jay who was willing to fly down from his high perch and grab them … just as soon as I turned my back. I’d check back before I came into the house and the peanuts were gone. Eventually he tired of our ritual – I continued putting out peanuts, but maybe someone was offering better treats and he didn’t return.
The sparrows were huddled close together on the window ledge, not even taking flight when they saw me. Tomorrow I’ll take some stale bread which I intended to take to the Park birds on Sunday – I’ll place it on top of the bush for them to see like I did with the blue jay.
Happily the car engine turned over thanks to the trickle charger – it has been plugged in continuously when the car is not in use since October of 2015. I still run it every day in the cold weather, even if I don’t take it out of the garage.
Feasting, but not foraging for frozen goodies …
I inspected the porch and found that the peanuts I tossed out before I took 12 minutes to finish getting my outerwear and boots on, were gone, yet, I looked up in the trees, scanning for squirrels (and hawks), but saw none of my furry friends jumping from branch to branch, or running on the utility wires. That small pile of shells and some redskin chaff from the peanuts told me my furry pals were indeed there – might as well eat them as there’s no use hiding those peanuts as the ground is frozen solid. Good going guys.
Since I was out there running the car for about 20 minutes, I put more peanuts out. Grady was no doubt perplexed, because the peanuts placed on the ledge in two places on Monday morning got zapped with the post-snowstorm freezing rain that arrived after dark. He didn’t return and the snow began in earnest, then the wintry precip. So, that my dear Grady is what you call a “peanutsicle” … a mass of peanuts encased in ice. Just as I had to chip the ice off the mailbox which had sealed shut, I likewise had to pry those peanuts from the ledge. I laid them on some bushes and tomorrow I’ll bring a cup of hot water with me and try to de-ice those peanuts. I’ll bet Grady looked at them longingly thinking “Linda – take them apart so I can eat them please!” Frankly I was surprised Grady (and maybe his pal – I didn’t see either of them) showed up. I’d have stayed tucked in the warm nest, but you know how it is when your stomach growls. What Grady really needed was someone to toss a Snickers bar up to the nest so he didn’t need to venture out.
So, I got to wondering if we were hardier kids back in the day.
On Monday, lots of schools were closed – not just elementary and secondary schools, but some colleges and universities as well. My first thought was “really?!” OK, the kids that are bussed to school or have long walks maybe I can see it, but we walked to elementary school with no angst about those snowy morns. However, trending on Twitter was one local school, Wayne State University, my alma mater. They were holding out shutting the school while snow swirled and whipped around WSU’s campus. Soon students converged on Twitter, trying to shame WSU into closing due to the snow and impending cold, disparaging them for staying open. WSU caved and became one of the 800 schools in Michigan that have been closed since Monday afternoon.
I wandered over to Facebook late on Monday and chatted with my friend Cheryl – we were both attending WSU when the Blizzard of 1978 closed school for a day. It was unprecedented back in those days and we were both grateful to be spared the long and snowy commute. So, that raised the question of just how hardy we were back in the day, as teens walking to junior high and the high school.
The junior high and high school were right next to one another, and were a nearly 1 ½ mile trek each way. I walked every day, except the occasional times, when the neighbor across the street would fire up the old station wagon to take her two high school-aged boys to school. She and my mom were best friends, but she never called on ugly Winter mornings and asked “would Linda like a ride?” My mom, feeling that lack of invitation was a little unjust, would park herself behind the living room curtains and I’d stand in the cellarway with my hand on the door knob, ready to bolt out the door, once her station wagon was sufficiently warmed up and the boys came out of the house. As she pulled out of the snowy driveway, it was my turn to leave the house and see her “unexpectedly” pulling into the street. If my timing was impeccable, she’d roll down the window and say “would you like a ride Linda?” And I’d feign surprise and say “oh, that would be great – thank you for asking me.” So, yes, I was spared a snowy trek but those times were few and far between, because kids in those days were considered young and healthy and that 3-mile round trip was good exercise.
Then I decided to tread back in time a little further …
Well we were exemplary teens braving the elements to walk to school where we never had school cancelled due to snow or cold, nor a stifling hot June spent in a classroom with not so much as a fan nor a window cracked open … I began to wonder what happened back when I was a wee nipper and in elementary school?
I went directly to the source, the Facebook site for all kids who attended E.A. Orr Public School, an elementary school in Oakville, Ontario that I had attended from 1961-1966.
I wondered if my former peers remembered trudging to school on those cold and snowy Winter days without ever getting a snow day. I posed this question to the alumni of that group that I discovered four years ago:
Well, then a lively discussion ensued which yielded 14 comments which branched out into multiple comments about how we went to school in snow and cold and only one person recalled a snow day where E.A. Orr closed down, but it was after I departed. Those 14 comments about what brave souls we were venturing forth on our own, eventually dwindled into a lot of side conversations wherein we girls stepped back in time and chatted about jumping rope and playing “elastics” (Chinese jump rope as it is known in the U.S.), our Beatles buttons we proudly pinned to our coat lapels and other girl stuff circa 1964, give or take a year. Didn’t our parents worry about us? No, we trundled along, just a group of neighborhood kids, and our classmates joined us along the way, similarly bundled up in snow pants stuffed into our brown overshoes, mufflers masking our faces, mittens clasping books or homework assignments – no backpacks back in those days. Our heavy parkas featured fur-trimmed hoods pulled snugly over our woolen toques with their fuzzy pompoms. We arrived at school where our principal, Mr. Buckley, greeted us, and we were bright-eyed, pink-cheeked and ready to sing “God Save the Queen” and learn the Three Rs, but first we had to peel off those layers of clothing.
This scenario was repeated over and over all through the cold snowy Canadian Winter – not just for school, but for skating, tobogganing and building snow forts. So, did we have maple syrup running in our veins or perhaps we were just oblivious to the elements back then?
Or maybe the memories fade and tarnish a little through the years, eh?
How low can you go?
No, it’s not a reference to Chubby Checker’s dance “The Limbo” … it is the question asked to Mother Nature. Here in Michigan we will dip to -16 F (-26 C) and -40 F (-40 C) … -40 is a magical temperature … the same in Fahrenheit as Celsius.
Not to worry, we will do a rapid turnabout and enjoy temps in the 50s come Monday – break out the shorts and flip flops!
Meanwhile the endless trickle of water in the nearby sink keeps making my eyes get heavy while proofreading this very long post. The corner cabinet creaks and groans, reminding me that it needs a good coat of furniture polish. And the frost quakes, those little burst of energy that occur when ice suddenly expands, and creates big booms around the house, have startled me out of this trance to my childhood and teenaged years more than once while compiling this tale.
[Images from Twitter, Click on Detroit and header image by Couleur from Pixabay]