This has been an amazing weather year for me. I’ve survived blistering heat in the Arizona desert, disastrous floods in the Upper Midwest, and now bone chilling cold. I could never had imagined 2008 would bring both the highest and lowest temperature extremes in my life thus far: 111°f/44°c last summer and -10°f/-23°c this winter. Best of all, these were totally unplanned, totally coincidental and totally unscripted as I went about my normal travels.
Apparently my warm thoughts failed me, or more accurately backfired miserably. I won the negative lottery. So where am I this Christmas Holiday week?
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Wisconsin. Yes, you read that correctly, I’m in Wisconsin. People with common sense head closer to the equator as temperatures drop. I don’t have any sense so I’ve migrated way up here to the great frozen north for a couple of weeks. It’s a family thing. Not my family, my wife’s — some of my ancestors came to Wisconsin as early pioneers and settlers but they had the good sense escape after a couple of generations. My wife’s family is still here after 150 years but let’s not make any value judgments since it won’t do any good anyway. Plus, there’s no place I’d rather be than in Wisconsin in the summer. In the summer! My wife’s response: "you know what you got when you married me." I’m not getting a whole lot of sympathy either; in fact, the whole family seems to be enjoying my discomfort rather vocally.
We weren’t certain we’d actually be here for the holidays. A vicious snowstorm came through the Upper Midwest last Thursday evening, shutting down the airport in Milwaukee for most of Friday. We sat at home watching flights get cancelled throughout the morning and early afternoon. Our evening flight was the only one that made it from our home airport to Milwaukee the entire day, and with only a slight delay. The people up here certainly deserve some credit for being able to get their lives back to normal after a foot of snow within a few hours. The interstate highways had been totally cleared, and remarkably, all the way down to the pavement.
Saturday night brought several more inches of snow along with an Arctic blast of wind and chill. Sunday was the brutal day. We awoke to an official temperature of -10°f/-23°c, but not to worry because it warmed up to a high temperature of -2°f/-19°c. I think that may also be my "lowest high temperature" record, so all-in-all a rather remarkable day. The National Weather Service issued all kinds of warnings when the wind chill dropped to -35°f/-37°c. Fine, powdery snow drifted against anything that would hold it back in strong westerly winds.
Monday was OK. We started the day warmer at -6°f/-21°c the winds died and we got a few degrees above zero. That was warm enough for grandpa to dig out the driveway with a snowblower and for the kids to ride down the neighborhood sled hill for about a half hour before turning into popsicles. It was warm enough for me to stand by the window and wave at them. I’m not going out there. Are you crazy? But eventually I did. People were remarkably nonchalant about the ice and the chill and went about their daily lives. Sure, they acknowledged the cold, but more along the lines of "it doesn’t usually get this bad until late January" rather than "I think my face is about to fall off." Every street in town had been plowed from curb-to-curb. Businesses opened right on time, with parking lots freshly cleared and towers of snow pushed to the corners. Christmas shoppers packed local malls. Drivers handled snow-packed roads, moving cautiously but efficiently. Really, it’s not so bad out there since most of the time we simply moved from heated house to heated car.
We got a few more inches last night. I can hear the two-stroke snowblower engines as I sit here with my morning cup of coffee. The street has already been plowed. Twice. I have to admire a place so well-equipped to respond to winter. I shudder to think what might have happened back home had we faced the same conditions. Gridlock. Panic. A run on local stores for milk, eggs, bread and toilet paper. Silly southerners.
We expect more snow today, tomorrow and the weekend. Relief is on the way… it might actually get above freezing for part of Friday.