After a couple of false starts, it feels like winter has finally arrived.
And with winter comes the odd belief that the weather is worse than it is.
I’m not a fan of winter. I don’t hate it, I simply tolerate it, and some years my resolve to tolerate it is tested.
I remember a winter several years ago where we struggled to have a normal day, seemingly for weeks. I wasn’t begging for a January thaw. I simply wanted a normal January day, where the daytime high reached into the low 20s, somewhere around our average high for the that time of winter. But I swear every day, for weeks, came up notably short. I remember grousing about that.
There was also a winter not too many years ago where we had to shovel our driveways numerous times. And when you thought the last major snowfall of the season had blessed our sidewalks, along came another notable accumulation. I bemoaned that winter, as well.
But given the fact I have lived most of my life in Minnesota, including three winters on the Canadian border, I have some degree of natural immunity to winter. I don’t love it, but it does have its benefits, and I’m not leaving Minnesota any time soon, unless that lottery ticket on my refrigerator is a winner.
My job doesn’t require a lot of outdoor work through the winter, so perhaps that bolsters my tolerance of the cold. Winter weather can be dangerous, and when it is, I rarely have to challenge Mother Nature for long periods of time. I admire and appreciate those whose jobs pit them against the elements.
Subzero weather is rarely pleasant. Enduring a -3F morning isn’t the worst thing we face in January, particularly if there’s no wind or blowing snow. It’s hardly picnic weather, but it’s manageable. Hockey players and ice skaters of all ages can still be found on our outdoor rinks on a -3F night, and skiers seem to embrace the challenge of enjoying their winter sport all the same.
It’s the wind chill that inflates our sense of accomplishment during the winter. And I see it ever year.
A few years ago, a friend trumpeted to her social media connections that after returning to Minnesota from southern California in the middle of winter, where it had been 70F, the wind chill her first day back was -30F. It was “literally” 100 degrees colder back home, she claimed.
Except, of course, it wasn’t. It was approximately 70 degrees colder, because the wind chill doesn’t change the air temperature, it makes the cold air feel worse if you’re standing at a bus stop, and increases the danger to exposed skin, without a doubt. Wind makes a -5F day more challenging, for sure.
It doesn’t matter if the wind chill is -25F or -50F, I’m bundling up all the same and not wearing shorts to the grocery store. I’m taking the same precautions wherever I have to go during such days. But increasingly I see comments suggesting that we’re enduring a greater hardship if it’s subzero and windy. It’s more dangerous the further below zero the mercury drops, or the gustier the winds are, of course, but wind during subzero mornings doesn’t mean we’re enduring colder weather when we’re outdoors.
The coldest mornings I can recall in recent years bottomed out at about -20F, and this week is flirting with such temperatures. Those are tough mornings for walks to the bus stop, with or without wind. Barring 35 mph winds, most of us are taking the same precautions, with or without a morning breeze. It’s cold, it’s challenging and most of us will safely navigate those mornings, wherever we have to go.
During my Canadian heyday I went to work one extra chilly week where for three mornings in a row the temperature, according to a reliable source, was -35F to -40F. No wind chill, thankfully, just subzero air temps like I had never experienced before. My morning routine was no different than if it had been -10F that morning. Or there had been a wind chill.
Let’s stop trying to oversell how cold it is. It gets cold here in Minnesota. We all know that. Bundle up and take the necessary precautions to limit your exposure to the elements, whether it’s -15F, or -150F with the wind chill. We will persevere.
And if we’re having that weather in April, then we’ve earned the right to brag, or complain. I know which one I’ll be doing.
Follow Bloomington community editor Mike Hanks on Twitter at @suncurrent and on Facebook at suncurrentcentral.