Monday, January 6, 2014

Snow days? We never had snow days

Got up this morning to below zero temperatures outdoors. According to the indoor/outdoor thermometer, it was minus 13.9 and dropping at 6 a.m. Today's predicted high is slightly warmer; it's supposed to climb all the way up to minus 6. Fahrenheit, of course, I don't want to think about what it would be in Celsius because Celsius always sounds colder.

What intrigues me about this particular cold snap is the way people are reacting to it. Below zero temperatures aren't exactly new here in the U.P. I can recall many winters where the lows would be down around minus 30 or even 40 below, especially toward the end of January and the beginning of February. I can remember waking up one morning at my parents' house, a structure that relied on one pathetic oil-burning space heater to prevent frostbite and hypothermia in its residents, and finding ice had formed in the water glass on the nightstand. And how did we all respond to this bitter cold? We got up, got dressed, ate breakfast, and then headed out the door to walk to school through waist deep snow. Uphill. Both ways.

Well, maybe no waist deep snow and there was a school bus, but nonetheless we went to school. No one panicked because it was, holy fuck, cold. It was northern Wisconsin in the winter. You expected cold, you dealt with it and quietly hoped for an early spring. Didn't matter just how many brass monkeys were shedding testicles, unless that cold was accompanied by blizzard-like snow conditions, you went to school.

Even 20 years ago bitter cold didn't inspire entire states to close their school systems. Back in 1993-1994 we had a record cold winter. Temperatures were minus 20 or colder in the middle of the day for what seemed like weeks on end. Municipal water pipes froze that hadn't frozen since they were put in a hundred years earlier. But people bundled up, kids kept getting on school buses, and life went on.

So what's different this time? Is this yet another phenomenon that we can blame on the Internet and/or social media? Or is it simply the result of the traditional mainstream media flogging a story to death because nothing else has been happening in the world lately and they're tired of talking about the Winter Olympics and Russian homophobia? Why are people freaking out now over single digit below zero temperatures predicted to last for only a couple days when not long ago all it would have merited was parents reminding kids to dress in layers. I don't know. I do know that the local TV station put up a list on Facebook of schools that are closed today, and it seemed to cover just about every district in the Upper Peninsula. Just because Minnesota panicked we're supposed to, too? Unreal.


  1. So what's different this time?

    It is the instant news media putting fear in everyone.

  2. It is a mark of our society that people expect comfort to be provided.

    Teaching school in an Alaskan Native village: our children never missed a day - even at fifty below - and they all walked. I would meet them at the door and check them for signs of frost bite,

    People who live close to nature except cold in winter as normal.
    the Ol'Buzzard


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