21 Dec


Well, it officially started today at 6:04 am, but it’s already one of the more intense winters I’ve ever experienced. Here’s what my street looked like this morning:

You can see how the snow banks lining people’s driveways are taller than the cars parked along the road. That and the fact that I got frostbite taking the picture leads me to believe we’re in for a whopper. It’s was -8 degrees and the wind chill had it dipping below -30. When I came inside, I had to amputate three fingers.

I used my remaining seven fingers to search for some climate history for Wisconsin. The coldest temperature ever recorded was -55 F on Feb. 2 & 4, 1996, near Couderay (Sawyer Co.). Never heard of that town.

I have heard of Milwaukee, though. That’s where a blizzard shut the city down for two days when it dumped 23.6 inches of snow on January 29th and 30th, 1947. Apparently, winds blew drifts to the height of 10 feet.

Some other snow records:

  • Greatest daily total – Neillsville, 26.0 inches of snow on Dec 27, 1904.
  • Greatest single storm total – Superior, 31.0 inches Oct 31-Nov. 2, 1991.
  • Greatest monthly total – Hurley, 103.5 inches Jan. 1997.
  • Greatest seasonal total – Hurley, 301.8 inches in 1996-97 winter season.
  • Deepest snow on ground (excluding drifts) – Hurley, 60.0 inches on Jan. 30, 1996.

Looking at averages instead of extremes shows that January and February are typically colder than December. February was clearly the coldest month on average in 2007, but January is the coldest month if we go by “normal temperatures.”

Monthly Average Temps

So it would seem logical that we’re in for even worse weather for the rest of the winter.

But I don’t know if that’s how it works. Nor do I really want to research it anymore given that it took me about an hour to find all of the above. Researching weather history is a black hole: the information is so plentiful and is organized by such a wide variety of search criteria (extremes, averages, climate, precipitation, deviation from normal — it just doesn’t end), you end up navigating through years’ worth of data and charts. Like this one, which shows average snowfalls by month:

Again, it seems plausible to predict that we’re in for even more snow this winter. But who knows? The only thing that’s clear is that enduring a certain amount of weather oppression is actually good for team morale, so to speak. It makes small talk easy, and it gives people a common enemy. In the past two weeks, I’ve had some of the easiest, most fluid conversations with strangers that I can ever remember having. And there’s a certain excitement in the air, the same kind you feel when your local sports team is doing really well in the playoffs or whatever.

So I’m choosing to look on the bright extreme bright side. Thank God I don’t live in California. Or worse yet, Jamaica. That would suck.

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