I’ve always wanted to see what a record-setting snowfall was like, in much the same way I wanted to be part of the heady experience that is a root canal.
Last night, Madison got hit with the snowfall that finally pushed us into record territory. Not even at mid-February yet, it’s official: the last Ice Age now comes in a close second to the winter of 07/08. WE’RE NUMBER ONE! WE’RE NUMBER ONE! WOOT! IN YOUR FACE, LATE PLIOCENE!
I suppose living in a state that actually has a freaking Glacial period named after it should have been the tip-off. But honestly, it’s been so long since I can remember a winter like this one that I found myself lulled into a false sense of security. And my “Security” I mean “Not Bloody Freezing My Tuchus Off.”
Fortunately, we’ve had a few breaks from the mind-numbing snowstorms that have broken upon us, one after the other, like waves at a stupidly, stupidly cold beach. True, these breaks have involved Arctic cold fronts sporting temperatures so low EVEN THE SHOW WON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THEM.
Seriously, do you have any idea how cold it has to be where even the snow says “Whoop! Better stay in today. Only a MORON would go out in that”?
So the basic routine this winter has been BAM, BAM, BAM, freeze, freeze, freeze, BAM, BAM, BAM, freeze, freeze, freeze, BAM, BAM, BAM, with allarmingly Emeril Legasse-like abandon. Even the Lovely and Talented Judith, a native of these parts, has snapped, and retreated to a corner of her mind that has us living in Antigua.
But hypothermia is like riding a bike, and soon the old ways come back to you. Layering, for example. Everyone in Wisconsin knows that, if you’re gonna venture out in this weather, you need to layer your clothes. Layering is vastly important, because it means you’ll die cushioned.
So, too, do some soon remember that snowmobiles are not just for skipping over patches of icy water in a Darwin-Awards-be-Damned sport built on speed, fearlessness and alcohol (not necessarily in that order). They can actually be used on snow, as well.
Speaking of water skipping (see what we’re doing, here?), no show on television has ever jumped the shark quicker that The Weather Channel’s “When Weather Changed History.” Even the most incompetent historian (ie, me) could suggest a whole treasure trove of world-altering events significantly changed by various climatological crises. But, nooooo……forget the Spanish Armada, or Hitler invading Russia. According to the Weather Channel, tonight we discover that the recent rescue of a hapless physician from a South Pole research station is defined as “History.”
That’s not History. That’s a Traveller scenario.
I mention this only because, during one point in the preview for tonight’s episode, they make mention of -50 Degree Fahrenheit temperatures.
The first year I moved to Madison, we had temperatures of -40.
Minus 40 impresses anyone, as that’s where Fahrenheit and Centigrade intersect: it’s the same on both scales. It’s the Historical Roadside Marker of the Common or Garden thermometer. It’s the “Last Stop Before Absolute Zero” sign by the side of this particular ice-covered Interstate.
It is, in a word, stupid cold.
After walking halfway up stupid State Street one stupid night that stupid winter, from the stupid University of Wisconsin Memorial Union to the stupid Plaza tavern with my friend Tony (who’s not stupid, but was with me nevertheless), I noticed two stupid things.
The first was that, when I’d inhale through my nose, my nostrils would freeze.
The second was that, should I blink for too long, my eyelids would freeze.
Not really wanting to find out what would freeze next, we popped into the Plaza and vowed to take a taxi the rest of the way. I reached into my surplus Swedish Army longcoat’s pocket and pulled out a handkerchief.
A small ChapStick fell out of my pocket…
…and shattered as it hit the floor.
Fortunately, the temperatures haven’t gotten quite that low this year. I think, with wind chill factored in, it’s only fallen below -30 once or twice.
And anyway, they say a break from the low temperatures is coming.
Along with another snowstorm.
BAM, BAM, BAM!
Weather Channel? Call me. I’ve got yer history right here…