Monday, January 6, 2014

It's cold!

Monday, January 6, 2014, the governor of the State of Minnesota has closed all the schools because of the cold.  This doesn't happen often.  But I haven't heard anyone complain about the decision.  It's -19°F (-29°C) right now with a wind chill of -34°F (-37°C).  This is dangerous stuff and no one wants to lose a child at a bus stop.  In fact, no one really wants to find out how well the busses work at this temperature.

When I was doing research on the childhood conditions facing the Veblen family in those early settlement days, I was reminded of just how savage the weather was.  Thorstein's sister wrote about how their mother would pin mittens to the children's sleeves so they wouldn't accidentally fall off during the night.  Homes did not have central heating so while it was toasty in the rooms with stoves, it got seriously cold in the rest of the house.  And a couple of times a day it was necessary to care for the animals.  Just keeping them in water was a major undertaking.

So while it has not been this nasty-cold for about 20 years around here, it doesn't require much of a memory to recall when things were a whole lot worse.  Back in the 1970s, we had some brutal winters.  Cars still had carburetors and were VERY difficult to start.  Before Gore-Tex and Thinsulite, clothes were not very warm.  But it was also colder.  This current outbreak of extreme weather is very unlikely to break any records.  Talked with an old college roommate yesterday who grew up outside of International Falls.  When told temps were expected to fall in the -40°F range this morning, he snorted, "For the first week in January, that's pretty mild!"

So even on a day when the governor closes the schools to keep the children warm and safe inside, there is still plenty of evidence that the planet is getting warmer.  Now for anyone who has to go out in this weather to get necessary work accomplished, the fact that it is a few degrees warmer than the winters of the 1880s is not much comfort.  But for those who do not absolutely have to go outside, be careful, hunker down, and get caught up on some reading.  Winter is what makes us who we are.

And for those of us who survived a few winters in western North Dakota, someone who tells it like it is.

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