As I write these words on Wednesday night, it's -10° F outside - the warming trend has begun!
"It's not the heat, it's the humidity" are words commonly heard in summer to describe the source of our warm-weather woes. In a cold snap like the one we're having now, the refrain becomes, "It's not the cold, it's the wind chill." Outdoor temps of twenty below can be bearable for a limited time (with the proper clothing); but throw in winds of 10 to 30 miles per hour and the cold becomes not only unbearable but dangerous. Frostbite can occur in just minutes.
|Chart courtesy of National Weather Service|
Of course we have ways to protect ourselves from the cold: central heating, stoves, space heaters, warm clothing. We travel in heated cars and most of us are lucky enough to work indoors where weather is not an issue. Yet despite all these advances and comforts, we still go into panic mode when deep cold strikes. School is cancelled, government offices shut down, and the media (with our willing cooperation) whip us into a frenzy of worry and fuss.
Which makes me wonder: how did people manage in centuries past? My brother-in-law, who grew up here and attended a rural one-room school, said that when he was young, school was never cancelled because of the cold. (Only impassable snowdrifts could shut down his school.) He says the students enjoyed extremely cold days because then they were allowed to push their desks close to the stove - which made for an exciting change in routine.
What's happened to us? Have we become a nation of wimps? I'm not suggesting we do anything foolhardy when the deep cold strikes - it's right and proper that we should keep our children and teachers warm and safe at home. I do wonder, though, if somewhere along the line between the stoicism of the past and the panic-prone apprehensiveness of the present we may have taken a wrong turn somewhere.
What do you think? Do we over-react to weather and weather reports?
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I am as guilty as anyone of blowing the weather out of proportion. (Weather pun!) Nearly all my recent comments on other blogs have included the words "twenty below" - often in caps. Why DO we get such a sense of pleasurable self-importance from our own extreme weather?
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