Column: North reminds me why I love South

Mar. 09, 2014 @ 04:48 AM

Winter has been with us a bit longer this year. In fact two weeks ago when it was snowing someone asked me if it reminded me of my time in Minnesota, and my response was, “Yes, spring in Minnesota.”

Last weekend, when I returned for a visit to my former home, I was once again reminded that a few days of snow in North Carolina hardly compare to winter in Minnesota. I was attending the wedding of a family friend, and it provided a wonderful opportunity to see other friends. The entire time I wondered, “How do these people stand the winters, and did I really do this for 10 years?”

This winter on the Iron Range (that part of the country that’s about three hours due north of Minneapolis) has been difficult, to say the least. Here are some highlights, all of which reminds me of why I like North Carolina and why I haven’t grumbled too much about our winter this year.

They’ve had 23 consecutive days below zero. "Below zero" there can dip to 40 below, not counting the wind chill. In fact on the day I came home I experienced an 85-degree swing in the weather -- the Duluth temperature was 24-below in the early hours when I returned from the wedding reception, and in Asheville it was 59 degrees when I landed at the airport that evening.

It’s so cold that one must cover one's face with a scarf; otherwise it really feels like your lungs will freeze. And car engines have heaters that are usually plugged in, if the car is not kept in a garage.

Usually when the weather is extremely cold in northern Minnesota, there’s not much snow because the air is too cold to hold moisture. This year was an exception, as it has been one of the coldest winters on record and also nearly ready to break snow records. It has snowed so often and melted so little that my friend’s driveway has 8-foot snow banks, and Minneapolis has supposedly run out of places to move the snow.

I felt a little bad telling my friend that my daffodils were already blooming when she will be lucky to even see her yard in April. I also wondered if any of her perennials would survive when she told me that frost line was at least 8 feet deep.

And her city wants residents to run their water at a very slow drip for at least 30 days so their pipes would not freeze. Already at least 150 homes have frozen pipes, and these are homes that are extremely well-insulated for Minnesota winters.

Ice shanties -- shacks set up on frozen lakes for ice-fishing -- still cover the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and people are wondering how they’ll get them off the lakes later this month because the snow is still so deep.

Lake Superior closed in mid-January and is not expected to open until the end of March, which is long even for Northerners.

I was telling my daughter’s husband that he should go back sometime in the summer because it’s really quite pretty. But then a friend told me not this summer because it’s armyworm summer. (Armyworms are a particularly destructive type of caterpillar.) Ah, yes, another reason why I love North Carolina.