Column: How cold was it?

Jan. 12, 2014 @ 01:29 AM

The windy and cold days that we faced earlier this week bring a wide array of stories, “It was so cold that (and you can fill in the blank).”

While the weather we encountered broke records, people living in Minnesota would probably call the cold snap we experienced earlier this week “spring.” Because while we were having single-digit mornings with wind chills below zero, northern Minnesota was as much as minus-55 degrees with wind chill factored in.

We had readers who stopped by and shared stories of ponds actually freezing thick enough in years past that children could play on the sheets of ice. Or stories of spraying water on the side of a backyard hill and sliding down with neighbor kids when the storyteller was young.

The best part for school-age children in both parts of the country is that the nasty weather meant either no school or, as was the case here, a shortened school day.

And unfortunately extreme weather almost always causes damage, as evidenced by Friday’s story about homes, businesses and churches experiencing broken pipes and water damage, or cars that just would not start.

You can go to our Facebook page and share some of your favorite winter stories. I’ll share a few of mine today.

Growing up on a farm in northern Illinois meant we experienced our share of ice-filled roads, blustery winds and carrying water to the livestock because the creek was frozen. But nothing prepared me for northern Minnesota, where my daughter and I lived three hours north of Minneapolis. It’s so cold there that people actually have to “plug in” their cars – the engine blocks have heaters added so they don’t freeze. Heated car seats were invented for Minnesotans; without them it would feel like you’re driving on a block of ice for five months a year. Twenty below zero might mean no school, but for most students it meant an afternoon of skating at the community ice pond or building snow forts outside.

No matter how cold or how snowy, readers expected their newspapers, even if they had to be delivered by snowmobile. I remember one day out of the 10 years I spent in Minnesota that we were not going to be able to deliver the Daily Tribune. We had printed the paper early because of the weather forecast, but the state police closed the major highway, and rural, side roads were impassible. Most of my staff was home, but a few of us were answering phones when a man called and asked about his paper. When I explained we would bring it with the next day’s paper due to the weather, he canceled his subscription. I asked him if he had been outside (no, he hadn’t), whether his roads were clear (no they weren’t) or whether he had received his mail (no, he hadn’t). This particular reader lived on a lake about 20 miles from the office, so neighborhood delivery by snowmobile was impossible. But he wanted his paper. It actually made me laugh.

We love to talk about the weather. No matter where one lives, it seems to generate conversation.

Winter is not yet behind us, so enjoy the season and be careful.