It seems that every time I tell anyone outside the frigid tundra that I live in what is going on with the weather- I often get an exasperated sigh of disbelief and feigned sympathy. Well I am hoping that I can change that with today’s blog post and hopefully expiate how the weather here affects you in everyday life, and when I tell you that I don’t think I could survive another winter in North Dakota- you will literally believe that I may actually die if I spend next January in this state! Now I know you all believe its bad, and you have heard stories from me, but I just wanted to share with you how truly cold it really is:
First, lets talk temperatures. Today’s high is 5 below 0, Fahrenheit. Now -5 doesn’t really sound so bad, does it? Actually it doesn’t really sound that bad to me right now either! However, that is just the high, and a high in the sun at that! Consider this- when I got up this morning and left the house at 530 am- it was dark outside and -17 degrees, right now it is -15 degrees at 930 am. So that -5 degree high? Well that may only be for an hour or so at 1 pm! Last week we were talking about -20 degree highs, at night it was closer to -40! But how cold is -15 degrees? Surely it is livable? Consider the time you guys have spent in 20 degree weather- that was bitterly cold and you had to bundle up, now consider the temperature at 32 degrees when it is just starting to freeze. That 12 degree difference feels like a lot right? Well it is exponentially different, so -15 degrees while only 35 degrees colder than 20 degrees, is about four times colder! To put that in perspective, think about the difference between 50 degrees and 85 degrees.
But that isn’t the only problem, in fact I could handle -5 degrees, or even -20 degrees even though I am from below the Mason-Dixon Line. Far worse is the wind- the wind is literally what will kill you. The wind chill today is -40 degrees! The wind blows at roughly 20-30 MPH, and it feels like ice daggers are going through you. Worse still it blows snow (there is about 2.5 feet of snow on the ground right now) in your face, across the roads, and it looks like you are on stage with a fog machine- think about driving through it, you cant even see the road! Not only that, but there are ditches on both sides of the road, that should you go into, you’ll be buried and might not come out! The wind is evil here- it is malevolent and you see it as something horrible that you just cannot avoid. Even when I pump gas, the time out in the wind at the gas station leaves me shaking so hard that once I get back into the truck, I have to sit there for five or ten minutes to warm up!
My truck is like a parachute and I am constantly being blown across the road. I drive 75 miles one way, and it is a hard stressful drive with the wind, not being able to see the road, and the icy conditions. But it is made worse by the wind. The wind blows so hard that it literally blows through the door of my truck. If you licked my window, your tongue would probably stick to the glass! The effect is that I have to keep the heat on full blast and the left side of my body is freezing cold, and the right is sweating- not pleasant!
In the summer my truck used to get 19 MPG, now it gets less than 15- that’s how cold it is!
I probably should give a shout out to Tim and Matagi who are probably reading this and laughing right now- they have lived here all their lives- and everyone should be highly impressed with their ability to handle the elements and not go crazy.
Other things the cold does: It is so cold the inside of your nose freezes; we are at skin freezing temperatures right now. Water in the air freezes also- so those rainbows you are seeing? Those aren’t classical rainbows; the prisms aren’t water in the air- its ice! Rainbows here completely circle the sun since its so cold and are called sun dogs
Speaking of ice- the most horrible thing happened to me the other day. There is a pedestrian walkway going between buildings here, and the sun was shining on it perfectly through two buildings. That coupled with the fact that the walkway was heated meant that the snow was melting where the sun was shining. Worse still was the fact that it was -33 degrees out that day: so the melted snow was instantly freezing, and was forming long thin icicles. I had the great misfortune of walking underneath that bridge and getting hit in the head with a drop of death water- it was so cold my head felt like it was burning. I reached up to rub it out and grabbed ice! I had no idea what to do, I just stood there in horror for what felt like an eternity. I think I will never get over that!
Then there is the perennial discussion of long underwear- wear it and you are a little happier outside. But once you get inside, you are sweating in your knickers and that isn’t pleasant at all! Then when you go back outside, the sweat freezes- and frozen privates are something no one should ever experience. (I once dropped my shorts in the shower at the gym and I had to put them on wet- it was a horrible experience. I wear so many clothes it takes me 10 minutes to dress and undress at my office!
Hopefully this puts into perspective my misfortune at my placement this winter. In fact, this winter is the worst winter since 69 if you don’t include the blizzards of 96-97. I have been truly North Dakotaized- and not only that; I have a renewed respect for my wife, and a greater understanding of the way she thinks. Truly, living through a winter here builds character (even if it has only made me more of a character!)