26 below zero? Nice!

  1. Listen Cold brings us together

    Jan 30, 2019

It was minus 26 when I got up a little after 5 this morning to let the dogs out and get on with the task of filling a blog and it wasn’t lost on me that I was disappointed when looking at the smartphone thermometer.

We didn’t make it to 30 below, a nice round number and certainly more impressive than 26 below, even though I’m pretty sure I can tell no difference 4 degrees — or even 10 degrees at this point — makes.

Weather is exciting. Weather breaks up the monotony of Minnesota. Weather makes us something nothing else can make us: one.

It’s one of the few shared experiences we have left that doesn’t play to our instinct to wonder, “What’d you mean by that?”

I won’t miss the cold when the thermometer swings 75 degrees later this week and we return to being just a cold Omaha, but in short bursts, a sense of community is well worth the chill.

The streets were pretty sparse while I was giving rides around Minneapolis last night (note: weather does not make us tip). At the height of the wind, a man with his tote bag of groceries sprawled crossing a street in south Minneapolis, papers flew down the street. He struggled to get up but couldn’t.

Cars stopped, people jumped out and got him righted.

That probably would’ve happened anyway even if the weather wasn’t trying to kill us, but our priorities change with the heat and we turn more inward than outward.

In the cold, though, we hold doors for each other. We jump-start the batteries of strangers. We let the pedestrians cross against the light and think nothing of it because they’re out there and we’re safe in a car and, what the heck does it matter anyway? We think about what it must be like to be homeless.

We’re nicer this week and we got that way without terrorists having to ram jetliners into buildings like the last time we were all nice to each other because we realize we’re all in something together and we survive by taking care of each other.

True, we in the media are struggling to push out one more insipid weather angle for page view gold — “How to keep your gerbil from getting cabin fever” — and the cacophony of scolding for not dressing warmly enough is insufferable. But we’re all talking about it and we’re all obsessed with it and it feels good. Warm, even.

We slow down and put things off and realize that in the big scheme of things, the things we simply had to do can wait. The things that simply have to get done, don’t really have to get done.

While we’re all getting the pictures and posts from our friends and family off in warmer climates, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got something here they don’t have — each other.

The news this morning says it’s going to be “worse” today. I think not.

Come again, polar vortex, you’re good for us every once in awhile.

  • Mike Worcester

    Sometimes it takes a chilling of the bones to remind us of our shared humanity. And that’s alright.

  • John

    I delivered newspapers as a kid in Virginia, MN (I was doing that job during the 1996 version of this that people have been blathering on about). I can tell you conclusively that there is a real difference in how -40 feels than -30. The snow is crunchier, your eyelashes freeze faster, your nose closes up. On the up side, the clarity of the world as the sun comes up is unlike anything else.

    Some line is crossed in that range – There’s not much difference to me between -15 and -25, but somewhere between -30 and -40, something shifts. I don’t know what it is, but there is a definite realness about -40 that -30 doesn’t quite have, and you can feel it in the world.

    BTW, I’m okay with the cold stopping at -30 this week, this wasn’t meant as some sort of a grumpy old man yells at sky post – just letting you know that you would be able to tell if it was ten degrees colder than now.

    • When I was delivering papers — Pioneer Press for 10 years when I first moved to Minnesota — I used to prep myself during the drive to the depot in the rain by just telling myself “you’re going to get wet”, and prepare for the cold of days like today by just telling myself “you’re going to get cold.”

      Sometimes, accepting the misery is the only path toward surviving it.

      • John

        Indeed. Last I looked, it is going to be just about as cold tonight as last night. I bet most places that are closed today will open back up tomorrow.

        It takes a day or two to accept this kind of weather, but we will, and then it will be gone.

        BTW, mine was a traditional kid’s paper route – two or three miles of walking with a couple bags slung over your shoulders, 7 days a week, 365 a year. I held the job for less than a year, because it was impossible to find coverage if I ever needed/wanted a day off. Pocket money, really. A good reason to be up at 5 AM on the coldest days of the year.

      • Rundog

        I deliver the SW Journal in Mpls. Worse I experienced was the Rain at the end of Dec. 1″ of rain! All i thought about was making it through my route, tomorrow this will all be ice – so finish today -and please don’t let this puddle go over my boots and into my laces. Made it!

        • Hero!!

          • Rundog

            Too kind, Bob. The SWJ is every other week and we get three days to complete delivery. Nothing like the daily requirements. And I do tip generously my weekend carrier.

  • Ralphy

    Once gets colder than -25, it is technically cold enough for Bud Grant.

  • John

    Forgot to hit on the point of the article.

    That is one of the great things about living where the air hurts your face. MN nice is on full display when it gets this cold. I try to be nice to people when its warm, but it is so much more of an expectation when the bottom falls out of the thermometer. It becomes a matter of helping people survive, and you are absolutely correct – it brings out the best in people.

  • Rob

    //Come again, polar vortex, you’re good for us once in awhile.//

    If once in a while means every ten years or so, Bob C, I’m with ya.

    BTW, I’ll definitely be tuning in to Angela Davis’s show to catch the topic, “Best ways to escape the cold without spending a lot of money.”

  • Keith P.

    Sometimes we all need a cold shot in the arm. This made me think of a section of Prayer of a Camper from The New Hymnal for American Youth (1930):

    “God of the wilderness, with thy pure winds from the northland blow away our pettiness; with the harsher winds of winter drive away our selfishness and hypocrisy; fill us with the breadth and the depth and the height of thy wilderness.”

  • Guest

    Makes me glad I am NOT in a “one-horse open sleigh”. Seriously, hot and humid doesn’t bring out the kindness among strangers like cold does. Something to bond to others in the same weather.

  • Brian Simon

    ” the cacophony of scolding for not dressing warmly enough is insufferable”

    The main page yesterday blared “ER doctor says nobody should be outside!!!” Newscut said “hey, look at these people racing across across northern minnesota on bikes, skis & foot!” The latter is far more interesting.

    I’m all for sharing info on the risks of going outside unprepared. But let’s not pretend that it’s impossible.

    • Some of those folks are still out on the course.

      • Brian Simon

        The runners, in particular, are pretty incredible. It takes substantial mental discipline to stay out there in these conditions.

  • jon

    All that I ask is that this cold snap kills lots and lots of japanese beetle grubs.

    • Brian Simon

      And emeral ash borers…

    • CB

      I was thinking of that this morning while trying to unfreeze the waterline to our house. If it’s that cold that deep, those bugs better be goners.

    • John

      We talked about that and the emerald ash borer this morning too.

      Also – we can go outside all day today, and probably won’t see a single mosquito!

      • jon

        Updraft wrote up the emerald ash borer mortality rate in the cold…
        Basically this level of cold will thin the numbers significantly…. 50% or so, but it needs to get colder still to get into the 90% that will set them back a few years…

        Edit forgot the link:

        • John

          hmmm . . . The tree lover in me says “bring the cold!”

          the guy who pays the gas bill is less enthused.

        • Brian Simon

          The way I understand it, the duration of the cold snap is a factor too.

  • MarkUp

    Prince said the cold keeps the bad people away from MN. I’ve always thought the cold brings your character to the fore.

    • maamamar

      Grandpa said it was natural selection – the lazy riff-raff stays away.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    Once it gets to lung chilling cold then what the temperature is doesn’t get interesting until -40. That’s where the F and C scales cross. So -40 is -40 weather you’re in St Paul or Winnipeg.

  • He may be dressed like an astronaut, but for good reason. It was the coldest balloon launch in 23 years. The temperature was -29.5.

    Love hearing that squeaky snow…

  • Oddly enough, I watched an American Experience show last night highlighting the Battle for the Chosin Reservoir where it was actually COLDER than what we are currently experiencing (-36).

    I can’t even fathom what those combatants went through.


    • I think about this a LOT . The push across Europe in World War II in conditions like this. Stalingrad . all of it.

  • lindblomeagles

    I remember reading somewhere that our warmer winters were taking a toll on our state’s moose population. I’m hopeful this kind of cold revisits us just one more time, so that the moose population might rebound near its former glory.