An INDOT truck plows snow in Lake County early Sunday morning. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 7, 2014 6:20AM
Snowmageddon. Coldapocalypse. Snowzilla. Polar vortex. The Blizzard of 2014.
Call it what you will, but one thing is for sure: Everyone is talking about it and we’re forced to deal with it in Northwest Indiana and beyond.
As I write this column on Sunday afternoon, I have yet to venture outside to shovel my driveway (for the third time in two days) and then drive to another city for a mandatory appointment. My street hasn’t been plowed yet, visibility is near zero, and a madman on a snowmobile just whizzed past by my mailbox.
I’m closely watching any vehicles that inch past my house to gauge the dangerousness of the roads in my neighborhood. I view them as canaries in the proverbial coalmine, though I’ll be a canary, too, in just a couple of hours.
Were you, too, on Sunday, or will you be today when we’re expected to hit record-low temps, wind chills and productivity. You know it’s serious when the actual temperature appears on your TV screen but it looks like a wind chill figure. Minus 18, with a wind chill of minus 40 —are you serious?
Yes, apparently the TV network weather folks are deadly serious, if not quietly excited, about this type of rare “weather event.” Are they simply doing their jobs by preparing us or has the phrase “media hype” reached blizzard-like proportions? We can’t say we weren’t warned, if not scared to death beforehand.
As Mother Nature and Old Man Winter conspired to keep us indoors, middle-aged men hauled out choking snow blowers, hurriedly cranking them into mid-winter health.
Mothers rushed into grocery stores to buy extra food, bottled water and other survival supplies for the big snowdrift weekend. Students stayed glued to the Internet hoping their school would shutter its doors Monday for a bonus three-day weekend.
Snowplow owners rushed to mount dusty blades to their pickup trucks, licking their chops for moonlighting money throughout the night. And some of us called relatives in Florida or Arizona or California to boldly boast how we would weather the storm, again, creating fresh memories to pass on to our grandchildren someday.
“Hey kids, there we were on Jan. 5, 2014, roughing it like 19th century pioneers on the prairie!” we will say proudly.
Be honest, though, are you terrified or excited (or both) about all this snow, cold, wind and chill? Did you stock up to hunker down on Whiteout Sunday? Are you fondly reminiscing about the Blizzard of ’67 or ’78 or ’89? Or fearing what can happen to your family today, Arctic Monday.
One thing is for sure, during those previous snowstorms we didn’t have social media and the Internet, so our advance warnings and updates came from the TV news, AM radio and morning newspapers. These days, my Facebook page has been buzzing about this expected snowstorm and arctic blast since Friday morning.
“I’m cleaning up Christmas, but the beauty outside keeps distracting me. I LOVE this weather!” wrote Julie Manner of Michigan City on my post asking what region residents are doing during the storm.
Social media’s upside during such weather events is how close we feel to our public officials, many who also have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. I, too, posted continuous updates to my friends, readers and followers regarding NIPSCO press releases, updates from various cities, and public safety announcements.
On Friday, to poke fun at the repeated and relentless media hype, I posted this: “The latest prediction for this weekend: Minus 112 degrees, 78 inches of snow, and a blizzard of hyperbole by media.” Humor is essential during such worrisome times, I say.
In my city, Portage Police Chief Troy Williams posted several updates leading up to the storm, warning residents and alerting them to warming shelters in the city.
“All Portage Township Schools are closed for (Monday),” he posted on Sunday afternoon to his followers. “Additionally, emergency warming shelters will be activated beginning Sunday night at 6 p.m. All warming centers will be available until Tuesday evening unless conditions remain poor.”
We didn’t have such public notifications at our fingertips in the “olden days,” did we? Nor did we have so much endless information at our disposal, such as this handy online chart I found illustrating how wind chill works: http://www.atc.army.mil/weather/windchill.pdf.
As we all know, when wind speed increases it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly, causing skin temperature to drop, possible frostbite and even hypothermia. Reason No. 43 to stay indoors if at all possible.
“I’m enjoying it from the inside,” said Melissa Corbett-Negron of Valparaiso.
Most of us are trying to do exactly that —enjoy our collective “snow day” from the inside while peeking outside every three minutes (as if anything has really changed). It’s still a white-out, snow-blind frigid mess, yet we can’t stop watching it, like curious gapers passing a nasty crash scene.
It’s hard to believe that some region residents had to work outdoors Sunday (except snow plow drivers). But don’t tell that to Greg Serbon, who was welding a pipe in a snow-buried trench in Valparaiso for the Enbridge pipeline replacement project.
“It’s just a mess out here,” he told me before being sent home for the day.
Such memorable weather events, however, serve as a pipeline to our primal fight-or-flight mindset. Admit it, we’re either terrified or thrilled. We’re anything but bored.
Most of us quietly look forward to such a bitter and snowy distraction, often to bury us in even more reasons to grumble about our tedious lives. It’s all how you view things.
If anything, today’s weather conditions give us a God-given refuge from the daily storm of normalcy.
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