We’ve had a run of unbelievable weather lately, and today was the crown jewel –mid-70s and sunny, in the middle of the normally gloomy Columbus winter. If you didn’t have a calendar, you’d swear it’s May. The plants on the Ohio Statehouse grounds appear to agree with that assessment.
Weather like this can’t last, so you’ve got to enjoy it while you can — which is why I decided to leave the office a bit early this afternoon.
It’s a beautiful, clear, unseasonably warm Friday night in February in Columbus. What better way to celebrate such a brilliant confluence of weather and calendar than to build a fire, drink a cold beer, and enjoy the flames and the evening?
Here’s the thing about February weather in central Ohio: it not only sucks, but you really can’t dress for it.
The weather is just too unpredictable, and variable. You leave your house in the morning and it’s reasonably warm, which means you can’t wear your heavy winter overcoat because you’ll just get too damned hot on your way in to work. But while you’re at the office the temperature plummets, the winds kick up, and by the time you’re walking home in the dark in that by now too-light raincoat, snow flurries are being blustered about by a brisk wind, the chill factor is down in the teens, and your face is raw and red against the cold. That’s exactly what happened today.
Of course, the reverse is true, too. Last week we had a day where the morning started out cold, but as the day progressed the temperature rose about 30 degrees, and then it started raining. So what do you do? Dress for the rainy weather, and freeze your keister off in the morning? Or, bundle up in the morning, only to lug around soggy, overheated outer garments that night?
There’s a reason the snowbirds leave Ohio in February. The weather here just blows. And rains. And snows. And just about everything else you can think of.
Yesterday we saw an odd phenomenon in Columbus: the sun was out, the sky was a brilliant blue, and there were actually shadows on the ground.
If you think that’s not a big deal, that’s because you haven’t spent a winter in Columbus. Columbus is one of the cloudiest cities in the United States during the core winter months of December, January, and February. According to statistics compiled by the National Climatic Data Center, Columbus experiences dense cloud cover on 67 percent of the days during those three months. That puts Columbus 7th on a dubious national list of the cloudiest major cities in the country during the winter. (Portland, Seattle, and Buffalo are the top three.)
And I’m not sure that the 67 percent figures really captures the bleakness of a Columbus winter, either. The NCDC “dense cloud” standard purports to measure the grey (or in some cases, white) winter days when more than three-quarters of the sky is covered in cloud. That doesn’t mean that the other 33 percent of Columbus days feature bright sunshine, it just means that they don’t quite reach the required three-quarter cloud cover standard. So, they might be two-thirds cloud cover, or half cloud cover. A day where the sky is a bright blue, like yesterday, is as rare as hen’s teeth.
Columbus is not a place where you’d choose to spend the winter if you’ve got Seasonal Affective Disorder — but it you have to be here, regardless, you relish the non-SAD days, and you try to remember that the spring, summer, and fall days will restore your spirits.
As I was on this morning’s walk, inwardly grumbling about the 10 degree temperature with face stiff from the brutal chill, I heard my mother’s voice. “On a cold morning, nothing is better for you than hot cereal,” she said.
It’s true. Mom was right up there with the Quaker Oats guy in advocating for hot cereal as a crucial part of the cold weather diet. Every year, at some point around Halloween and responding to some innate motherly weather instinct that was beyond the ken of little kids, she would declare that the hot cereal season had begun. In explaining why, she would use phrases like “fortified against the cold” and “stick to your ribs” — but in any case her declaration had the force of law. From then on the Webner kids ate nothing but oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, Maypo, Malt o’ Meal, and Coco Wheats until, months later, the winter weather finally broke and Frosted Flakes would once again appear on the kitchen countertop.
They say a boy should always listen to his Mom, and I’d hate to be a disobedient son, so today I’m making some oatmeal with blueberries, brown sugar, and pecans for breakfast. And because I’m now a grown up, a cup of steaming hot coffee and some orange juice sound good, too.
Grandma Neal often said: “Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can; it’s seldom found in woman, but never found in man.”
Winter in the Midwest has a way of teaching patience.
Consider freezing rain. When it hits, as it did this morning, there’s not much you can do. With your car windows and windshield covered in a thick coat of wet ice, you’ve got to wait until the defroster melts part of the ice before you can even start scraping. And you’d better take you time walking, too.
We got our first snowfall last night. Its appearance moved me to compose this bit of doggerel about snow, and its impact on some of my fellow Ohioans:
The First Snow Of The Season
It’s bright outside and what’s the reason?
We’ve had our first snow of the season
We’ve seen a flake or two before
But today we got a whole lot more
So now the ground is oh so white
And the gelid air has a special bite
The cold and snow make a special code
Telling snowbirds they should hit the road
Farewell for now, my thin-blooded friends
We’ll meet again when winter ends!