It Could Have Been Worse

According to the weather app on my phone, it’s 56 degrees outside right now, and the temperature today is supposed to hit 70 degrees.  56 degrees, in itself, is like a tropical heat wave, but . . . 70 degrees!  Sure, it’s supposed to rain during the day, but still . . . 70 degrees!  After the long, dark, dank, cold winter we’ve endured in the Midwest, outdoor temperatures that will actually feel warm seem so wildly improbable they can scarcely be imagined.

I’ve written before about the lousy winter weather, and those of us in the Midwest have been feeling pretty sorry for ourselves about it.  And, in fairness, it has been an exceptionally crappy, frigid, snowy winter, so there has been cause for the muttering.  But I do want to note that, as bad as it has been, it could have been worse.  Much worse.

d2e991b7-2bbf-4062-a886-47c3386c060d-02172019_giant_springs_weather_art-bConsider Great Falls, Montana.

Our friends in Big Sky country have been through one of the coldest, most brutal continuous stretches of weather in recorded American history.  As a slack-jawed article in the Washington Post recently recounted, in many parts of Montana temperatures for the entire month of February averaged — averaged — 27 to 28 degrees below normal .  That’s hard to even conceive, and it is the most extreme, extended variance from normal temperatures seen in the lower 48 states in 50 years.  And March began with temperatures going even lower.

Great Falls, Montana, was in the heart of the bone-chilling zone.  The Post article notes that, in that city:  “The mercury didn’t rise above zero on 11 days and dropped to zero or below on 24 nights. Only the first day of the month topped freezing. Its average February temperature finished 27.5 degrees below normal.”

“The punishing and unrelenting cold continued into March. On March 3, the low temperature tanked to a bone-chilling minus-32 in Great Falls. Combined with a high of minus-8, the day finished a whopping 50 degrees below normal. The city concluded its longest stretch on record below freezing on March 7.”

So sure, our weather sucked this winter — but the frozen souls in Great Falls had it much, much worse.  Imagine a March day where temperatures were 50 degrees below normal, or a nearly two-week stretch where the temperature didn’t rise above zero, even once.

It will make hitting 70 today all the sweeter.

A Whiff Of Spring

After months of enduring the rude blasts of winter, the people of Columbus were ready to savor a little decent weather. So when an unseasonably warm February day saw the temperatures hit the 70s, Columbusites weren’t about to let the moment pass without enjoying the spring-like conditions to the fullest. Along Gay Street, the patrons at the bars and restaurants were happily dining and drinking al fresco, and a downtown resident had donned shorts to walk his dog.

The dog seemed to enjoy the weather, too. Let’s face it — when February rolls around, everybody’s got a little spring fever.

A February For The Ages

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.

February Weather

Here’s the thing about February weather in central Ohio:  it not only sucks, but you really can’t dress for it.

5c40ae3839a75421f043348cd38bd9c8The 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.

Leap Day

Well, it’s February 29 — the day that comes once every four years.  By definition and by invention, it’s a weird day, and it’s not surprising that it’s associated with weird traditions and superstitions.

julius_caesarWe can thank Julius Caesar for Leap Day.  Caesar first came up with a standard 365-day calendar that featured an extra day every four years.  However, because the Julian calendar year did not precisely match the length of a solar year — the period of time it takes for the Earth to make one complete revolution around the Sun — and was instead .0078 days too long, the difference between the calendar year and the solar year accumulated after a dozen or so centuries and left the calendar seriously out of whack.  In 1583, Pope Gregory XIII fixed things by declaring that a “century year” (a year ending in 00) is a leap year only if it is evenly divisible by 400.

Those of us who were around on February 29, 2000 therefore can revel in the fact that, having survived the silly Y2K panic, we experienced a once-every-400-years event.  Just wait until we celebrate it again in 2400!

Pope Gregory’s tinkering is not the only bit of legislation associated with February 29.  If you are born on February 29, when do you officially celebrate your birthday during non-leap years — on February 28, or March 1?  Most states apparently decree, by statute, that you gain a year on March 1.  That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but if you’re a Leap Baby you’d be peeved if you had to wait an extra day to take your first legal drink at age 21.

I’m not doing anything special for Leap Day.  In fact, I don’t like Leap Day for two reasons.  First, why is Leap Day in February, which is inevitably the worst weather month of the year?  After all, Leap Day could have been put anywhere on the calendar.  It’s a totally random addition.  Why not put our extra day in a good weather month, like June or September?   After picking February, no wonder Caesar had to beware the Ides of March.

And second, in the United States a Leap Year always coincides with a presidential election year.  That means that, in addition to another day of crappy February, we get another day of spin, insults, political ads, and talking heads.  It’s almost enough to make you want to tell all of the candidates to take a Leap.

Green Shoots

IMG_0537A few unseasonably warm and sunny days in mid-February, and we’re seeing a few green shoots peeking through the old grey mulch in the flower beds of Columbus.  It’s an encouraging sign of spring, but we know that Midwestern Februarys are notoriously fickle.  Sure enough, the forecast is for an abrupt turn for the worse, with temperatures in the teens predicted for later this week.  Now we’ll be worry about whether those nice green shoots will make it until spring.

The Space Heater Season

Today, in office buildings from sea to shining sea, men inevitably will be dealing with one of the most intractable problems known to nature.  For it’s February, and that means we’re in the midst of the space heater season.

The problem is straightforward.  The weather in February is awful and, worse, it’s unpredictable.  Maintenance staffs across the land will have heated their buildings to a entirely reasonable baseline temperature given the prevailing conditions outside.  For some people with two X chromosomes, however, that just isn’t good enough.  They’re too hot, or they’re too cold.  If they’re too hot, the windows get opened and cold air rushes in.  If they’re too cold — which seems to be a far more common condition — the space heaters get deployed.

A normally constituted man walking from office to office might move from a pleasant 70 degrees to meat locker conditions to equatorial heat in the space of 50 feet.  There is no way to dress properly for such conditions.  And if you are required to actually sit in one of the space heater offices, good luck to you.

The space heater is humming, its heating coils are blazing, and you feel the sweat beginning to trickle down the back of your neck.  Meanwhile the office’s occupant — who is probably wearing a sweater, to your amazement — yammers on, oblivious to the fact that conditions in their office are like those in the hot box used to punish disobedient prisoners of war in The Bridge on the River Kwai.  In short order you are focused solely on that suffocating heat, face flushed and nodding absently to every word, trying desperately to bring the conversation to a close so you can retreat to areas of the building where normal conditions exist.

I don’t doubt that space heaters serve a useful function, but I’m glad when the space heater season finally ends.