Archive for weather
I think one of the most depressing parts of winter is that we spend it cloaked in darkness.
It’s dark when you wake up to get ready for work. The afternoons are often overcast and everyone has to drive with their headlights on. It’s dark when you drive home from work. You can go days without seeing any serious sunlight.
In Michigan, you can pretty much put your sunglasses in the drawer in October and not pull them out again until April—if you’re lucky.
It’s like in wintertime, we’ve all forgotten to pay the light bill.
That’s why, when you get a day of sunshine in the winter, your eyes hurt. You spend the day squinting. Everyone looks like Robert De Niro in every movie in which he’s ever appeared.
But there’s something called the Winter Solstice, and we actually passed it a few weeks ago—December 21 to be exact. And when you pass the solstice, you’re in for longer days, slowly but surely.
When I was a kid, I remember folks talking about December 21 as being “the longest night of the year.”
Kids, as we know, tend to take phrases literally. I was no exception. One year, I heard all the blather about December 21′s “longest night” and when that night actually came, I thought it would be dark for the whole next day.
The “longest night” aspect, of course, is an astronomical phenomenon rooted in minutes, not hours.
But that’s not what kids hear.
So here we are, 23 days past the Winter Solstice and while it’s still mostly dark out, the commute home from the office isn’t quite as depressing anymore. I take heart in the fact that from this point forward, nightfall stays away a tad longer, day by day.
But it’s still dark a lot.
This photo was likely taken at 1:00 in the afternoon during a Michigan winter
I like December 21 in the same vein that I dread June 21, the Summer Solstice.
Because after June 21, the days start to get shorter.
I love it that in the summer, the clock will read 9:25 p.m. and you could still mow the lawn if you want. There’s that much sunlight still available.
But after June 21, sunset creeps closer and closer. It’s like a slow water torture.
By August, 8:00 becomes the point where you need flashlights outside. A couple months later, with the leaves on the ground and with more chill in the air, sunlight becomes a precious commodity.
Then we start the whole depressing winter thing all over again.
This blog post may seem like an exercise in futility, because no amount of complaining in the world is going to change the Earth’s axis. We can’t rally and join hands to make our winter days filled with more sunshine.
But I write this because today it hit me—I made it home after work with a sliver of sunshine left in the sky. It was gone a few minutes later, but this is improvement.
Plus, in Michigan, the longer the days get in the winter, the more we get to see all the snow that needs to be shoveled.
Give and take, you see.
It doesn’t take much to give us Spring Fever in Michigan.
It’s cold and flu season, but some of us will be coming down with an incurable case of Spring Fever as the temps are expected to hit and surpass 50 degrees on Friday and Saturday. That’s all it takes, you know—a day or two of 40+ degree weather to make us think of baseball, Easter and flowers.
Get ready to see folks in shorts and flip flops this weekend. I only partially exaggerate. Flip flops, maybe not, but certainly shorts. I have joked with out-of-towners who live in warm weather climates that while they may think of temps in the low-60s as being “cool” this time of year, people in Michigan would be walking around naked if the mercury touched that mark in the dead of winter.
Just a day or two, that’s all we need, of unseasonable warmth and you can get a new lease on life. Your countenance changes. You become more optimistic. You wonder whether Punxsutawney Phil will need shades and a glass of iced tea when he pops his head out on February 2.
Even though we know the balminess won’t last long—maybe 48 hours, tops—it doesn’t matter. All things are possible. You wonder if the tulips will be popping out before MLK Day.
We starve for anything above 40 degrees right about now. The holidays are over, there’s a hangover about that, and a whole winter is still ahead of us. Bone-chilling cold is certain to get us, sooner or later. So a forecast like this weekend’s, when 50 degrees looks like 80, is a great elixir. The snow will melt before our eyes but we won’t see it actually happening, much like how a clock or watch’s minute hands move as if by magic. All of a sudden the grass will reappear.
We see these temps coming a mile away, once they appear on the 5-day forecast. There’s a buzz created.
“It’s going to be 50 on Friday!” we say on Monday.
“50 degrees on Friday,” we say again on Wednesday, to which someone says, “55 on Saturday,” as the 5-day is updated.
We say it with excitement. We say it with amazement.
It’s bound to be fleeting but that’s OK; we would be happy with just an hour of it, truth be told.
Yes, it’s just the second week of January and no matter how warm it gets this weekend, the whole winter, just about, is staring us in the face.
We’ll worry about that come Monday.
They will tell you that Michigan is still a state of four seasons. Do not believe them.
Somehow, sometime—and I haven’t been able to pinpoint when it happened—we in Michigan stopped having four seasons and now have two. OK, two-and-a-half—at best.
The seasons have also changed names.
They are now “bloody hot” and “chilly/damp.”
Whatever happened to a crisp, fall afternoon? Or a soothing spring day with an air freshener-like aroma all about?
Seems all we have now is unseasonable weather; you know, weird, mild winters and blazing hot Septembers.
Actually, the word “unseasonable” is probably not even accurate, because as I said, where have the seasons gone?
We had 84 degrees in March, which was the tail end of a winter in which I picked up a snow shovel all of three times. I’m not complaining about the lack of snow; far be it. It’s just that the human body is very sensitive to temperature changes, and in Michigan those changes have been as abrupt as sticking your head in the freezer and removing it.
Tell me, how do you decide what to wear each day in this burg?
Chances are, what you put on in the morning will be too damn hot for mid-day, and what you don in mid-day will chill you to the bone that evening. And so on.
If you own a pool in Michigan, which we don’t anymore, good luck to you.
I remember our first pool season. It was 1998. We purchased in May and it was installed several days later. We were swimming—comfortably, not just to do it—in mid-May.
Try that nowadays.
The swimming season in Michigan is like a snow cone on a hot day—it’s rapidly shrinking.
Gone is May-September, which is what it was in 1998.
Now you’re lucky if you get two good months (June and July) in. August can’t even be trusted anymore. The chilly days have pervaded even the eighth month on occasion in recent years.
I really miss the fall. May it rest in peace.
Summer kind of melds, nowadays, into a chilly, wet slop of an October and November anymore. Actually, it starts in September, truth be told.
The four seasons are a thing of the past. Not that it’s always a bad thing. I like an unseasonably warm day as much as the next fellow.
I just don’t know how to dress. And that’s kind of important, wouldn’t you say?
I would love fall—or autumn, if you prefer—much more if I was more tolerant of what comes behind it: Old Man Winter.
I adore a crisp fall morning, afternoon and evening. I get to enjoy them all because our Jack Russell Terrier demands exercise in the form of several walks per day, so I don’t have much of a choice. But it’s all good.
So I like the smell of someone burning something or another in the distance. I like the colors, of course. On Saturday afternoons, I like knowing that, all over the country, college football games are being played, whether that college has 1,000 students or 50,000.
But as I get older I find myself more and more resentful of the Old Man every year from December thru March.
I just don’t have the patience anymore for the snow and the ice and the hazards they both bring—and I’m including dog walking in there, in addition to driving.
Don’t tell me that you’re safer walking on the sidewalks in winter time than you are sliding around on the roads.
You ever hear of black ice?
Old Man Winter hasn’t been my favorite guy lately
The sidewalks are full of it, lying sneakily beneath the thin layer of powdery snow. And it’s as dangerous as anything you’ll encounter on the roads—especially when your ability to keep your balance is compromised by having one hand occupied with a leash.
I have almost fallen innumerable times—which scares me to death every time it happens—and have actually fallen way more than once.
Neither is pleasant, though the actual falling is worse. That’s because your first thought isn’t if you’re OK—but rather if anyone saw you.
We are all like that, I’d lay odds. Seems it’s human nature to be far more concerned if someone saw us tumble than if we are physically OK. The ego is bruised easier than our bodies.
And let me tell you—I’ve taken some nasty falls in the past several winters, walking Scamp, who gets the bejeebers scared out of him every time I fall and nearly fall. The involuntary tug and yank on his leash as I try to keep upright is what startles the poor little guy.
Then there’s the shoveling. My snow blower went kaput several years ago and I’ve neglected to get it fixed—shame on me. The result is clearing snow the old fashioned—and more physically-demanding—way.
I would appreciate the romance of winter more if I didn’t have to interact with it beyond looking at it.
Hey, keep me inside, away from winter’s elements, and I’m good to go. I’ll romance the heck out of it in the coziness of indoors.
If fall could extend all the way to spring, with no stop for winter in between, then I’d be ecstatic.
And less bruised.
Most snowstorms are like lumbering elephants. It’s hard for one to catch you unawares.
There’s really no such thing as a sudden, unexpected big heaping of snow. You don’t get caught in a snow shower, like you can with rain. The skies don’t open one afternoon and before you blink, there’s two inches of fluff on the ground.
No, snowstorms announce their presence ahead of time, like a courteous guest alerting you that he’s planning on stopping by in a couple of days. And he’ll be knocking, whether you’re home or not.
Which is a good thing, I suppose. The advanced warning signs give the Chicken Little weather people plenty of opportunities to run screaming down the streets and yelling into the radio microphones, telling us to take cover and to buy provisions—not necessarily in that order.
The impending, Great Snowstorm of 2011 is apparently on its way, having announced its intentions as early as Saturday night.
I’m not sure how it works. Maybe the chief meteorologist at the National Weather Center gets a text from the storm.
“C u Tuesday LOL”
Or something like that.
Regardless, someone is the first to know about it, and in this day and age of Internet and mobile phones with Internet access, it doesn’t take much to spread the word. One tweet on Twitter usually does the trick.
The stores around town (I live in metro Detroit) have been swamped over the past couple of days with people smartly buying all sorts of stuff they feel they’ll need in order to survive the blizzard. Snowstorms are good for the economy, too!
The kids, of course, are about to burst out of their skin. Snow days are glorious things to those from K-12. We all know the giddiness when your school’s district’s name appears on the crawl at the bottom of the TV screen in the morning.
But technology has made its mark there, too. We subscribe to a texting service through the WDIV-TV (channel 4) website, so as soon as the decision is made to close Warren Consolidated Schools, my phone gets pinged. Sometimes that ping comes at 10:00 the night before; sometimes, at 4:00 a.m.
The great New York City blizzard of 1888
If you have all that you need, you keep your power on, and have nowhere to go, a blizzard can be a nice, cozy thing. Even the chore of removing the snow isn’t all bad, if you go slow and pace yourself.
It’s nice that snowstorms traipse across the country with the speed of a turtle. And it’s nice that they’re courteous, to boot.
Give us plenty of time to get ready and/or worry, take bets on the number of inches that will fall, and fantasize about a day off from work and/or school.
Brace yourself. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Or so we’re told.
Someone took leave of their senses at Channel 4 back in the day, and I’d love to know who it was.
Sonny Eliot owned Detroit weather TV in the 1960s and ’70s. He was the first of the goofy weathermen—the kind who just as soon tell a corn pone joke as they would give you the day’s temp and humidity.
Eliot wove his groaners and homespun wit into his weathercasts seamlessly. His delivery was like a silver ball in a pinball machine on warp drive, bouncing and ricocheting off each town’s current condition frenetically. Every couple of minutes Sonny would come up for air and tell us a joke.
“It’s 42 degrees today in Manchester, where a man made a killing in the stock market—he murdered his broker.”
Sonny also combined the day’s weather into one nonsensical word.
“Today it was cloudy and breezy—cleezy kind of weather,” Eliot would say as he wrote the new word vertically down the map of Michigan—in chalk. Sonny was still a chalk guy when the other blow-drieds in town began opting for fancy-shmancy electronic gizmos.
But one day, someone in the upper management of Channel 4 decided it would further Sonny’s shtick if he did the weather outside, on the roof of the station’s headquarters downtown.
Naturally, this decision occurred in the wintertime.
So there was Sonny, in a topcoat, jamming his chalk hand into his coat pocket to keep it warm between writing down the temps on the Michigan map. His nose was red and you could see his breath.
Why we had to see Sonny Eliot perform outside is a mystery that I’m afraid will never be solved.
It was needless and added nothing to the weather segments. If anything, it took away.
Reminds me of what someone once said about France.
“Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion.”
The Sonny Outside Experiment didn’t last long, thankfully. They put the poor guy indoors before long.
Eliot doing his thing; note the word “clilly” on the map
In his heyday on Detroit’s airwaves, Sonny Eliot did the TV weather on channel 2—and then channel 4—at 6 and 11 Mondays thru Fridays, hosted “At the Zoo with Sonny Eliot” on Saturdays, and did weather updates on WWJ radio during the weekdays. He continued the WWJ segments twice a day for years after retiring from TV.
Not bad for a former fighter pilot during WWII.
But the Eliot/outside thing unfortunately portended the future.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING—short of a presidential assassination attempt, heaven forbid—gets TV news teams more excited than stormy weather.
They love the tornadoes and blizzards and lightning and high winds. They even love just the threat of all that stuff. Mention that there might be some rough weather coming our way and the TV news management people’s eyes light up and their salivary glands start working overtime.
Cue the poor slob doing his stand-up report amid 50 mph winds and sleet. Break out the satellite maps. Start conducting man-on-the-street pieces, asking painfully stupid questions.
Look, weather is important. I don’t mean to suggest that it isn’t. Anything that literally affects every human being, one way or another, is relevant.
But TV news people treat daunting weather as if they, well, enjoy daunting weather. Let’s just say that when a severe thunderstorm is on its way, it’s not only the winds that get stiff.
I’m an adult and I’m smart enough to know when the weather is getting bad. I don’t need to see a news correspondent standing in the thick of it, his or her eyes barely able to stay open for all the snow, dust and debris in them, to get the picture.
At least the folks at channel 4 had the sense to bring Sonny Eliot back inside before the weather got too inclement.
I’m about ready to put autumn on a milk carton.
“HAVE YOU SEEN ME?”
You remember autumn, don’t you? Fall? That once-lovely season wedged between summer and winter, like a crutch that we know can’t possibly last but we’re happy to use it as long as we can, anyway.
Fall—with its once-crisp, sunny days and crunchy leaves beneath your feet, the subtle smell of someone burning them, not too far away.
Fall—when you get into your car after it’s been under the sun and turn on the A/C, only to have to turn the heat on the next morning when you hop in.
What’s all this about global warming?
And who is the bloody Brit who moved here and brought his weather along with him?
Or maybe the invader came from our left flank, from Seattle. Maybe a Starbucks wonk?
Regardless, this is the worst fall on record in Michigan, nudging out last year’s, which surpassed the year’s prior to that.
In fact, where have any of our seasons gone? We used to have four of them in this state, you know. And they used to be dilineated. Now, they sort of run into each other. The only discernible one is winter, that Old Man who can’t help but be the snow white elephant in the room.
Back in the day, I loathed the end of summer, but I was happy to see it followed by fall—and not just because of football. Mostly I liked the crispness—those days with highs in the 60s and lows in the upper-40s. Sunshine and blue sky for as far as you can see. The air was intoxicating.
Football, yes, but also cider mills and caramel apples and the brilliant colors.
Raking, I wasn’t so fond of, but now we live in Madison Heights and they just let you dump the leaves into the street, a foot or so away from the curb. Funny how Warren wasn’t able to purchase any of those leaf-sucking gizmos. Huh.
The sun shows itself around these parts as if it’s just passing through, always with somewhere else to go. It teases us but then looks at its watch and says, “Sorry, gotta run!” and its dorky, dreary companion babysits us.
This thing of overcast skies, seemingly constant dampness and tiny windows inside which you’re allowed to clear your lawn of leaves is getting old and we’re not even out of October yet.
I don’t know what’s happened to autumn but this ain’t what I remember from even four, five years ago.
And it’s following a summer that wasn’t really anything to write home about, either—though I didn’t miss the 90 degree days all that much. Still, too much rain. To me.
And while you’re at it, let me know if you see spring. I miss it, as well. But that’s a whole other rant.
I’m not unreasonable here. I know there’s going to be some rain during fall. I know the sun can’t be out all the time. But the amount of time we spend drenched in sunshine seems to be dwindling every autumn, while the hours where squinting isn’t required are starting to pile up.
Just call us London West. Or Seattle East.
Rain keeps dripping into my cup of cider and it’s making me cranky.