Snowstorms are special events, one of the memorable times that mark our lives. As they approach, there is a mixture of both excitement and dread seasoning our anticipation as we make sure the snowblower runs, there’s gas in the car and the can, and enough bread and milk just in case. There is no satisfaction like the feeling that you are prepared for the worst- that you’ve anticipated every possible scenario and you are ready for whatever Nature brings.
Because they are so memorable and our brains are so fallible, as we age, we magnify the snowstorms of our youth. I think I now qualify as an “old-timer,” a designation which I embrace proudly simply because I have made it to at least my mid 60’s and have a few snowstorms in my personal history. And like many others, I swear that the snowstorms of my youth were much wilder than those experienced in recent years.
Fortunately, some people take the time to document things so that we know what is true. And fortunately, there are scientists at the National Weather Service who for many decades have recorded all sorts of weather data to which we can refer when we are curious. And fortunately, such information is made easily accessible to people like me who have so many questions about life and a desire to share those with others. So into the records I dove, seeking to justify the struggles of my childhood and the desire to downplay the hardiness of the generations after me. What fun to point out how hardy people used to be and how people nowadays are too soft.
Well, once again the certainty of my recollection is called into question by cold, hard, facts. It turns out, that 2022 is not a very snowy year at all, but that could quickly change by the time you read this. As of today, the winter solstice, we’ve had only 20.2 inches of snow in Manitowoc, putting 2022 at 98th place out of the last 123 years of records. A mere pittance in terms of snow! I think a lot of us would suspect that after the almost snowless winter of this year’s early months, and not much so far this winter- to date. However, a big storm in the next couple of days could bump us up to around 60th place, right in the middle of the pack. The middle, really? I felt sure that recent years were much less snowy and harsh than when I was a kid.
Let’s look at the 60’s, when I was young- snowfall for the years 1960-69 ranged from 14.8 inches to 63.1 inches- a tremendous variation! The average was 38.1 inches. In the 70’s when I was in high school and college, it ranged from .6 inches to 50.6 inches- an even bigger variation, and the average was 25.7 inches. But, I remember big snowstorms back then- those totals don’t seem too impressive. What about the 1940’s- my grandfather told me how he had to ski to work at Mirro some days and how snow drifts were up to the height of the power lines in the country. Well, there does seem to be a bit more then, ranging from 25 to 50 inches, with an average of 36.1. So, about 10 inches more than the ’70’s? It doesn’t seem too impressive.
Well, recent years must certainly be different- lets look at the 2010’s- they ranged from 15 to 67.6 inches, with an average of 34.2- hardly different than the 1940’s.
Few of us are around to remember, but the 1920’s seem to be a snowy decade- ranging from 92.4 inches (first place) to 28.1 inches, with an average of 59.3. That’s quite a bit higher than recent years. But one factor may be that we know temperatures are now warmer than they were 100 years ago, and we may be receiving more rain than snow. That would be interesting to look at but is beyond the scope of this writing.
Perhaps it seemed like there was more snow in my youth because I was so much shorter then. I do remember seeing photos of me beside towering sidewalk snowbanks, my snowsuit looking like a cocoon, and a smile on my face. Regardless of the amount, snow adds beauty to the landscape, protects the soil, and gives us opportunities to have fun. I recently saw a quote that was something like “If you choose to hate snow, you’ll spend the winter being unhappy, but you’ll still have as much snow.” Amen.
photo- a snowy Woodland Dunes by Nancy Nabak