It is so, so cold. So very cold. To those who have never lived somewhere cold, it is a cold that cannot be imagined. I am in a coffee shop. Who am I kidding? I am in Starbucks. Anyone who is from here, or has lived here long enough, knows you do not hold doors open in this cold. I think the setting of the heat is adequate, or nearly. There have been groupings of minutes where I have felt nearly warm enough. Then the door will open. Thankfully by a Chicago native. Dear Lord, the temperature plummets. Because I am seated several feet from the door, a strange phenomenan occurs. The door opens and lures you into a false sense of security. Everything remains as it was. The door closes. Count 1… 2… 3… BOOM Cold. Godawful cold. Your mind imagining Absolute Zero. It feels like an infintesimally small shard of ice is peircing through your skin. Aimed directly at whatever bone lies beneath. Through every possible cell. Painful cold. Excrutiating.
This morning I went outside to start the car. There is no way the kids and I are dealing with this cold while the heat gradually, achingly slowly climbs inside the car. If we all got in the car and left straight away, the car would still be frigid still when we reached school. Today I brought one blanket for each of us. They are in the car. Just in case. We’re told by the experts year upon year of what precatuions to take. Enough clothes and then some, and blankets all important. I haven’t quite figured out the water supply thing. Water left in a car for a few hours in these temperatures freezes. Should I carry four bottles, eight, on my person? Maybe I should. It is my job as the adult to ensure everyone’s safety. Now I live in the city. Most likely we’ll never need this stuff. If I called for help, they’d have a tow truck out quickly to get the car and bring us somewhere warm. Now and again though, that’s not possible. Let’s not forget the emergency services are dealing with the same crisis as the rest of the city. They also are susceptible to the weather.
In February 2011, Chicago experienced ‘Snowpocalypse’ as it was later loveingly named. We recieved 21.2″ of snow in 12 hours. As a city we pride ourselves on handling winter weather well. Cold? Bundle up. Snow? Shovel, snow boots, snow plows, etc. With Snowpocolypse the snow fell at such a pace that the plows couldn’t keep up. All of Chicago’s over 300 plows were working full time during the storm. Over 900 cars were stuck on Lakeshore Drive (LSD). This happened at rush hour in the evening as the storm was ramping up. Because as Chicagoans, we believe we able to handle anything winter throws at us. How wrong were we. The whole city shut down the next day. The day after that, things got back to normal for the most part. Some schools and businesses were closed, but overall we were back on track. It had shaken us to the core. How could we, Chicago, have been brought to our knees?
The reason I brought up Snowpocalypse was as a reminder that just because we live in the city, we are not invincable. If snow comes down extremely rapidly. If we get stuck. If the roads become imassible. Including for plows. Then what? Then we are in our own. Are we to knock door to door, assuming we are even on a street with houses. What happens if we are stuck on LSD or I-90/I-94 (the city’s highway from downtown to home)? It would be completely unsafe to leave the car. Would there be a sense of safety in numbers? Talk to those in cars around you? In reality there is nothing anyone can down. I suppose if one car had plentiful supplies they could share. Or if someone’s car shut down, they could go in a strangers car to stay warm. This is completely foreign to those living in warmer climes. Sadly, most of us in Chicago (and other frozen wastelands) rarely take these measures. Apart from this morning I rarely take many precautions. I have no unfrozen water. I had one large bottle of frozen water (that was liquid less than 24 hours ago). If the car stays on, I can melt it with the heat vents. I do this regularily in the winter. I am too lazy to bring water to and fro form the car. I did fill up the tank this morning. I bought a spare windshield a couple of days ago. It’s only good to -20F.
I wouldn’t be displaying my self-righteous attitude of our being so much sturdier than I friends to the south. Atlanta shut down over two inches of snow recently. I don’t bring my coat at that nothingness of snow. We just great on with life. I do look at temperatures that are worse than ours when things get bad here. My favorite is Barrow, Alaska. It’s awful. I’m sure they laugh at us in Chicago and our freaking out over sub zero (Fahrenheit) temps. I remember one of our recent dreadful summers (I think 2012/2013 and 2013/2014). A few times I checked Barrow and it was warmer than us. That a ridiculous sentence. It was less frigid than here. I still must mock Florida this past week. It was 53F in Florida this week. There was a “Cold Weather Advisory”. Okay??? They had suggestions for how to cope (haha) which included wearing layers and supervising children and taking them in if they became too cold. Seriously?
Wherever you are in the world, if you have a summer and a winter, the weather will likely be different between the two. People have likely complained about the weather for years, and will continue to forever. For some of us that can become dangerous. We act with most bravado during these times. A “look at us” mentality. “Aren’t we strong”. Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t. Just be safe. Be prepared. Whatever that means for you.