What the Arctic Blast Taught Me

In the wee hours of Monday, single digit temps slipped in as we slept. At 6 a.m. the temperature was 7°F. I woke to the sound of Daughter exiting our front door.

I quickly dressed and went to the door. Daughter was outside, bundled from head to foot, attempting to get her car door open. (The car was covered in snow and ice.)

“WHAT??!!” I thought. “Is she planning on going to work??”

The glass of the storm door was iced over…on the inside.  My hand, on the metal handle inside, began to burn.  I removed my hand and looked at it.  The handle was so cold the metal was freezing the palm of my hand.

I opened the storm door to speak and a gust of frigid air took my breath away.

“What are you doing?” I asked Daughter.

“I’m trying to get my car door open so I can go to work.  Other people are driving by so the roads must be okay.  If I can just get my door open and if my car will start, then I can go to work,” Daughter replied.

Rain, then sleet, and then snow had fallen last night in rapid succession and the cars were encased in a shell of ice that permeated deep within the cracks and crevices of the door.

I protested.  She insisted.  I closed the door and nursed my bare frosty toes.

Within a few minutes, Daughter entered the house and asked, “Do you have an hour by hour forecast for today?”

I quickly pulled up the forecast for our area on weather.gov and showed her our “hour by hour” forecast: actual temp 7°, today’s forecast high temp 9°, mostly cloudy with snow flurries.

“When the sun comes out and warms the car I’ll be able to get the door open and see if the car will start,” Daughter said.

I pointed again to the forecast and told her that this temperature is a whole new animal that she’s not yet experienced. “Warming up” 2° at this temperature isn’t the same as warming up from 31° to 33°. And, yes, the sun can and will melt but the cold air will refreeze it instantly.

I also told her that if she does succeed in getting the car door open and if the car does start and if she is able to leave the driveway, she had better take blankets and be prepared to hunker down in her car (should she have car problems or slide off the road) until help arrives. And, she might be prepared to spend the night at work if her 20 year old car won’t start when she’s ready to come home.

(Hubby’s car was in the same state as her car. There would be no backup plan if things went sour for her.)

An hour later her car was still encrusted in ice and she was snuggled in bed attempting to warm up.  She’d called into work and told them that she couldn’t make it on time, but hoped to be able to so when it “warmed up.”

The “warm up” came about 2 p.m. after direct sun had been on the car for four hours, and after I’d loaded the cracks around the door with WD40 3 times (using one of those tiny narrow red straws that comes with it) and waited 30 minutes.  Every attempt up to that point (and there had been many) had failed.

This was Daughter’s first experience with weather this cold. No amount of explanation or preparation on my part made an impact on her understanding of the needs of the human body and the requirements and hardships this type weather brings. She had to experience it first hand.

And, no…I didn’t help her get into her car that morning, and I didn’t offer any suggestions on melting the ice. Why not?

  • When Daughter came inside after working on her car for 10 minutes she was coughing, chilled, and her fingers, legs and feet were numb. She said, “I didn’t realize how cold I was getting.”
  • Daughter’s car is old and has issues.  The turn signals don’t work and she must ride with her window down (or roll it down each time she needs to indicate a change in direction) and extend her hand/arm to signal her intention to turn.
  • The windchill is -7° and with a gust it drops to below -20°. With the car moving at 40 mph and her driver’s window down…what will the windchill be and how will she avoid frostbite?

Daughter is learning that not all cold weather is equal. 29 years in the Deep South prevented her from learning deep freeze lessons.  I prefer she not learn the hard way, you know?

What have I learned from this Arctic blast?

  • Prep for this isn’t much different than prepping for tropical storms. You do what you can to protect life and property and then you hunker down, wait it out. and hope for the best.
  • Dangerous situations don’t always look or feel dangerous.
  • It takes mere minutes for severe cold to affect the body.
  • Cold can make you feel really warm.
  • The sun can warm you enough that you think all is well while working outside, but it doesn’t warm fingers and toes.
  • Snow insulates – the ground, the garage, plants….
  • Cold wind in single digits HURTS bare skin – ouch!
  • Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t break loose frozen car doors.
  • Running from the back door to the garage and back is invigorating when you don’t wear a coat.
  • Three light bulbs can provide enough heat to keep the “important” part of the garage from freezing temperatures.
  • A wall of boxes works wonders at creating a windbreak…or a wall against cold air.
  • It can snow while the sun shines.
  • Extremely cold snow produces a delightful crunch when you step on it.
  • Sunlight striking the snow atop the porch awning slowly melts it and produces wonderfully twisted icicles.
  • With the sun shining, it’s hard to stay inside…I kept finding reasons to go outside.
  • Within seconds of being outside, my glasses fogged up and remained so.
  • A long scarf keeps one comfortably warm when positioned around the neck, upper shoulders/chest, mouth, face and head.
  • Your eyes get really cold when outside.
  • The ground gets as hard as concrete.
  • I found myself thinking of spring planting and of garden prep.
  • Thoughts turned toward others, with concern for how they were faring with the cold.
  • We can prepare for everything but we can’t control anything.
  • Tuesday, when the high temp crept to 20, it felt…warm.
  • It’s possible to adjust and become accustomed to the cold.
  • Hotflashes, heavy jackets and tightly wrapped head/neck scarfs are NOT good combinations.
  • Wooly bears were right!

One thought on “What the Arctic Blast Taught Me

  1. Pingback: Accustom, Adapt, Acclimate | suzansays

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