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Friday, February 21, 2014

Yes, It's Been Cold

I know that there are people all over the world who may have the wrong idea about the weather here in the Denver Metro area, especially in the winter. Yes, Denver is one mile above sea level. But we are not up in the mountains. Our streets and neighborhoods may vary in elevation, but we don't have that snowy mountain weather that you might think we do. We don't have two feet of snow on our cozy cabin-style homes all winter long, thank goodness. In fact, we often joke that we keep our snow in the mountains where it belongs. The climate here is is considered semi-arid, AKA almost desert. Yes we get snow and cold weather here in the Metro area, but it usually gets warm in between storms. In fact, we have been having temperatures of nearly 60 degrees lately, about 15 C for comparison. We usually have a few bouts with subzero temperatures, but only a few times, and only for a few days. We had a long bout of cold just recently, though, that lasted for several days.

This has been an unusual winter all over the place, to say the least. There have been snow and ice storms in places that seldom get anything worse than cold rain. And other areas, like ours, have had more days of icy-cold weather than normal. And we have had a goodish amount of snow and ice. I have been thinking lately that folks who don't have weather changes like we do might find it difficult to really understand what it is like when these frigid, or sometimes polar vortex, conditions begin. Of course, some things are pretty obvious. Travel, for instance. And I mean every kind of travel. Airplanes and runways get coated with ice, making flying dangerous to impossible. The ice and snow make walking and driving treacherous. Even public transportation buses have problems holding the road. You've seen videos of vehicles sliding around. And icy sidewalks are no fun. But here's some things that you might not have thought about. 

Heaters. You get ready to get into your warm, cozy bed, and turn down the heat to 60 degrees. When the heat comes on automatically in the night, you notice that it runs for more than an hour at a time. You think again about how stinking cold it is, and wish it would warm up about ten or fifteen degrees. It'll still be cold, but you won't be as paranoid about the horrifically high power bill you will be getting next month. 

Water and plumbing. One of the unpleasant worries about this cold weather is pipes bursting. People are advised to keep a trickle of water running all night, and to have any cupboards surrounding drainpipes left open so that the heat from the furnace can keep them from freezing. On the other hand, when you turn on the faucet to get a drink of water, it's so cold you don't need any ice cubes. In fact, the water coming out of the pipes is so cold that if you turn your washing machine on the warm setting, the water is still cold enough to drink. When you pull the clothes out to put them in the dryer, they feel like ropy ice cubes. But the moist warm air from the dryer is heavenly!

Your frail body. You know it's colder than you think when you go outside and catch a blast of subzero wind to the face. Your eyes start to water, and your nose boogies alternate between freezing and running down your face. Your skin gets freeze-dried just a little bit. You decide that one pair of gloves is simply not enough. The cold hurts. But coming home is so wonderful!

Food. When it's super-cold, you think differently about what you are going to get from the supermarket. No worries, obviously, about getting things that need to be kept cold, or things that are frozen. By the time you get them home, they'll be colder than they were in the refrigerated cases in your store. But there are things you decide you shouldn't buy. Lettuce or salad mix, for example. By the time you get it into your car and then into your home, the lettuce will probably be frozen. I don't know about you, but frozen lettuce just doesn't thrill me at all. And if you should be traveling to and from the store on foot, forget produce entirely. Those apples and onions will not be the same when you get home.

Just so you know, I love living here. I thrive on the change of seasons. And like I said, we have really mild weather in between storms. And when spring comes around, the trees will be wearing their gauzy green dresses before they cover themselves with glorious blossoms. Crocuses and tulips will poke bravely through the last of the snow and give their brilliant colors to the world. Summer will bring numerous shades of green on lawns and shrubs and trees, and sunflowers will turn their faces toward the sunshine. Fruits and nuts will start to grow on the trees around our apartment, ready to feed the birds and squirrels. Then the cycle will end, and begin all over again. But for now, I'll enjoy the beauty of winter, even if it is sometimes pretty darn cold.