SideLines: Welcome to a Midwestern winter

There’s no other feeling quite like it. That’s good, because it’s not a good one.

I was driving down Route 38 during the big snow storm last Tuesday. It was snowing and blowing and the road hadn’t been plowed. It was bad enough that I actually passed through Malta without seeing it, not even the big lighted sign of the Marathon station on the west end of town.

I was coming up on a little hill just past the turnoff to Kishwaukee College when a gust of wind kicked up. For a  moment, everything went white, sort of like driving in a huge vacuum of milk. Being unable to see is an awful sensation, both helpless and a little panicky.

Although your instincts tell you to stop, you know you can’t. It’s not going to make the white-out go away, plus there’s the chance of getting hit from behind by someone who can’t see me. The only thing I could do was keep going – very slowly. If you go too fast, you might go off the road and get stuck in a ditch. You also might hit the guy ahead of you going even slower.

The whole thing only lasted about 30 seconds, not long enough to cause any problems, but long enough to leave me thankful, even grateful, I got through it.

As I kept driving, I thought of the new minister of the Evangelical Free Church of Sycamore-DeKalb, whom I interviewed in January. He came here from Texas and couldn’t get over how everyone thought we were having a mild winter. At that time, it had been cold, but we hadn’t had much snow.

Well, sir, welcome to winter Midwest-style. In a way, it doesn’t seem like winter unless the ground is white. Fortunately, the snow is coming now, when spring isn’t that far away, rather than the beginning of December.

Winter can evoke a variety of emotions – good and bad.

As much as I don’t like ice and the snow, I have to admit winter can be lovely at times. Cruising down Seventh Street in DeKalb the other day, I couldn’t help noticing all those big trees with their snow-covered branches looming over the street almost like a halo. It was actually kind of inspiring in a way, reminding me of those long-ago winters when I was young and the world seemed so fresh and exciting and promising.

There’s also that sense of triumph when we overcome a big winter storm. No matter how bad a snowstorm may be at the time, thanks to the great work of snow plows and salt trucks, we are usually able to make it to work or school the next day, even if our backs and shoulders are aching a little from shoveling.

If nothing else, winter reminds me how unpredictable the weather is. Despite having the most modern technology, weather forecasters are still limited in what they can foretell. During the annual Farm Show in January, WTVO weather meteorologist Candice King told the crowd she saw abnormally dry conditions persisting through spring.

Apparently, no one bothered to tell Mother Nature. Except for a few days when it has rained, it has pretty much been snowing on and off ever since.

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