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Editor's Note: Cold snap throws things into relief

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 9:27 a.m. CST

(Continued from Page 1)

Cold.

It’s cold.

It’s so very, very cold.

It’s so cold I’m hearing phrases I hadn’t heard before: “polar vortex” sounds a lot more awesome than it is. A Chicago newspaper invented #ChiBeria to mark its Twitter posts about the weather.

I think I remember winters this kind of bitterly cold. I know I remember winters this snowy. I’m struggling to remember a time we were hit with both quite so hard, in such a short span of time.

It’s so cold that ice formed on the inside of nearly every window in my house. My boss tried throwing a pot of boiling water up in the air outside to see if it would freeze before it fell; it turned to vapor as it left the pot.

My son, who turned 8 on Sunday, has had his winter vacation extended by at least two days as of this writing, and he thinks it’s pretty awesome. I’m pretty sure weather cold enough to cancel school was his favorite birthday present. But even he’s tired of it; all that appealing, inviting snow, just begging to be turned into snowmen and snow forts and ammunition for snowball fights, and it’s too cold to play outside.

I’ve been extremely thankful the last few days for simple things: a warm house, a car that started, a hot bath. I worry about the people who don’t have those luxuries.

I’m thankful for the plow drivers who have done their best to fight a combination of heavy snowfalls and blowing winds. I’m thankful for the tow truck drivers and police officers who venture onto roads that are obviously dangerous to help the people who have become stuck.

I’m thankful we haven’t (yet) lost power.

I’m thankful for the public buildings and homeless shelters that have opened their doors to those with nowhere else to go, just to get them out of the cold.

I’m thankful to the school districts and other public entities that made the call to close rather than allow people to risk their safety.

This seems like an obvious place to offer a list of cold-weather tips. My email inbox is flooded with them, from any number of agencies: tips on keeping pipes from freezing, on driving safely in conditions that really shouldn’t be driven in, on keeping pets safe in the cold, on preventing frostbite and hypothermia. But since the forecast calls for double-digit temperatures today and temperatures warm enough to rain by the weekend, what feels quite timely on Monday is quite dated by Friday.

Here’s one tip, though: when it reaches almost 40 degrees above zero, only days after it has been 20 degrees below, it’s going to feel downright balmy. Don’t get carried away. You still need to wear a winter coat, and probably a hat. If you are younger than 25, I probably need to remind you that 40 is not shorts-and-sandals weather. Otherwise, in two weeks I’ll be writing about how the cold snap ended and everyone got sick.

Whatever the weather, enjoy your MidWeek.

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