The Polar Vortex of 2014

I came to Fort Wayne for the first time in November 2010 for an interview. On the drive to town I became convinced that it was too far from home, too weirdly flat and not easily accessed. The weather was chilly but sunny. There was talk about what the weather would be like but in this two-day visit I fell in love with the academic community and small college campus I was going to join. I left Fort Wayne trying to decide how I was going to explain this move to my family and friends.

I returned in February 2011 to find a place to live. I flew this time and found myself in the midst of the Groundhog Day blizzard. It was cold, roads were snow-covered and at some point prior to my arrival there had been a travel warning prohibiting non-emergency travel. During that visit it all seemed manageable. My realtor drive me around in her minivan. I drove myself around in a rented Ford Explorer. It was an adventure and surely would not happen all the time.

My assessment of the Indiana winter weather was true for the first two winters I was here. The winter of 2011-2012 was barely existent. It kind of snowed once. The winter of 2012-2013 was a bit more serious, it snowed twice and I learned how to shovel (there are strategies and techniques for shoveling snow). That was manageable and I learned something.

Now we have the winter of 2013-2014. This one is not like the others.

Since December it has snowed over a 12 inches. In the last week we have lived in the snow globe that was early January 2014. Thanks, polar vortex. This has been an unwelcome introduction to the other extreme of Indiana winters. On day one of the storm I shoveled 5 times to keep up with the snowfall.

A state of emergency was declared, the National Guard was called out and a non-emergency travel was prohibited. On day two the temperature and windchill was frightening. The temperature was around -20 with windchills as low as -40 and wind speeds of 20 mph. I did not venture out that day.

IMG_6041On day three the temperature got up to 5 but the roads remained nasty with snow drifts and layers of ice. On day 7 we got a break, it reached nearly 40 but it rained (yes, that is nearly a 60 degree change in 3 days).

Now roads, yards and fields are slush-filled ponds. Yesterday on a dog walk I stepped into an area with shin-deep slush on the sidewalk.

I’ve never seen anything like it. It is only January.

I’m told that this kind of weather builds character and stamina. I appreciate that and while I’d prefer to do that voluntarily and in the sun it is rewarding to know that I can handle it – I can live in an extreme weather event by myself (I was in the house for 3 days without any face to face human contact). One day when I live or am vacationing somewhere very warm I’ll say something like “I remember the Blizzard/Polar Vortex of 2014 and it was a mess, but Scout and I had fun.”

Also, snow in large quantities is pretty.

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Indiana Winter: Cold, Flat, & Windy, Part II

It seems that I’ve been fooled. My first winter in Indiana, 2011-2012, was incredibly mild. Not only was there not one single large snowfall there was not much snow at all. Additionally, the temperature, while cold, was not consistently and continuously bitter. Oh, and I lived in an apartment with a garage. So, I never had to encounter snow directly: no shoveling, no sweeping, no cleaning off the car. All I had to do outside was walk the dog.

The Eel River frozen up to the falls.

The Eel River frozen up to the falls.

Everyone I’ve talked with about the weather (which is nearly everyone) told me not “get used to it.” I am afraid I did.

This winter is different. There have not been any giant snows, but we have had more snow and the temperatures have been way (at least it seems to me) colder. Days and days of temperatures under 20 degrees. Wind. Constant, cold wind with wind chills repeatedly below -10. Oh, and I now have a driveway to shovel, a walk to sweep, and neighborhood streets to try to navigate safely.

I have prided myself on the fact that I can handle cold weather and drive in the snow. I was raised in the mountains! It does snow in the mountains and it does get cold. However, it doesn’t stay this cold for this long, the snow doesn’t hang around for weeks from one storm, and it doesn’t snow this often. And, there is no wind there, at least not constant, extremely cold, and sustained winds.

This has been much more of an adjustment than I am comfortable admitting. It is not in my nature (or raising) to concede weakness or discomfort. Every time I walk out into the piercing cold wind I cringe. I long for some mountain cover. The question – why do I live here crosses my mind. Regularly. If I missed home when it was warm here, I miss home 1000x more now.

Luckily, I had the chance to escape the Midwest winter briefly. I spent part of the last week in Puerto Rico, where it was sunny, warm, and, like Fort Wayne, windy; there the wind blows warm. It was a much needed break even though I worked most of the trip. But that trip taught me a very important lesson. I now know the key to surviving a Midwestern winter. Take a break.

I learned how to use the panorama feature on my phone in PR.

Seasons change and I have access to airplanes. So, my new vacation window is going to be January to March, just in time for a nice break from the Midwestern winter.

Indiana Winter: Cold, Flat, & Windy, Part I

Snow is beautiful. I like it.

Indiana Snow

Sadly, though, snow does not come with sixty degree temperatures, dry roads, and warm winds. At least not in Indiana. The day I returned from my holiday break in Virginia it was eighteen degrees and felt like four degrees with twenty mile per hour winds.

These are not my ideal dog walking conditions.

Twice a day I bundle up in layers, strap on my boots, and walk The Queen. She prefers the field and brush behind the subdivision to the sidewalks. This makes for adventures wading through ankle-deep or more snow and enduring 20 mph winds in an open field. Other than the satisfaction of making the dog happy, the only thing that makes these required walks tolerable is the view. The Queen doesn’t mind regular stops for iPhone photography.

Model Dog

Eyeing some fresh deer tracks.

Walking Shoes

The proper form for mole digging.

The proper form for mole digging.

Wading Through the BrushSunset on the trees

The Queen watching the sunset.

The Queen watching the sunset.

Our evening walks offer lovely sunsets. This one is from behind tall weeds.

Our evening walks offer lovely sunsets. This one is from behind the tall weeds.

The view of the Indiana countryside also pretty. Pretty enough to make long commutes fun and slow. Slow? Yes, because you have to stop and take pictures. Seriously. I am that person pulled over on the shoulder, stopped in the middle of the road, and holding the camera up to the windshield or side window while in motion. I highly recommend it to everyone with a camera or smartphone.

It is pretty.

A snowy sunrise near South Whitley, Indiana.

A snowy sunrise near South Whitley, Indiana.

Sunrise over the Eel River.

Sunrise over the Eel River.

An Indiana farmer's lovely old barn.

An Indiana farmer’s lovely old barn.

The Pretty Before the Storm

It precipitates sideways in the Midwest. This does not happen in the mountains.  Well, at least not often or even frequently.  Sideways precipitation is not enjoyable.  It is especially unpleasant at 5:30 a.m. when The Queen wants her morning walk (she does not care what the weather is doing).  Lately, the weather has been rainy and forty degrees.  My least favorite weather to live in, much less walk in.

To complicate matters, I hear constantly what a “bad”, “cold”, and “long” winter that is coming.  It is on the radio, the internet, and in conversations nearly everyday.  I really wish a wooly worm would appear and prove all these people wrong.  Since that is not going to happen, I have decided to adopt the Scarlet O’Hara position.  I won’t think about it today, I will think about it tomorrow.

Luckily, between the rainy days the Midwestern fall is still pretty and I intend to enjoy it until the snow starts to fly.

Here are a few snaps of the pretty before the snow . . . enjoy!

This lovely little lane above is in northern Allen County just off of Puff Road.

Ouabache State Park located in Bluffton, Indiana is a beautiful park complete with lake, trails, and gorgeous picnic areas.  It is a great place for a walk, fishing, boating, or a climb on the fire tower.  The leaves were very pretty.

Indiana has a system of fire tower that were historically used to protect property from fires. This is one of three fire towers in northern Indiana constructed for that purpose.  I was really excited about climbing the tower for some pictures of the fall leaves.  Unfortunately, the tower was closed because of a hornet problem.  Maybe next time.