Terry Mackin: Winter is finally over -- probably

June 1, 2014 

It's June 1 and I think it's safe to take the winter coats downstairs. Finally.

You may want to leave one fleece hoodie in the upstairs closet, though. You might need it one evening. Or morning.

It's probably safe to seal that bag of driveway salt in the garage. And take that 20-pound bag of sand out of your car trunk. Remember the good old days when you could buy one kind of driveway salt and it was salt?

I don't want to jinx us but I think winter is over.

What a dandy winter it was, eh?

This past winter made me understand, and feel, why people of a certain age go south for winters.

Throughout winter, I thought a lot about sunshine and warmer temperatures. Places like San Diego or Florida or Arizona. But just when I thought I had it bad, I went to Chicago for a few days. Whew.

According to the National Weather Service, winter 2013-2014 will go down as one of the coldest on record in both Missouri and Illinois. Statewide temperature data showed Missouri finished the December 2013 to February 2014 period 4.6 degrees below normal, which is the 10th coldest on record, and coldest since 1979. Illinois saw its ninth coldest winter on record, also the coldest since 1979, with an average winter temperature 6.3 degrees below normal.

For the record, climate records date back to 1895. Likely, there were colder winters but no one wrote it down.

I don't remember it being that cold in 1979. I was in college then. I'm sure I had other things on my mind than the weather.

I wonder what made folks back in 1895 start keeping climate records. Probably a miserably cold winter. People acting crazy at the inn over bread and milk. Horses sliding all over the place. Let's start writing this stuff down.

Back in 1895, they didn't have gas fireplaces, North Face blankets or snow blowers to help them survive the winters. They also didn't have 24-hour news, social media and cell phone alerts reminding them non-stop how cold and miserable it was outdoors. Call it even.

This past winter was the coldest I can remember, for certain. My moment of reckoning came in early January. It had snowed all night. I was confident I could get my car out of the garage and driveway and into the street and be on my way to work. But my Honda Accord got stuck just beyond my driveway. Hatless, I got out of my car for just a few seconds to rock it out of the snow while my wife took the wheel.

Within 30 seconds, I thought my ears had frozen off.

Literally.

For a few moments, I could not hear the snowplows and snow blowers throughout the neighborhood. I went inside, and my ears thawed, and I could hear again, but I wrote down the following note to myself: "No hat is too dorky if it keeps your ears and head warm even if no one else would be caught wearing it."

As we moved forward in winter 2014, and it got colder and snowed more, I wrote down a few more notes, or reminders, to myself:

* Always wear two pairs of socks. To work. To the store. To bed. The feet are always the first to go.

* You can't wear too many shirts. My record this year was five at once.

* Have mercy on the TV weathercasters. They're trying. More and more, I'm convinced weather is more art than science. Besides, there are only two sides to a coin.

* Do not take it personally when your street is the only street in the neighborhood not to get plowed. The plow guys have no idea where you live.

* Don't drink too much coffee or tea to keep you warm. The extra caffeine will make you jittery, and you will want to go outside, and next thing you know your ears are numb.

* Hot chocolate is always good. Morning or night. Winter or summer. Cold chocolate milk, too.

* Don't play golf unless it's at least 42 degrees outdoors. Guaranteed. And the sun is out. Missing a short par putt hurts every time. Missing one with a runny nose and cold feet and ears hurts even more.

* Watch a lot of hockey and college basketball on TV because after a while, if you keep watching reruns, Sheldon Cooper ("The Big Bang Theory") starts making sense.

* Replace windshield wipers next October. Whether you need them or not.

* Never leave home without a pair of gloves. The one time you forget them will be the time you have to scrape your windshield again because your wipers are so old and worn.

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