Old Man Winter vs. Us

January 12, 1994

We know a few Marylanders who enjoy this weather -- hardy, outdoor types, who like to take a big breath and fill their lungs with an invigorating rush of chilled air. We're happy for them. They must be in their glory.

The rest of us, though, peer at the calendar and wonder: Will it be three weeks before Mr. Groundhog even proclaims if this is to be a tough winter? Hey, Punxatawney Phil, don't even bother climbing out. We know the answer -- we surrender.

The interesting thing about the weather, of course, is that even though it's an elemental part of our daily lives, perceptions of it often differ from reality. And, the reality is that this January probably seems worse than it has been. The month so far is only 2 degrees below normal. However, we haven't had a January with temps below the norm -- which is 31.8 degrees Fahrenheit FTC at Baltimore-Washington International Airport -- since 1988. In fact, some recent Januarys have been practically balmy; last January was 6 degrees above normal for the month, and 1990's first month was 9 degrees above normal.

Another factor contributing to this month's blahs has been the excess precipitation; we had half a normal January's worth in just the first 10 days. (Of course, we all should have webbed feet by now since it has rained every weekend since Columbus Day, no?) The wetness that has fallen in most of Maryland east of Garrett County has been a far cry gentler, though, than the two feet of snow in Pittsburgh or the ice that plagued Philadelphia. Nevertheless, this cold has been brutal on the homeless and nudged up heating costs. We can only hope that in the great cosmic balance of things, we'll get a break come February and March -- which interestingly has been the trend in past years with bitter beginnings.

If anyone still wanted to debate the splendors of winter, we would point to a sno-ball stand we pass on occasion. On summer nights, it can be risky just motoring by the little, plywood lean-to, what with all the customers driving in and out, coveys of young lovers and parents with vans full of Little Leaguers, stopping under a starry night sky for a frozen repast. Nowadays, the stand is shuttered; icicles cling to its soffit. It exudes no life, no joy, no laughter. Like us, it awaits for warmer days.

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