Take heart, fellow Chippewa Vallians, some are far worse off than us.
The snowiest incorporated city in the U.S. is Valdez, Alaska, according to the Weather Channel, with an annual average of 314.1 inches. Weather Underground claims the world’s snowiest city among those with a population of at least 50,000 is Tokamachi, Japan, which gets 460.2 inches.
We may be bruised, battered and embittered by a relentless February, but we’re not even close to those figures. We are, however, nearing a record for our region.
The National Weather Service tracks snow totals on an annual basis from July through June. In our current time period — 2018-19 — we were at slightly more than 77 inches as of Thursday. That places us fifth on the all-time list and about a foot behind the record of 89.3 inches in 1996-97. Forecasts for Friday called for as much as four more inches, which would bump us to third.
“I think the record could be broken with a near average March and April,” said NWS meteorologist Brent Hewett.
Snow lengthens the season for winter sports enthusiasts, it insulates soil and keeps it moist, and it can be aesthetically pleasing. But there are downsides as well. On a serious note, we’ve seen a death and injuries in the region resulting from the removal of snow from roofs. We’ve also had structure collapses and a startling number of vehicle accidents.
This is all in addition to the nearly daily duty of clearing one’s driveway and sidewalk. The Mayo Clinic News Network offers advice for those forced to take on that burden: “Bend at the knees, not the back. Lift with your legs bent, stand with your feet hip-width apart for balance and keep the shovel close to your body. Also, don’t pick up too much snow at once; use a small shovel or fill up a large shovel no more than half way.”
On the gardening front — an admittedly random segue — folks at the University of Illinois Extension have some bad news. Apparently a lot of snow protects small animals from predators.
“Voles ... will tunnel on the surface of lawns under the snow,” the agency’s website says, “making very visible winding trails as the snows melt in spring.”
There is light at the end of this precipitation-laden tunnel. AccuWeather is calling for temperatures mostly at or above freezing starting Saturday, March 9, in Eau Claire.
It will be a time to celebrate the dawn of what’s sure to be an abbreviated spring. Hopefully, high school athletes in baseball, softball, soccer and other seasonal sports will get at least a game or two in before regionals begin.
Unfortunately, snow — particularly in the unforgiving amounts we’ve collected — can be a “gift” that keeps on giving. It’s time to double-check those sump pumps and consider protecting valuables stored below ground level.
All this snow has to go somewhere.
— Liam Marlaire, assistant editor