Newsflash: It’s wintertime in Minnesota

By Mike

There were two plane crashes, the Legislature was starting up, two people were murdered and two were killed in accidents, one involving a busload of kids. But what do you suppose led the Twin Cities news segments last week? That’s right. It was that mysterious thing that until a few years ago was called winter in Minnesota.
“Let’s go first to the weather room where we have fancy equipment and a personable meteorologist and get a look at what’s happening.”
Five minutes later I sit perplexed about some snow or sleet that might come sometime around 2 a.m. and may make the morning commute a real bear. I’ll have to wait another 11 minutes for a shot of the radar and details on what I can actually expect.
My friend Johnson is right. There is too much emphasis on the weather these days.
Weather reports used to be two-minute ordeals from a guy with a rug on his head or simply the temperature and snowfall amounts in a tiny space in the paper. Now it can be the bulk of a newscast or a banner headline with more wild predictions than Nostradamus, and tales of woe that hint at stupidity more than acts of God.
Weather happens. We simply need to endure it, not treat it like a first date.
Johnson did a little legwork for his recent thesis. He hopped down to the library and looked up old newspaper clippings from 1975. In January of that year we had what is known in some circles as the Super Bowl blizzard. It wasn’t like the one most of the state suffered last week. This was a big wet kiss of several inches of snow over the big football weekend. The wind blew and the snow was ceaseless. Big story, eh?
Johnson had a hard time finding any details on what we agreed was “the” storm of our childhood. A Twin Cities paper merely reported the snow depths and warned about the stuff blowing around and making more of a mess on page five of the metro section.
Johnson called me from his St. Paul home in the middle of last week.
“You OK out there?” Johnson asked.
“Yeah, what gives?” I said.
“I’m watching the news. Sounds like widespread panic throughout central Minnesota,” Johnson said.
I chuckled. Just before Johnson called I was wondering if he was alright.
“Heard you might have glare ice in the cities. Maybe even some black ice by morning.”
We mentioned our mutual feelings about the weather and both wondered why every report on TV was about the probabilities of something happening in the metro area. “If they really want to tell a weather story, it’s out here,” I said. “It’s not much, but at least we have snow on the ground.”
“I don’t know why you folk in the hinterlands even tune in. It’s not about outstate,” Johnson said.
We both sighed. Johnson and I grew up in rural areas far from the lights of the Twin Cities. We have grown distrustful after so many ignorant reports laced with the pacifying buzz words: greater Minnesota, up north, just south-east-west-north.
My family was snowed in for five days during the 1975 winter assault. This was not news. The only thing we needed to watch was whether the snow plow had gone by or not. Sure, it’s nice to know other people are socked in like you but that’s what the telephone is for, or snowmobiles.
We ate food stored from our five-acre garden, dug paths to the barn to take care of the animals and watched the Super Bowl as one big, snowed-in bunch. Seven kids can never get bored, even without the advent of video cassettes.
We built huge snow forts with ice sheet skylights. We held recreations of World War II with snowballs. We went sledding down a steep, wicked run out behind the barn. When the plow finally did come, we raced to the ditch and ducked as its wake buried us.
“I feel sorry for kids today,” Johnson said last week. “How can they decide which storm was their ‘big one?’ Every week there’s a new one.”
I agreed. The balloting would be tough with the media influence. “They’re running scared,” I said. “We were taught to use the weather as an advantage, an extra blip on the childhood radar, a freebie. Now, every storm is a nightmare and should be avoided at all costs. No one is expected to actually endure it by spending a quiet few days at home.”
Maybe someday we can all live in the Mall of America. Then everyone could appreciate my dream forecast: It’s cold. It might snow. Find a good parlor game and stay home with your loved ones. Good night.
Johnson called again over the weekend.
“Eleven below up there last night, eh? You make it through?”
I felt like a naked Benedict Arnold. “Went and saw a band last night.”
“Really! Were they any good?”
“Parking was a real pain,” I said.

Creger’s column was first published in Tuesday’s issue of the University Chronicle, St. Cloud State University’s student newspaper.