This winter is snow problem for some Chicagoans

This weekend’s Wisch List newspaper column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Much like San Diego is famous for its sunshine and Seattle is synonymous with rain, when it comes to weather, Chicago is best known for its wicked winters.

But there’s just snow way this one has been living up to the city’s hard-earned rep.
Until Friday morning when 1.1 inches had fallen at O’Hare Airport by 10 a.m., the city hadn’t had a substantial snowfall in ages. In fact, that blanketing snapped an amazing streak of 335 days since the Windy City last had a 1-inch snow cover on the ground.

Hey, who said Chicago had nothing in common with L.A.?

“It’s pretty incredible,” National Weather Service meteorologist Gino Izzi told the Chicago Tribune last week about Chicago’s weird winter. “It’s the middle of January and … Dallas, Texas has had more snow than us.”

This winter is so uncommon that we reached a point where every calendar day that Chicago went without a 1-inch snowfall was a day that made history. The previous record for days without snow was already broken at 311 straight, set in 1940. On top of that, this was also the deepest into the winter season that Chicago had ever gone without experiencing a day with an inch of snow. Previously, the latest date for that first accumulation of snow was on Jan. 17 – way back in 1899.

I wonder what the McKinley administration thought about global warming.

With February creeping up, Chicago came within less than a month of going a full 365 days without snow. In explaining that phenomenon, Izzi told the Trib, “Some of it has just been luck but there have been some pretty good storms that have missed us.”

I, however, know that many Chicagoans – myself included – don’t consider a snowless winter to be particularly lucky.

Even if others do.

“In some ways it’s good,” Whet Moser of Chicago Magazine wrote last week. “The city’s likely to save millions, but the lack of snow is so unprecedented that we don’t know how much we’ll save. And my colleague Jeff Ruby contends that it’s good for Chicagoans, who secretly hate winter, even if they act otherwise.”

Also writing for Chicago Magazine, Ruby theorized that, “Chicagoans are hardwired to accept – nay, welcome – an extended arctic interval so hostile that the rest of the world would likely consider it punishment. But let’s be honest: Our attitude toward the nadir of winter is not love or even resignation. It is fear. Fear that we will be exposed as ordinary people who, beneath the civic chest thumping, dread the dehumanizing grind of cold weather.”

But I disagree. When it comes to how we treat winter, Chicagoans are anything but ordinary. I don’t pretend to welcome frigid weather, but my belief has always been that Chicago’s brutal winters are indeed worth it because they make city residents appreciate summer all the more. Once wind-burned and frostbitten Chicagoans emerge from their winter cocoons, they proceed to treasure every summer weekend as if it was a precious jewel.

Folks in Miami or San Diego just can’t say the same. After all, almost every day in those cities feels like summertime, which really means that no days truly feel like “summertime.”

However, with all that said, if I am going to take my lumps during a stark Chicago winter, I want to see some white stuff on the ground, which we finally have. Because, as Chicagoist.com’s Chuck Sudo put it this week, “A Chicago cold without some snow is something we can’t abide.”

After all, if it has to be ugly outside, can’t it at least be pretty too?