The Crazy Things I’ve Learned Living Through Snowy Winters {From A Southerners Perspective}

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We’ve been held up at home since Sunday night after a big snowstorm dumped about 10-12 inches of snow on us and then the Canadians forgot to shut the door and keep the Polar Vortex from spilling down into America.

At our coldest it was -14˚F with a windchill of -41˚F.

Um, did you hear that?  It was -14˚F with a windchill of -41˚F!

It was COLD!  And the Texas girl in me sobbed quietly in the corner of my frozen soul.

Speaking of the Texas girl.  She’s learned LOTS about snow and cold since moving to the frozen tundra called, “The North.”

In fact, I thought it might be kind of interesting if I shared with you all what I’ve discovered since living up here.

Because, quite honestly, there was SO much I had NO CLUE about when I moved from my lifelong Southern roots to live where they have real winters.

So, here’s a little list of things I’ve learned since moving North, in case any other Southerner should try to attempt it as well.

Things I’ve Learned Living Through Snowy Winters:

1.  Snow pants.  — I had no idea there was such a thing as snow pants until my Wisconsin husband married me in Florida and then drug me to Wisconsin to live with him there.

Snow pants are pants that you wear OVER your regular pants and are slick so the snow doesn’t stick to them and helps keep you from getting your regular pants wet.  Who knew?!

Snow pants can also come with overalls, affectionately called “snow bibs” if you live in Wisconsin.  (As they don’t call overalls, overalls, they call them bibs or bib overalls.)  (It’s complicated.)

Mostly kids wear the overall snow pants, but they do come in adult sizes too, just in case you fancy a pair for yourself!

2. No shoes in the house.  — Northerners do the strangest thing!  They all take their shoes off when they go inside!  *insert twilight zone music here*

Yes, even when you go to other people’s houses!  *insert screams of terror here*

Why?  Because in the winter your shoes get all snowy and if you walk through your house with snowy shoes on, your floors get wet.  Then everyone who doesn’t have shoes on gets their socks wet.  Therefore, everyone takes their shoes off in the winter. But! Because they’ve gotten so used to doing it in the winter, they also do it the rest of the year, too!

While this seemed foreign and weird to me when I first moved up here, it actually is a nice practice seeing that you walk around in who-knows-what outside and in public bathrooms and at gas stations or wherever you go all day long, and then you are tracking that who-knows-what into your house later!  Eww!

So, this practice I have fully embraced as cleanliness.  And we all know cleanliness is next to godliness! *wink*

3.  Crank your car early.  — Another strange thing Northerners do is go outside and crank their car about 15-20 minutes before they go somewhere.  Then they come back inside and finish getting ready.

Even though I’ve lived up here longer than I care to admit *smile* I STILL forget to do this one!

Northerners do this early cranking for two reasons.  First of all, it’s good to get your car started before you drive it because driving a cold car is hard on the car.  The fluids have sat in the cold and can get a bit goopy and gelly.  Don’t want goopy, gelly oils and fluids running through your car!

Second of all, no one wants to get in a cold car anyway!  When you start the car, you put the heat on full blast so it’s warm in there after you’ve stood outside and brushed off and scraped down what remains of the snow and ice on the windows.

Also, as a side note, if it’s really cold and you haven’t driven anywhere that day, you should at least go out at crank your car and let it run.  EVEN if you aren’t going anywhere after it’s running.  Again, keeps the juices loose.

At least that’s what they tell me.

4.  Gas can freeze.  — My Wisconsin husband has always told me that you should never let a car sit overnight in the really deep cold with not much gas in it.  Apparently the gas can freeze!  What?!

Okay, I did some research on this one… while gasoline can’t freeze itself, it is common for there to be minimal amounts of water inside a fuel tank, and when there is not enough gasoline to dilute it, that small amount of water then can freeze.

Either way, probably safe to just go fill her up before a deep freeze anyway!  At least that’s what we do!

5.  Engine heaters.  — Another thing I had never heard of before was engine heaters.

You basically plug your car in overnight and the engine heater warms the engine to increase the chances that the engine will start as well as warm up the vehicle faster than it normally would in extremely cold weather.

These Northerners sure are inventive, aren’t they!

6.  It doesn’t snow below 10˚F.  — This one may shock you, it shocked me!  I had NO idea that it only really snows between the temperatures of 15˚F and 32˚F (give or take a few degrees)!  And that it can somehow be “too cold to snow!”

Okay, it’s not entirely true that it doesn’t snow below 10˚F, but it is harder for it to snow. Apparently when you get below 15-20˚F, it becomes difficult for the air to hold very much moisture, so if it snows it will not generally snow heavily. But I personally have not witnessed snow below 10˚F!

So those pictures all you Southerners see of blizzards with the temps below zero, aren’t exactly what you think.  At below zero temps, it’s usually just snow on the ground that is being blown around by the arctic wind, not freshly falling snow blowing around!

7.  No one puts chains on their tires.  — Contrary to popular Southern belief, no one puts chains on their tires during snowy weather.  At least not in Wisconsin or Ohio (so let’s say the Midwest, maybe?)

Apparently, putting chains on tires is mainly for mountainous areas, where snow and ice may make getting up an incline very troublesome.  But just your run-of-the-mill Northerners aren’t putting chains on their tires.  Mkay?

8.  Pretty much all dogs are indoor dogs.  — This is another one of those little things that shocked me when I moved up North.  Everyone keeps their dogs inside.  And not just in the winter when that might make sense, but most people keep their dogs inside ALL YEAR ROUND.

Now, this is probably just the Texas girl in me, so don’t hate… but we always kept our dogs outside.  Of course, we COULD keep them outside, but I thought for sure after winter broke and spring sprang, people up North would be kicking their dogs outside.  But they didn’t!  They just stayed indoors, like… like… HUMANS.

I’ll admit, that one still makes me scratch my head.

9.  Windshield wipers can freeze to  your windshield.  — During cold weather, Northerners do the strangest thing… they pull their windshield wipers up off their windshield.

In fact, our Children’s Director at church did this on Sunday morning to her car and it made me pause for a second.  Then I remembered that this was “normal Northern behavior” and I kept walking.

So WHY do they do this?  Well, wet windshield wipers can get frozen to the windshield and left unusable until they are warmed up again.  I can still remember my new husband rolling down his window in the FREEZING cold Wisconsin air waiting with hand outside the window to grab the wiper as it raised up! (Yes, he has long arms.) He’d grab that wiper and let it smack against the windshield, breaking off the ice that was encasing it.  All while still driving down the road!!

Crazy Northerner.

10. Wash your car on a “warm” day.  — Again, no clue that such things happened up here in the North, but as soon as it gets above freezing (32˚F) people start using words like warm, balmy and “spring like.”  I’m not lying!  Some even put on shorts and declare it “hot!”  But the most curious thing they do is they all drive in droves to the car wash.

I’ve learned that there is a method to their madness.  You see, after driving on roads littered with salt to melt any snow and ice on them, that salt can do damage to your car’s exterior.  Ever wondered how Mater got so rusty?  He must have never washed his truck on “warm” days while visiting the North!

11.  Snow emergencies.  — Up here in Ohio, they have a “gauge” of sorts for road conditions.  There’s a level 1, 2 or 3.

During level one, you can still drive, but should do so with caution.
During level two, you are only supposed to drive if you have a reason to be out on the road.
During level three, only emergency vehicles and emergency personnel are allowed on roads.

And that level three can be seriously enforced with fines and jail time (if you cause an accident under a level 3 you can be fined $1,000 and do 60 days in jail!) Yowzers!  These Ohioans take their road safety seriously!

12.  Salt can’t melt ice in frigid temps.  — This is something I just learned last night!  After being under a level 3 snow emergency again all day yesterday, and hearing about how there were sheets of ice on the roads, the Texas girl in me couldn’t figure out what was going on.  We hadn’t had snow since Sunday night (albeit a truckload of it!), and it had been sunny the last two days (albeit FREEZING!).  So, why were we still under a level 3 snow emergency?  And what was causing the ice?

I learned the answer!  Although salt is strewn about all over the roads, it was too cold for the salt to work!

Apparently salt is ineffective in the type of negative numbers we’ve been having the past two days.

The minimum practical application range for salt is a pavement temperature of 15-20ºF and above. While salt will melt snow and ice down to a pavement temperature of -6ºF, it can melt over five times as much ice at 30ºF as at 20ºF. Thus the effectiveness of salt is sensitive to small differences in pavement temperature.

How about that? You learn something new every day!

13.  Beware of nose freezes!  — Now this, this final one I’m going to share with you was the biggest shock of my life!  I still remember the first time I heard it might happen.  It was my first winter living in Wisconsin and one of the ladies from our church who hadn’t grown up in the frigid North either said to me, “You’ll know it’s REALLY cold when your nose hairs freeze!”

I’m pretty sure my whole world stopped at that moment as I tried to make sense of what she said.

“W-what?!” I sputtered out.

“You’ll know it’s really cold when you walk outside and your nose hairs freeze,” she repeated.  “Think about it,” she continued as I looked at her like she was crazy, “it’s moist up there!”

And by golly, it wasn’t too long after that, that one day I did walk outside my door and low and beholdeth: my nose hairs froze.   It’s one of the weirdest sensations I’ve ever experienced in life.  As I’m sure you all can imagine.

Why just the other day while we were outside my oldest son stopped dead in his tracks and said to me, “Mom! My nose hairs just froze!”

Yup.  According to our nose hair gauge, it was REALLY cold outside!

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