Minnesotans sniff at other people’s complaints about winter. But they’re not being rude. It’s just that their noses are running. (More)
The Winter of Our Discontent, Part III: Mukluk Yuk-Yuks (Non-Cynical Saturday)
This week Morning Feature surrenders to winter. Thursday we began in Massachusetts, where residents brace for yet more snow, because education. Yesterday we saw the nation’s midsection, where residents chip ice, because music. Today we conclude with the Midwest, where residents wear thermal scrunchies, because history.
“Gravity being what it is, it’s mostly going to drain out”
As everyone knows, Minnesota is the Norwegian capital of the U.S. That is to say, people left Norway because it was too cold and then wandered around the U.S. until they found a place that was colder than the place they left. In fact, Minnesota is colder than Mars, so if Marvin and his buddies decide to move to the U.S., you can guess where they’ll settle.
So while South Dakota news stations breathlessly warn viewers about agricultural drones, in Minnesota they discuss snot:
Most of Minnesota hasn’t gone above the freezing mark since Feb. 9, so anyone spending time outside might be feeling that drip, drip, drip from the nose.
That had Carole from Hibbing wanting to know: Why do our noses run in the cold?
“Every time you step out the door, it seems to just turn on like a faucet,” St. Paul resident Victoria Stewart said.
Lisa Ferguson-Stegall, a professor of exercise physiology at Hamline University, says the linings inside our noses typically create about a liter of mucus a day.
That’s a statistic we’ve all wondered about since … well … never.
In cold weather, our noses work overtime to warm and humidify the cold air we breathe in by producing extra fluids. That extra mucus helps properly condition the air so it’s not a shock to the lungs.
“Gravity being what it is, it’s mostly going to drain out,” Ferguson-Stegall said.
Adding to runny nose is when the warm air we breathe out hits the cold air outside.
Ferguson-Stegall says it creates condensation in the nose, “and really amplifies the problem.”
“Don’t try this at home”
And in case that wasn’t dangerous enough:
“Don’t try this at home,” says the guy who tried it at home.
“It took forever. Or it felt like it.”
All kidding aside, Minnesota cold is dangerous:
As the frigid water and ice chunks poured into the open window, the pickup truck plummeted to the bottom of Lake Minnetonka and Ryan Neslund felt the surge of panic and fear.
“I was doomed,” said the 35-year-old paraplegic.
Neslund was driving out to do some ice fishing, following tracks in the snow, when suddenly the tracks disappeared. Before he could react, the ice had cracked and his truck fell through into the lake. He took a last gulp of air, crawled out the truck window, and climbed onto the ice before his strength faded.
It was dark and silent, and he was at least a quarter-mile from shore.
“I couldn’t crawl to shore without freezing to death,” he said. He could only hope that someone would drive by.
Neslund figures he sat on the ice for about 40 minutes before he saw flashlights moving along the shoreline and sirens wailing.
“It took forever,” he said. “Or it seemed like it.”
An ATV sped by in the distance and Neslund yelled out, but he knew the rescuers on wheels couldn’t hear or see him. He couldn’t move; his frozen clothes encased him.
Rescuers finally found Neslund and formed a human chain to pull him to safety. And it’s no surprise that Minnesota cities have “how cold is too cold for school” guidelines:
When cold temperatures or wind chills are the cause of a possible cancellation, [Sauk Rapids-Rice superintendent Dan] Bittman said local superintendents rely on a wind chill chart from the National Weather Service. The chart estimates how long it takes exposed skin to suffer frostbite at a given wind chill.
The shortest frostbite time on the chart – corresponding to the coldest wind chills, at 48 below or colder – is five minutes.
When it’s that cold, canceling school is a virtual certainty, Bittman said.
The next category is for wind chills that can cause frostbite in ten minutes. In Central Minnesota, that’s the gray area for the cancellation decision, Bittman said.
“What Victoria secretly wants for Christmas”
In this chilly region, smart men are on to Victoria’s Secret.
Shopping at the mall, they breeze right by the silk nighties, the gold bracelets, the dainty perfumes. Because what Victoria secretly wants for Christmas are SmartWool undies, a goose-down parka and moosehide mukluks.
When George D. Munsing came to Minnesota in 1886 to produce a new line of woolen union suits, he founded an underwear empire. From long johns to girdles, the Minnesota company urged generations of consumers, “don’t say Underwear, say Munsingwear.”
In 1897, the Northwestern Knitting Company made advertising history. Their Ladies’ Home Journal advertisement featured a young girl wearing a union suit. Advertisements had never before shown their underwear on a live model. The company’s bold advertising strategy was effective. Sales boomed and the company grew rapidly. By 1900, the Northwestern Knitting Company sold eighty styles of long underwear. By 1917, the company was producing 30,000 garments per day.
So Massachusetts had the first Valentine and Christmas cards, but it took Minnesota to put out an ad with a girl in long underwear. Take that, East Coast elites.
“Blame a (drunken) jet stream”
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and so must winter in Minnesota:
Winter Is Over
Uh oh, [meteorologist Paul Douglas] is making outrageous statements again. Has he been standing too close to the Doppler? Honest answer: yes!
Let me clarify.
We’ll see more cold fronts & spits of snow and ice, but in 10-14 days the overall pattern will shift rather dramatically, the meteorological equivalent of turning on a light switch, pushing persistent 40s back into Minnesota the second week of March. In 2 weeks it’ll be warm enough aloft for rain.
Snow lovers, please don’t blame me, blame a (drunken) jet stream for this supernaturally persistent dry pattern. As was the case last winter, with numerous examples in the last 15 years, the jet stream got “stuck”.
Oh just admit it. It froze.