The Big Chill

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Meteorologists have given us a new word this week: Polar Vortex, a/k/a The Big Chill. That’s the term for the wave of arctic air that has swept upon us causing record low temperatures across much of the United States.

Weathermen seem to have an explanation and a name for every phenomenon. They were certainly right about the cold.

Meanwhile, smart First Lady Michelle Obama deftly avoided the chill. She stayed in Hawaii for a couple extra weeks while the President and the children returned to Washington on Sunday. He has work. The girls have school. Meanwhile, she has Hawaii for her birthday. Wish that we could celebrate with her.

Some Forsyth County friends were making fun of those “tender” Davie children who didn’t have to go to school on Tuesday. Forsyth schools were delayed two hours. Davie cancelled classes even though the skies were clear and blue. The temperatures, however, were frigid.

Superintendent Dr. Darrin Hartness found a huge supporter of his decision from Linda Barnette, retired teacher and former member of the board of education. “That is a great decision for everybody involved,” she posted on Facebook. “I listened with disbelief as the spokesperson for Forsyth County said it was up to the parents to send the students to school prepared with coats, gloves, etc. I beg to disagree. Parents turn their children over to the school system so they will not only be educated but also protected. Also, I’m sure a lot of them don’t have the warm clothes needed for extraordinary low temps. Children cannot wait a long time for buses in the a.m. nor can they thrive at school if they are worried about the weather. Nothing; not one day of school or one test or one game or anything else is as important as the physical safety of our children. They can make up a day, for goodness sake!”

One of my former Advance neighbors moved to upstate New York a decade ago. Another moved to Toronto.

Windchills in Groton, NY, were as low as -30. “Thankful for many things this day but most especially that the water pump in the barn was not frozen,” reported Carolann Darling.

As it turns out, Monday was a yucky day for a good reason. Dubbed “Blue Monday” and the “Worst Day of the Year,” Monday, Jan. 6, was the day millions return to work after the holidays. They came face to face with the bills piling in from Christmas. And they were blue about all those New Years Resolutions they now realize they don’t want to keep. On top of that, it was bitter cold.

Some of my coldest memories involve football games. My feet froze at a playoff game between Davie High and Shelby Crest about 15 years ago. I was bundled up that night when temperatures fell to freezing, but many of the football players wore only short sleeves.

I was delighted to see most of the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers wearing appropriate clothing Sunday when the teams played in near sub-zero weather. The lowest recorded temperature was +4 in the Wisconsin stadium. Some of the players, including 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, played in short sleeves, flirting with frost bite. He couldn’t hide his tattoos, but don’t fault him. His 49ers won.

My gauge read 9 degrees when I awoke Tuesday morning. Some recorded 5 degrees. Spillman Road, 2 degrees. Up on Calahaln Mountain it was a round 0. In Sheffield, -1 degree. My last flirtation with temperatures this cold was five years ago in Lexington, Ky. We awoke to 4 degrees during a trip to Indiana where the high for the day was 12.

So much for global warming. I wrapped water pipes and tried to brace for the freeze Monday night. People brought in their outside pets and worried about the anti-freeze in the car. I had mounted a new bluebird box behind the house over the weekend. Although it is two or three months before mating season, two bluebirds parked on the box Monday and went inside, checking it out as an escape from the bitter cold.

— Dwight Sparks