This commentary is by Courtney Kueppers, a Minnesota native who is temporarily working on The Post’s Metro desk as an Ann Devroy fellow as part of a program through the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. Kueppers has lived through 18 harrowingly cold and snowy winters in Minnesota and three in Wisconsin.
When we were children coming of age in our Minnesota suburb, a snowy forecast came with a ritual series of events for me and my two siblings. We jumped out of bed — much faster than on a typical school day — eagerly perched ourselves in front a television and watched with great anticipation the scrolling list of school closings.
Then, no matter how cold the thermometer read, or how buried our yard was in powder, we would pull on our snow pants, tug on our boots and head for school. Yes, we walked there, and, yes, there was a hill in both directions (but I won’t go there).
Because in my Minnesota home town, school did not close for winter weather. It just didn’t.
Only once in my K-through-12 education did the school district shut its doors because of weather — winter of 2006 for anyone keeping score — and even then we were pretty sure that could be attributed to the new, out-of-town superintendent, because that day was comparatively mild.
So, as a recent D.C. transplant, I was amazed by the aftermath of my first East Coast blizzard. When the snow subsided, why didn’t kids head back to school, and their parents back to work?
My parents, both products of the Midwest, recall driving home from college for Thanksgiving in 1983 in an infamous Minnesota blizzard. Their usual two-hour drive took seven hours, and each time they stopped to drop off a friend, the remaining passengers had to get out to push the vehicle to get it rolling again.
But still, they forged on.
In the great Halloween blizzard of 1991, my parents recall taking my then-10-month-old brother trick-or-treating in 28 inches of snow. When they took him outside, the snowbanks were taller than him. Ghosts and goblins collected their candy on sleds that year. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources calls it “one the largest and longest lasting blizzards in state history.”
But still, they forged on.
During the winter of 2014, when I was living in Eau Claire, Wis. — a place that once landed on David Letterman’s top-10 list of coldest places in America — the high one day was minus 23. My fellow students and I trekked across a footbridge over the Chippewa River, despite warnings from the university that spending more than 15 minutes outside may be hazardous to our health, even if we were dressed like Randy in “A Christmas Story.”
And yes — we forged on.
Another day that winter, my family and I stood outside at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis and cheered on the University of Minnesota hockey team as temperatures hovered just above zero. By March 1, 2014, my Wisconsin town had recorded 55 days at or below zero and 54 sub-zero days, received 61.7 inches of snow and had an average temperature of 7.5 degrees, according to weather records.
I could go on and on. Anyone from the Midwest has a story like these. And we love to tell them. If you gather a large group of Midwestern folk and bring up snow stories, you will be stuck listening for hours.
So more or less, what I am trying to say here (nicely — I’m from Minnesota after all) is this:
D.C. dwellers — this is nothing! Yes, a lot of snow fell. And yes it was very valid to hunker down on Saturday to stay safe, but c’mon, it’s time to get back at it! Lace up your boots and shovel yourself out.
Even President Obama agrees. In 2009 he remarked that “when it comes to the weather, folks in Washington don’t seem to be able to handle things” and said Washingtonians could use some “flinty Chicago toughness.”
But, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The colder and snowier it gets in the Midwest, the more the natives’ egos grow. I think a small piece of every Midwesterner loves to endure the harsh and brutal winters.
When a KARE 11 news reporter shared side-by-side screen shots last week that showed Minnesota was colder than Antarctica, it garnered nearly 15,000 likes. We wear our survival like a badge of honor. We love to complain and we love to brag. But maybe everyone outside the Midwest is just a little less nutty than we are for not willingly inhabiting the near-Arctic.
Whatever it is, do take this historic winter storm with a grain of salt — or snow, if you choose. And please, enough with the snow days.
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