Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


December 23, 2013

Winter weather: It’s only a state of mind

— — If you follow the solar calendar, this past Saturday was the official start of winter. Tell that to the millions of Americans from Texas to New England who were whomped earlier this month by what the TV meteorologists refer to by the deceptively innocuous term “wintry mix.”

And don’t forget folks across the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia, who have been dealing with everything from ice, sleet and snow to a prolonged period of arctic air. Mid-to-late fall has felt more like the dead of winter in the two Bluefields. In fact, it started snowing already the week before Halloween. And it snowed just in times for Thanksgiving as well in Bluefield.

The term wintry mix encompasses snow, sleet and freezing rain and basically it means your flight is going to be cancelled, your power is going to go out, you’re probably going to slip on your own sidewalk, you’ll stand in long lines for milk and Kitty Litter and if you’re really unlucky spend the night in your car in a ditch along the interstate.

But the National Weather Service, which is heads up in these matters, dates the start of winter from Dec. 1. And instead of prolonging winter until its official solar conclusion, the vernal equinox, this year on March 20, the National Weather Service pulls the plug on winter on March 1.

Put another way, winter is 23 percent over when the winter solstice rolls around, afflicting the Northern Hemisphere with the day of the year with the fewest hours of daylight.

But as folks across southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia will attest to — some of the biggest and most brutal snowstorms we’ve seen have come in March. Remember the Great Blizzard of 1993? How can we we forget it?

If you’re a weather obsessive — and there are enough of you to support your own cable channel — or simply hate winter, every morning you’ll turn to the weather column in your local paper and note that, imperceptibly at first and then with greater speed, the hours of daylight are growing longer.

Uncle Sam gives the process a huge boost and you an hour less sleep by moving the clock forward an hour on the second Sunday in March — March 9th next year — giving you an extra hour of daylight.

Take heart. There is light and warmth at the end of this tunnel. And we are actually coming off of a nice and sunny weekend in two Bluefields.

— staff and wire report

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