I don’t know when, exactly, or the reason I fell in love with winter weather. It just always has been that way. I don’t ever remember not enjoying Buffalo winters. In fact, I don’t ever remember not enjoying any winters, be it Buffalo, Nevada, Northern Virginia, Western PA, Northern California, Kosovo, or Afghanistan. The colder and more hostile – the more enjoyable it is.
In ’77 I remember walking over cars and building snow forts that, back then, seemed to be 2 stories high. In ’85 I remember the controversial, “stay inside, grab a six-pack and watch a football game “, advice given by Mayor Griffin. I had a snow plowing business when, in 1993 and 1995, we had some pretty good storms lay down 1.5’-3’ of snow at a time. I remember staying in my truck, more than once, for over 48 hours straight (other than when duty called) trying to keep up with the snow.
Fast forward to 2002 and I found myself, a 1st Lieutenant in Kosovo, with my Marines, conducting security operations at the Albanian border. I had my platoon spread out in fireteam sized observations positions across an small expanse of mountaintops. I had the majority of my platoon out with me out conducting a security patrol when a storm blew in. It was a tough one, so I decided we needed to hunker down; we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Squad leaders placed sentries on the high ground while I kept the rest of my Marines moving around a warming fire until the storm let up. My Marines would rotate back and forth between the warming circle around the fire, and standing post. Over the next few days the weather grew worse. I chose to consolidate our positions setting up one large patrol base. Then an insane snowstorm hit. Conducting night patrols in the mountains is challenging. Conducting night patrols in the mountains in the middle of a snowstorm with visibility limited to 25’ feet is suicide. I called the patrols in and set up sentries around our perimeter. We were going to have to wait the storm out. Much later that evening I was notified that two individuals were approaching our patrol base. I was skeptical, to say the least. We were in the middle of some really challenging terrain, in the midst of a blinding snowstorm, and it was around 2300. I went to the line to see for myself what was going on. Sure as I was standing there my Marine had his rifle expertly trained on two individuals approaching, slowly. We couldn’t see well enough to decide if it was friend or foe. My Marine issued the challenge, and the challenge was returned with the password. My jaw dropped. It was my Battalion Executive Officer, Major Pierce, and one of his Marines. He traveled, on foot, over 13 miles across mountainous terrain, in the dark and in the middle of a blinding snowstorm just to see how we were doing. I was blown away. I decided at that very moment I needed to have his confidence, his self assured demeanor, and his can-do attitude. Less than a year later I found myself working at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport California learning the skills and confidence that enable a man to do things like walk across a mountain range, in the middle of the night, in another country, in the middle of a snowstorm. I’m glad I did. My metal would be tested in the mountains of Afghanistan soon after.
Here we are with 4-6’ of snow in the ground and no end in sight. There is no escape. One can complain about it. One can hide from it. One can surrender to it. Or, one can embrace it as we have right here in Buffalo. Harsh, inhospitable conditions, breed hearty, bold, closely knit people. People that are fiercely loyal, pig headed beyond belief, and possessing determination that is unparalleled. Lets take a look at a few examples.
Scratched out a living on ice-covered islands and peninsulas borne of volcanic rock
Endured months-long periods of darkness and enjoyed 9 months winters
Mastered the most challenging of seas
Pillaged the entire English seaboard for fun, and decided to navigate across unknown waters in open bow long ships having no idea of where it would take them or what they would find.
-The Scottish Highlanders.
Lived on a mountainous island known for having the least enjoyable weather on the face of the earth.
When they could farm they got such enjoyable crops as onions, turnips, and yes, nettles. Lucky them.
They gained notoriety throughout the 1800’s fighting in India for the Brits, often taking on and defeating adversaries that had them outnumbered 10 to 1. Gained further notoriety for being of such strong constitution that they could, and often did, survive wounds that were considered to be, to an Englishman, a death sentence.
-The Australian Aborigine.
These tough bastards have thrived for thousands of years in an area so hot and arid that normal human beings can parish within hours if they are not adequately prepared.
How do air temps of 135+ degrees and surface temps of over 200 degrees sound?
-The WNY native.
Bottom of the barrel professional sports teams
Ridiculously high taxes
Winter weather conditions that make those from weaker parts of the country, cower. Where else can you go trick or treating and looking for Easter eggs in the snow?
In the spirit of the Viking, the Scottish Highlander, and the Australian Aborigine, The WNY native is a rare breed. They are forged from the bitter cold and never-ending winters. Years of having to shovel out their driveways, their mailboxes, even their damn houses at times, have given them unparalleled determination. They teach to their children the traditions of being their brother’s keeper and importance of lending a hand to those in need, be it pushing out a stuck car, delivering food and blankets, or sharing power. They have embraced the onslaught of winter and it has forever shaped their culture, their very way of life.
What we are seeing today is not bad weather. There is no such thing as bad weather, only weak people.
Here are a few pointers that will help you embrace this weather.
-Snow tires work for a reason, buy a set.
Have you ever noticed the countless, very thin slices on the treads of a true snow tire? Those slices are called siping.
Tires slip due to water that is trapped between the tire and the road surface (be it snow or ice). Siping gives the water somewhere to go allowing the tire to maintain contact with the road surface.
The skinnier the tire, the better it will be in the snow and ice.
Ditch your hooptie’s 20” fatties and get yourself a set of real snow tires.
-All season tires are not snow tires.
-Turn off your car’s tractions control.
You need wheel speed to make it through deep snow.
Traction control does the opposite. It restricts wheel speed.
Auto manufacturers assume that drivers are morons and don’t know how to use a throttle, how to counter-steer, or how to modulate a brake pedal.
-Keep an “avalanche” shovel (get them at any adventure store), blanket, candle and lighter, flares, and some food and water in your car. Not the trunk of your car, inside the car where you can access it without having to exit the vehicle.
-Drink lots of water. Staying well hydrated keeps you warmer and prevents frostbite.
-Know the signs of Chilblains and how to treat it:
Reddish patches on the skin
Gradually re-warm the exposed area at room temperature
Wash and dry the affected area
Apply a dry, soft sterile bandage if needed
-Know the signs of Frostbite and how to treat it:
Yellowish, waxing feel and appearance to the flesh
Numbness, dead feeling to the digit/affected area
No capillary refill in the digit/affected area upon palpitation.
-Know the signs of Hypothermia (body temp 95 degrees or lower) and how to treat it:
Moderate to intense shivering, as the hypothermia worsens shivering stops
Difficulty communicating complex thoughts
Drowsiness, low energy
Prevent further heat loss; get indoors
Remove wet clothing
Loosen or remove constrictive clothing
Warm up via:
Warm, moist air from boiling water or hot shower (inhalation is the fastest way to warm the core)
Apply heating pads or packs to the groin (I said groin), armpits, and neck
Get in a warm bath
Hot, sweet drinks
-Stay away from booze when you are going to be in the cold for a while.
-Increase your caloric intake when you are going to be in the cold
-When going out into the cold for an extended period of time, wear multiple layers of loosely fitted clothing
Cotton is a horrible winter fabric; avoid cotton garments
Stay dry; wet cloths promote hyperthermia
Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats wool for warmth, especially when wet
Wool retains 75% of its insulative capacity even when soaked through; nothing man-made can compare to wool
-Mittens are far warmer than gloves.
-The colder it is, the drier your clothing will stay, and the warmer you will remain. The warmer it is, the wetter your cloths will get, and the colder you will become. I’d much rather be out in sub 0 degree weather than 32-35 degree sunny weather.
-Help those that need it; it warms you from the inside.
-You are UNLEASHED and a WNY native. You can do anything.