Delightful, Dismal


That's out of the area forecast discussion from the Chicago office of the National Weather Service, a line of clear "look what's happening outside" prose in the midst of talk about steep lapse rates, negatively tilted troughs, cyclonic flows, and tightening gradients. 

After a sufficient time away–decades, not years–you forget what April here can bring. The weather service provides a reminder of some snow records for this month, including a single snowfall of nearly 14 inches back in the 1930s. 

But outside the record books, I remember an Easter on which we got about a foot of snow (the preceding Christmas featured what I remember as a tropically warm heavy rain; well, rain anyway). The year I turned 16, the first baseball game of our high school season was postponed because we got nearly a foot of snow (when we played the game, a week or two later, the snow was gone and but sunny weather was accompanied by a brutal cold snap. We scored a single run on a sacrifice fly, our pitcher threw a no-hitter — it was too cold to want to make much contact — and we had the first win in a season whose other highlight was the desertion of about half the team to go watch Jefferson Airplane play for free in Grant Park). And then there was the day I turned 21, going to school down at Illinois State and working at the college paper, The Vidette. We had a blizzard of Spackle-like snow. I was lonely and typically disconsolate. Turning 21 wasn't a drinking holiday, since the drinking age was 19 at the time. The real source of my pain was another night spent at the dorms with no prospect of a date or even a friendly conversation with one of the thousands of females nearby. 

Oh, yeah, I got over it. But I haven't forgotten, now that I'm reminded.  "Delightfully dismal early April." 

[And Monday: More from the Tom Skilling and the Chicago Tribune's weather page on late season snow in Chicago: Snowless Aprils vs. Snowy Mays.] 

2 Replies to “Delightful, Dismal”

  1. “Spackle” in caps — a trademark? so I had to check Wikipedia, and indeed, it apparently was a product name that committed “genericide” – a trademarked name that lost protection through misuse. And had I not read your blog, I would not have known. Next Trivial Pursuit, Dan, fear me.
    And I’ll see your Illinois April snow and raise you a mid-May one in Colorado.
    (BTW, I use the “spackle test” when evaluating creme brulees.)

  2. Hi, Other Marie!
    The aforementioned Tom Skilling has produced the intelligence that Chicago has had several measurable May snowfalls. And I”ll add, the city that knows how did it without benefit of the thousands of feet of freakish elevation that kind of goes with that Colorado territory.
    We had a lot of use for Spackle around our house, what with stuff flying through the air and through the drywall and all. Spackle was almost as important to us as Kleenex.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *